U.S. Indie of the Month:
You might have first heard of I Want Your Love (TLA Releasing) after James Franco defended the film against Australian censorship, and now that it’s on DVD, you see what all the hubbub is about. (Franco is such a fan of the film that he hired director Travis Mathews to collaborate with him on this year’s buzzy Sundance hit Interior. Leather Bar.) Mathews takes the premise that John Cameron Mitchell brought to Shortbus — that explicit sex scenes can underscore character and advance narrative in the same way that the best musical numbers can — but accomplishes it, I think, more successfully than Mitchell did. If you can handle a gay movie that’s “mumble-hard-core,” it’s a fascinating and boldly sexual bit of storytelling.
Also available: Another Sundance fave, the 2012 teen-virginity comedy The First Time (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) didn’t get much love in theaters but merits a look for its quippy dialogue and sincere performances; sincerity is the last thing on the mind of the douchey hipsters of The Comedy (Cinedigm/Tribeca Film), starring Tim Heidecker, but that’s pretty much the point.
Foreign Film of the Month:
So you’re a fan of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but you would have liked it better if it had subtitles? Check out the saucy comedy All Together (Kino Lorber), about a group of elderly pals who decide to try communal living. Jane Fonda (who was once married to Roger Vadim, after all) and Geraldine Chaplin rock some pretty impressive French for nonnatives (to this nonnative’s ear, anyway), and there’s also Inglorious Basterds’ Daniel Brühl for youth appeal.
Also available: The erotic Dutch drama Hemel (Artsploitation Films), presented for the first time in the U.S. in its original uncut and uncensored version; sweeping period piece Day of the Falcon (Image Entertainment), starring Antonio Banderas, Mark Strong and Frieda Pinto and directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud (Seven Years in Tibet); and French thriller The Big Picture (MPI Pictures), featuring another Vadim ex, the ever-radiant Catherine Deneuve.
Documentary of the Month:
There’s no ’80s phenomenon quite like GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (Docurama Films), and Brett Whitcomb’s documentary captures both the outrageousness of these wildly costumed lady brawlers and the behind-the-scenes intrigue of the show’s heady rise and rapid fall. Students of pro wrestling, pop culture, kitsch and feminism will all find something fascinating in this acclaimed film.
Also available: Satan’s Angel: Queen of the Fire Tassels (Breaking Glass Pictures) tells the story of notorious stripper Angel Walker and her wild times on and off the stage; legendary nonfiction film Chronicle of a Summer (The Criterion Collection) gets the full Criterion treatment, and decades later it’s still a movie that defines the documentary genre; Connected (Docurama Films) explores one woman’s — and, really, everybody’s — love-hate relationship with contemporary technology; imagine a true-life version of Local Hero, and that’s You’ve Been Trumped (Docurama Films), about a group of Scottish homeowners who try to stop the Donald from building a golf course on their land; the part-doc/part-drama Jackie Robinson: My Story (Shout Factory; available April 2) will bring you up to speed on the baseball legend before 42 hits theaters; and the pride of New Jersey takes their no-holds-barred speaking tour over the pond in Jay and Silent Bob Get Irish (Industrial Entertainment).
Animated Film of the Month:
If you think animation is all bright colors, talking animals and kid stuff, check out Alois Nebel (KimStim/Zeitgeist), a brooding, black-and-white rotoscope feature that examines the Czech Republic’s troubled past. The Cold War is finally coming to an end, but train dispatcher Alois has visions of the past (involving the Holocaust and Communist vengeance) that transport him to very dark places. It’s an evocative, haunting and powerful film.
Also available: Part drama and part tribute to a legendary Japanese comics artist, Tatsumi (KimStim/Zeitgeist) brings the memoirs of Yoshihiro Tatsumi to vivid life while also intercutting five of his classic stories. It’s a brilliant marriage of manga and anime.
Classic of the Month:
“All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun,” Jean-Luc Godard famously noted, and one of the best of the “young lovers on the run and killing people” movies ever made would have to be Terrence Malick’s Badlands (The Criterion Collection), making its Blu-ray debut in a gorgeous (and director-approved) 4K transfer. The disc also includes a new doc featuring interviews with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, who memorably portrayed the film’s star-crossed lovers, and Spacek’s husband, legendary production designer Jack Fisk. This was Malick’s very first film, already heralding him as one of this generation’s most fascinating filmmakers.
Also available: Two Gen Y favorites get anniversary releases that will make you feel old: The Sandlot: 20th Anniversary (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) and a 25th anniversary Blu-ray of Willow (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment); don’t miss Buster Keaton’s hilarious College (Kino Classics) or Robert Bresson’s intense jailbreak drama A Man Escaped (The Criterion Collection).
Grindhouse of the Month:
Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator gets a lot of love from genre fans (even a stage musical version) but his other H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, From Beyond (Shout Factory), finally gets its due with a Blu-ray “Collector’s Edition” that includes Gordon’s unrated director’s cut. In addition to the extras previously featured in the 2007 DVD release, this one offers a new commentary (by writer Denis Paoli) and new interviews with actors Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs as well as executive producer Charles Band. High def does this movie’s singularly vivid color palette any number of favors; it’s never looked this good on home video before, so there’s no better time to check it out.
Also available: Also making its Blu-ray debut is Phantasm II (Shout Factory), featuring a whole new set of victims for the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm) and his death-dealing flying balls; the found-footage horror sequel Grave Encounters 2 (Cinedigm/Tribeca Film), whose characters have seen the previous movie and are convinced that it was a documentary; and the Westworld follow-up Futureworld (Shout Factory), which is a little less awesome than its predecessor but features a rare lead role for one of my favorite underappreciated performers, Blythe Danner.
Television DVD of the Month:
I admittedly run hot and cold with the breed of contemporary comedy that some people call “funcomfortable,” in which we’re supposed to take glee in the cringing embarrassment of the characters, but one of my favorite examples of it can be found in Veep: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Entertainment), which stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus (who won an Emmy) as a hapless VPOTUS who’s constantly finding herself in dreadful situations, with only herself (and her often clueless staff) to blame. Nobody does deadpan misery quite like Louis-Dreyfus, and this darkly hilarious political sitcom (from In the Loop creator Armando Iannucci) turns her misery into comic gold.
Also available: Before we got our own version, British TV did its spin on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (Flatiron Film Company), which takes the whole “Bridezilla” concept to a whole new level; Hippies + ursine creatures + Hanna-Barbera wackiness = the cult fave Help…It’s the Hair Bear Bunch!: The Complete Series (Warner Home Video); fans of Japanese kid adventures will be thrilled over the release of Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot: The Complete Series (Shout Factory); U.K. comedies Chance in a Million: Complete Collection and No Job for a Lady: Complete Collection (both Acorn Media) let us revel in the comic brilliance of Simon Callow and Brenda Blethyn (in the former) and Britcom legend Penelope Keith (starring in the latter as a liberal MP facing sexism among her parliamentary peers); the extensive doc Shakespeare Uncovered (PBS Distribution) isn’t just for high school students struggling to finish their term papers; and Mystery Science Theater 3000, Volume XXVI (Shout Factory) offers some of the show’s best bad-movie skewering, particularly the Euro 007 rip-off Danger: Deathray!