DVD Obscura: 'Lean on Pete,' 'Ismael's Ghosts,' 'Hitler's Hollywood' and Much More

DVD Obscura: 'Lean on Pete,' 'Ismael's Ghosts,' 'Hitler's Hollywood' and Much More

Aug 16, 2018

Lean on Pete

Here are the latest indie, international, documentary, grindhouse, classic and TV titles on home video. We've highlighted one pick in each section to get you started.

New Indie

Leon on PeteLean On Pete (Lionsgate) came and went earlier this year to critical praise, a limited theatrical release, and the kind of box office that usually greets critically praised films in limited theatrical release. It’s the latest from director Andrew Haigh (Weekend, 45 Years) and it’s a beautiful, heartfelt, tough-minded story of a teenage boy named Charley (Charlie Plummer of All the Money in the World) with nowhere to live and no family to care for him. He gets a job at a racetrack tending to a horse named Lean On Pete. His makeshift family there includes the horse trainer (Steve Buscemi) and a jockey (Chloe Sevigny). When the unexpected happens, Charley leaves with Pete on a harrowing journey in search of a long lost aunt and the possibility of a real home. You’ll need some Kleenex, but this film’s tears are well earned.

Also available: Super Troopers 2 (20th Century Fox) is available on Blu-ray right meow; The Con Is On (Lionsgate) features Uma Thurman, Tim Roth, Maggie Q, Alice Eve, Parker Posey, Crispin Glover, Stephen Fry, and Sofia Vergara in a wacky jewel heist; Andie MacDowell and Chris O'Dowd star in Love After Love (IFC Films), a tender drama about loss and grief; and because anything can be a source of drama, Final Portrait (Sonic Pictures Home Entertainment), written and directed by Stanley Tucci, recalls the time that artist Alberto Giacometti asked American writer James Lord (played by Armie Hammer) to sit for a portrait; Modern Life Is Rubbish (MVD Visual) takes its title from the band Blur and tells the truth about what happens when you break up with someone and have to amicably divide the record collection.


New Foreign

The latest from acclaimed French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin, Ismael’s Ghosts (Magnolia), reminds that in his cinematic output, everything and everyone is connected. His go-to leading man, Mathieu Amalric, has played a variety of characters who are all connected to the same family, and those family members populate many of Desplechin’s scripts. Sometimes these characters maintain similar traits from film to film, and sometimes they don’t, but there are always connections and parallels, themes that surface and re-surface, so that taken together they form a kind of family saga, one where sardonic interactions and intellectual dysfunction are the entertaining norm. This time around Amalric is a filmmaker happily involved with a girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg), only to learn that the wife (Marion Cotillard) he thought dead has returned and wants to resume their relationship. Is she a ghost? Is she seeking revenge? The film won’t say. But you won’t forget this bizarre love triangle.

Also available: In the French drama You Will Be Mine (Film Movement), classical music meets hot and heavy lesbian passion; and speaking of hot and heavy and French, The Three-Way Wedding (Film Movement), from award-winning director Jacques Doillon (Ponette), delivers a very contemporary drama about a love triangle with unconventional possibilities; director Eder Santos won the Golden Palm at the Mexico International Film Festival with Blue Desert (IndiePix), a wild sci-fi that takes plot points from Yoko Ono’s book Grapefruit.

The New York Times calls the debut feature from Shubhashish Bhutiani, Hotel Salvation (Film Movement), what would happen "if The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel had been remade by Ingmar Bergman"; an Italian Romani boy and his family struggle to make a life in Jonas Carpignano’s acclaimed neorealist drama A Ciambra (IFC); The Great Game (Icarus) is a tense political drama in the House of Cards vein, starring popular French actor Melvil Poupaud.


New Documentary

Did you know that between 1933 and 1945, Nazis in Germany produced over 1000 absolutely insane films? Well, now you do, and Hitler’s Hollywood (Kino Lorber) will explain it all to you. From musicals to melodramas, romances to war films, their common feature was absolute loyalty to the idea of a happy German population and a powerful Fatherland. This fascinating study from filmmaker Rüdiger Suchsland, narrated by Udo Kier, puts the full wickedness on display, exploring just how pervasive and overwhelming propaganda can be, no matter the era.

Also available: If you’re a film fan, you’ve probably got a poster tacked up somewhere in your home, which means you’ll want to dive deep into 24x36: A Movie About Movie Posters (Filmrise), all about the history and design of your favorites; Supergirl (Filmrise) isn’t what you think: it’s the story of Naomi, 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who is also an accomplished bodybuilder and who can lift three times her own weight. Don’t mess with her. 

