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

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

Dec 12, 2016

New Indie

Destined to be discussed throughout awards season is the noir-tinged neo-Western thriller Hell or High Water (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), which harkens to great films of the past while feeling utterly contemporary. Rapacious banks and economic malaise send two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) out on a focused robbery spree that ultimately attracts the attention of a Texas lawman (Jeff Bridges) on the cusp of retirement. The caper is smart, the characters are interesting (keep an eye peeled for scene stealers Gil Birmingham, Katy Mixon, Dale Dickey and Margaret Bowman), and the twists are unpredictable.

Also available: Young hipsters attempt to navigate the world in the scathing Fort Tilden (Kino Lorber); Morris from America (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) features moving turns from Craig Robinson and newcomer Markees Christmas; Robert De Niro returns to the boxing ring in Hands of Stone (Weinstein/Anchor Bay), only this time he plays the manager of legendary fighter Roberto Durán (Edgar Ramírez).

Actor Brady Corbet made an impressive directorial debut this year with the complex and provocative The Childhood of a Leader (IFC Films); Indignation (Lionsgate Home Entertainment) marked another first-time director, as veteran writer-producer James Schamus tackled the Philip Roth novel; if you’re telling the true story of an Army of One (Anchor Bay/Dimension) who thought he would single-handedly kill Osama bin Laden, then of course you’d cast Nicolas Cage in the title role – and Russell Brand as God; Daniel Radcliffe continues to shake up his post–you-know-who career with a searing role as an FBI agent going undercover as a racist skinhead in Imperium (Lionsgate Home Entertainment).

In the charming Front Cover (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), a gay Asian-American fashion stylist finds himself in an unexpected relationship with a closeted Chinese movie star; Michael K. Williams, Erykah Badu and Machine Gun Kelly co-star in the hip-hop drama The Land (IFC Films); actress Clea Duvall wrote and directed The Intervention (Paramount Home Media), a hilarious ensemble piece co-starring Melanie Lynskey, Jason Ritter, Natasha Lyonne, Cobie Smulders, Ben Schwartz and Alia Shawkat; Irish terrestrial Pierce Brosnan stars in the action thriller I.T. (RLJ Entertainment).


New Foreign

Love and politics intertwine in director Catherine Corsini’s lush French import Summertime (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment). Set against the backdrop of early 1970s feminist activism in Paris, the film tells the story of Delphine (Izïa Higelin), who falls in love with the luminous Carole (Cécile De France, High Tension, the upcoming The Young Pope). But when Delphine is called back home to the country to help the family farm, can this budding romance survive?

Also available: The wonderfully whackadoo Polish legend Andrzej Zulawski (Possession) shows no signs of slowing down in Cosmos (Kino Lorber), his latest powerful and assaultive film; Mia Madre (Music Box Films) tells the story of a middle-aged theater director who must cope with her mother’s impending demise; three siblings hunt down their real father in the Israeli comedy The Kind Words (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment); in the acclaimed drama Fire Song (Wolfe Video), a gay Canadian first-nations teenager finds his future may be in jeopardy; Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley take their boozy antics on the road to the Riviera in Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment).


New Doc

Does director Werner Herzog bite off more than he can chew with Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World (Magnolia Home Entertainment). Probably; after all, he’s making a movie about the internet, a subject that could be discussed in a 30-hour documentary that would still only scratch the surface. Still, with the handful of topics he has chosen to pursue, Herzog shows us both the glories and the horrors of interconnectivity in a way that only he could. And the film’s section about the chaos that would ensue should an electro-magnetic pulse wipe out the worldwide web sounds a warning that governments and private citizens alike should heed.

Also available: Speaking of the net and its terrors, Deep Web (Kino Lorber) explores online crime and our vulnerability to it; Homo Sapiens (KimStim) answers the question, “What happens to the world when human beings are no longer a part of it?”; meet the people who camp out overnight to buy the latest hot shoes in Sneakerheadz (MVD Visual); the entertaining Being Evel (MVD Visual) examines the exploits and foibles of famed stunt artist Evel Knievel.

Fans who want to take a look under the hood of the starship Enterprise can check out both Building Star Trek (PBS Distribution) and 50 Years of Star Trek (Lionsgate Home Entertainment); Lucha Mexico (Kino Lorber) celebrates the masked wrestlers who keep this great grappling tradition alive; the acclaimed Chicken People (Sony/Goldwyn/CMT) takes a deep dive into the cutthroat world of competitive poultry.

If you love music documentaries and performance videos, this month offers a bumper crop: Shout Factory inaugurates its Shout Broadway line with Blu-rays of great stage musicals like Gypsy (starring Imelda Staunton as Mama Rose) and concert performances of Candide and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; female rockers tell their stories in My Way: A Kick-Ass Girl Rockumentary (MVD Visual); Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music (RLJ/Athena) is an eight-part series featuring exclusive interviews with more than 150 leading recording artists; Fleetwood Mac’s founder is celebrated in Man of the World: The Peter Green Story (MVD Visual); the moving New Orleans: Music in Exile (MVD Visual) examines the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the city’s legendary sound.


New Grindhouse

John Waters once famously noted that film students would be wise to watch C.H.U.D. as an example of how to make a profitable low-budget movie, but it’s not just the film’s bottom line that makes this scary saga of sewer-dwelling beasts a cult favorite three decades later. A new two-disc special edition from Arrow/MVD features interviews, documentaries, a commentary track (featuring co-stars John Heard and Daniel Stern) and much more. And not to worry: there’s also a new Blu-ray release of C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), with its own set of interviews and commentary.