The Drew: No Excuse, Just Produce (Filmrise) explores The Drew League, the nation’s foremost pro-am basketball league and how it has impacted South Central Los Angeles; watch National Parks Adventure (Shout! Factory), narrated by Robert Redford, and see how beautiful they are before Donald Trump sells them all to oil companies; and Jeff Bridges narrates Dream Big: Engineering Our World (Shout! Factory), an educational doc about innovations that might save the planet.


New Grindhouse

Wes Craven’s 1972 low budget horror masterpiece Last House on The Left (Arrow) is still an ugly, shocking film, the kind of horror movie designed to make you feel horrible. It left its imprint on everything to come and helped cement the idea that a scary movie might have more on its mind than cheap jolts of blood and guts (though this film has plenty of both). It also gave the world the come-on gimmick, "IT’S ONLY A MOVIE, ONLY A MOVIE, ONLY A MOVIE…" The story, simply, involves escaped criminals who attack, brutalize, and kill two young women, only to later find themselves in the home of one of their parents. That’s when the tables turn. (It’s a remake of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, believe it or not.) This limited three-disc Blu-ray edition comes with an enormous amount of extras, archival materials, commentaries, a making-of documentary, lost footage, marketing spots, and a perfect-bound book with new essays.

Also available: Kristen Davis, before she was prim and proper Charlotte on Sex and the City, starred in Doom Asylum (MVD Entertainment), a gory goth horror movie from 1987; in Beyond Re-Animator (Lionsgate), Dr. Herbert West, your fave mad scientist, is turned loose on a prison population, making cruel and unusual punishment into a daily routine; H.P. Lovecraft’s classic Dagon (Lionsgate) gets a modern retelling as greedy people are transformed into half-human creatures determined to sacrifice outsiders to a sea monster; Piranha II: The Spawning (Scream Factory), James Cameron’s directorial debut, is about piranhas that keep on eating people even though they were fairly efficiently eradicated in the first film. 

The Complete Sartana (MVD Visual) features Gianni Garko’s knock-off "Man with No Name" character, who’s a bit of a dandy and a bit of a James Bond, but also a gunslinger. The titles in this extremely cool box set are things like Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin, so you pretty much want the hell out of this; zombie cannibals get a second shot at civilian life in The Cured (Scream Factory). One problem: it is awkward when you try to reintegrate into polite society after eating your neighbor’s children; and in other part of the world, British kids breaking out of a detention center find that civilization has succumbed to another zombie virus, only this one only hits you when you become an adult in the aptly titled Don’t Grow Up (Shudder).

Just to alleviate any potential confusion, it’s important that you understand that the title of Another Wolfcop (RLJE) is sort of misleading, in that it is, in fact, referring to the same werewolf cop as the earlier film, Wolfcop, so it’s not like there was a sudden epidemic of lupine law enforcement; yakuza-mania is here with the release of Street Mobster (MVD Visual), a pivotal work in that genre and in the career of Battle Royale director Kinji Fukasaku; pair it with Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell, Bastards! (Arrow Video) another gem from the 1960s, from director Seiju Suzuki. It’s about good guys, bad guys, stolen guns, bloody crime warfare, and some bastards going to hell.


New Classic

A landmark of the early 1990s New Queer Cinema, Edward II (Film Movement) is one of avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman’s greatest achievements. Taking Christopher Marlowe’s 16th century story of Britain’s only openly gay monarch and turning it on its head, Jarman succeeds in creating a very modern, wildly stylized document of boldly anachronistic detail, queer rage and political muscle. Starring Steven Waddington as Edward, and Jarman muse Tilda Swinton as a spiteful queen, the film makes sure to allow room for members of ACT UP and UK group OUTRAGE to show up, as well as a musical interlude where Annie Lennox serenades the audience with a Cole Porter song. Essential.

Also Available: Luchino Visconti’s 1960 must-see neorealist masterpiece Rocco and His Brothers (also known as the film where Madonna got the idea for her son’s name) gets the Blu-ray treatment; Woman Is The Future of Man/Tale of Cinema: Two Films by Hong Sang-soo (Arrow) is a great double feature introduction to the work of South Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo, whose character studies make him an appropriate descendant of French New Wave master Eric Rohmer; Dietrich & Von Sternberg in Hollywood (The Criterion Collection) is a Blu-ray special edition box that features The Devil is A Woman, The Scarlett Empress, Blonde Venus, Shanghai Express, Dishonored, Morocco, as well as a wealth of archival and critical extras; Terminator 2: Judgment Day, on the other hand, is a 4K Ultra HD combo pack that also involves exclusive Terminator EndoArm packaging, something The Criterion Collection never thought to do for any of their releases.

It’s Old West feudin’ time in The Big Country (Kino Lorber), William Wyler’s classic drama getting a 60th anniversary special edition Blu-ray; Personal Problems (Kino Classics) is Bill Gunn’s classic observation of the everyday messiness and complications of African American lives; young Burt Lancaster stars in the 1947 noir classic I Walk Alone (Kino Lorber); Billy Wilder’s Irma La Douce (Kino Lorber) was sort of the Pretty Woman of 1963, where Shirley MacLaine keeps running into Jack Lemmon, and he tries to get her to leave the world’s oldest profession by paying for all of her time; Bull Durham (Criterion Collection) is great and all, but who cleaned up the mess in that kitchen after Kevin Costner and Susan Sarandon pushed all those foods and dishes off the sex-table? 

Billy Budd (Warner Archive Collection) is the object of many sailors’ obsessive affections in this classic tragedy where technically no characters are gay; the 1970s were a time of humorously ironic Westerns, and one of the more entertaining of the pack was The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (Warner Archive Collection), starring Paul Newman; The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (MVD Visual), the 1988 Cannes Palme d’Or nominee from New Zealand, remains a cult sensation -- it’s about 14th century people escaping the Black Plague and winding up in a time tunnel that delivers them to, coincidentally, 1988 New Zealand; The French Way (Kit Parker Films) features Josephine Baker in a farcical romantic comedy that was shot in 1940 while Nazi bombs dropped on France, released in that country in 1945, and then again in the U.S. in 1952, so you should probably never again complain about having to wait to see a movie.

Hirokazu Kore-Eda, this year’s Palme d’Or–winning director of the upcoming Shoplifters, sees his Maborosi (Milestone), a little-seen but highly valuable 1995 film about grief and love and hope, get the Blu-ray release it deserves; O Fantasma (Strand Releasing), the debut feature of João Pedro Rodrigues (The Ornithologist), is about a gay trash collector in Lisbon taking a lot of risks with his sexuality -- whatever the word for "unsettling" is in Portuguese would fit perfectly here; horror master John Carpenter gets a hat trick of Blu-rays with new hi-def reissues of Memoirs of An Invisible Man, In the Mouth of Madness, and Someone’s Watching Me! (Scream Factory).


New TV

Mosaic (HBO), Steven Soderbergh’s six-part limited series, stars Sharon Stone as a children’s book author and illustrator. When she disappears and leaves behind a blood-soaked studio, suspects emerge, eventually leading to a four-year investigation of what really happened. Co-starring Garrett Hedlund, Beau Bridges, and Paul Reubens, it’s the kind of story you’d gladly listen to a murder-themed podcast about, except it would consume about 12 hours of your time. Soderbergh, that master of efficiency, gets it done in six.

Also available: Delicious, Series 2 (Acorn TV) is the ongoing British drama about food, love, and infidelity in Cornwall starring Dawn French and Franco Nero. He was Django! The Jericho Mile (Kino Lorber) is an early great from director Michael Mann starring Peter Strauss as an inmate who trains for the Olympics; Modus, Season 1 (Kino Lorber) is the Swedish detective series where, so far, no one has unraveled the mystery of the popularity of the Mamma Mia! films; other mysteries, less inscrutable, are found in Murdoch Mysteries, Season 11 (Acorn TV), the long-running and very popular period series from Canada about Edwardian Toronto and all its coziest murders.

When you die, you will go to The Good Place: The Complete Second Season (Shout Factory), and if you watch this show before you get there you can skip Orientation Day; I Am Elizabeth Smart (Lionsgate) is the Lifetime Original Movie starring Alana Boden about the abduction and shocking story of survival of the now-adult Smart; an Irish lawyer dumps her cheating fiancé and starts her own private firm in Striking Out, Series 2 (Acorn TV); Counterpart: The Complete First Season (Lionsgate) stars Academy Award-winner J.K. Simmons in a conspiracy drama about spies, and it features Olivia Williams.

In Sneaky Pete: Season 1 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), Giovanni Ribisi assumes the identity of former cellmate Pete and cons Pete’s family, which is pretty sneaky, to be sure, but also weird if the family didn’t recognize him and still went along with it; Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Fifth Season (Time Life) brings more silly (and daring for the time) sketches with guest stars like Raquel Welch, Steve Allen, Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Gene Hackman, Liza Minnelli, Charo, Carol Channing, Petula Clark, and Jacqueline Susann; Keeping Faith (Acorn TV), a drama shot in English and Welsh, is about a woman searching for her missing husband, and it’s being called the Big Little Lies of Wales.

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