Also available: Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm has gotten a lot of love this year, and now there’s also Bubba Ho-Tep: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory), featuring the Blu-ray debut of Coscarelli’s 2002 cult comedy as well as some brand new extras; master genre director John Stockwell (In the Blood, Turistas) returns with a film whose title says it all — Kickboxer: Vengeance (RLJ Entertainment); sorority hijinks go awry in the stabby slasher fave The Initiation (Arrow/MVD).

The gut-bucket drive-in classic I Drink Your Blood (Grindhouse Releasing) gets a lavish two-disc Blu-ray release that offers commentaries, deleted scenes and two whole extra feature films: I Eat Your Skin and Blue Sextet; Pat Healy (Cheap Thrills) and Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism) star in Carnage Park (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory), a hit at the Sundance and SXSW film festivals; the undead continue their rampage in Return of the Living Dead 3 (Lionsgate Home Entertainment), another Vestron Video mainstay; it’s no picnic being the Last Girl Standing (MPI Media) when the terrors of your past threaten to return.


New Classic

With their first collaboration, co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen broke new ground by shooting On the Town on location in New York City; their second pairing, Singin’ in the Rain, is universally acclaimed as one of the greatest films ever made. Now their third and final film together, It’s Always Fair Weather (Warner Archive Collection) is getting some love with its very first Blu-ray release. It might not be the groundbreaker that the previous films were, but it’s got tons of catnip for musical lovers, from the thrilling use of the wide CinemaScope screen as Kelly, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd boozily dance their way through the streets of New York to the gloriously campy Dolores Gray killing off her would-be suitors in the “Thanks a Lot, But No Thanks” number. The tone is darker – it’s about old friends realizing they no longer like each other because they don’t like the people they themselves have become – but it’s a great capper for a legendary filmmaking team.

Also available: Jim Jarmusch (Paterson) explores relationships over Coffee and Cigarettes (Olive Films) in this charming anthology; The Magic Box: The Films of Shirley Clarke, 1929-1987 (Milestone Films) captures shorts and other ephemera from the famed documentarian; Punch-Drunk Love (The Criterion Collection) gave Adam Sandler his one unassailable (to date) film as a leading man; way before superheroes were cool, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (Warner Archive Collection) attempted to launch a big-screen franchise for the pulp icon.

I’ve always love the British-ness of the title One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (Olive Films), and the film itself is a nifty WWII drama from the great Powell & Pressburger; Time After Time (Warner Archive Collection) stars Malcolm McDowell and Mary Steenburgen got married in real life after making this delightful tale of H.G. Wells (McDowell) tracking Jack the Ripper (David Warner) to 1979 San Francisco; celebrate the 75th anniversary of the ever-timely Citizen Kane (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) with its new Blu-ray, and as long as you’re on an Orson Welles kick, don’t miss the new hi-def edition of his Macbeth (Olive Films).

Don’t miss the new Collector’s Editions of two brilliantly blood-curdling films from David Cronenberg: Rabid and Dead Ringers (both Scream Factory); not taken all that seriously upon its release, Hannie Caulder (Olive Films) has developed a reputation as a feminist take on the rape-revenge saga, with a scorching lead performance by Raquel Welch; Cats Don’t Dance (Warner Archive Collection), but they managed to make an animated musical about them anyway.

Jesse Eisenberg electrified audiences with an early turn in Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale (The Criterion Collection), and both the film and the performance are revelatory with notes of hilarity and discomfort; Richard Dreyfuss won an Oscar wooing single mom Marsha Mason in old-fashioned rom-com The Goodbye Girl (Warner Archive Collection); Shout Select keeps the cult classics coming, with William Friedkin’s sun-soaked thriller To Live and Die in L.A. and Volker Schlöndorff’s powerful adaptation of Death of a Salesman, starring Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich, Kate Reid and Charles Durning.


New TV

Even in this era where there’s more interesting television than any one person can seemingly keep up with, attention must be paid to Better Call Saul: Season Two (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment). Any idea that this show’s status as a prequel to Breaking Bad would in some way make the character arc of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) predictable has been completely wiped away at this point, and even if you never saw that earlier landmark series, this one completely stands on its own. Featuring an ensemble full of powerful performances – besides Odenkirk’s bravura work, Jonathan Banks, Rhea Seehorn, Michael McKean and Patrick Fabian just keep knocking it out of the park – and extraordinary writing, this is a series that belongs on your binge list.

Also available: It always feels like Christmas when a new MST3K box set drops, and Mystery Science Theater 3000: Vol. XXXVII (Shout Factory) features so-bad-they’re-goodies like The Human Duplicators, Escape 2000, The Horror of Party Beach and Invasion of the Neptune Men; Brief Encounters (RLJ/Acorn) features Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) as one of a group of four women striving for better lives in early-’80s England; you know who you are, and you know you’re excited about My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Legend of Everfire (Shout Kids/Hasbro); Toby Jones stars in the provocative British drama Capital (RLJ/Acorn).

The pace ain’t draggin’ (sorry) on Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season (HBO Home Entertainment); the acclaimed Aussies-behind-bars series Wentworth, Season 1 (RLJ/Acorn) makes its US debut; Legend of Bruce Lee: Volume One (Well Go USA Entertainment) explores the life story of the kung fu legend; things get upended when the staff at a stately home strikes it rich in The Syndicate: All or Nothing (RLJ/Acorn).

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