DVD Obscura: 'Never Goin' Back,' 'King Cohen,' 'Mandy' and Much More

DVD Obscura: 'Never Goin' Back,' 'King Cohen,' 'Mandy' and Much More

Nov 19, 2018

Never Goin' Back

We pick the latest indie, international, doc, classic, and TV releases for your home video collection.

New Indie

Never Goin' BackA very funny comedy that seemed to come and go from theaters without getting the notice it deserved was Never Goin’ Back (Lionsgate). The feature debut from writer-director Augustine Frizzell, this wild farce follows two Texas girls (played by Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone) who absolutely, positively do not have their act together. As they attempt to buckle down and focus on life and work so that they can afford a beach vacation, they keep detouring into bad decisions, surprisingly potent pot brownies and the endless array of pitfalls that avail themselves to people in their late teens and early 20s. Also starring SNL’s Kyle Mooney, this one’s a comic gem that you may well have missed.

Also available: Start brushing up for your 2018 Top 10 lists with two acclaimed indie debuts: Boots Riley’s provocative satire Sorry to Bother You (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and Bo Burnham’s funny and empathetic Eighth Grade (Lionsgate); stolen mail brings two unlikely lovers together in the indie No Postage Necessary (Two Roads Picture Co.); Matt Smith leads the search for Patient Zero (Vertical Entertainment) in this sci-fi drama about mankind coping with an intelligent super-virus.

Beloved character actress Judy Greer makes her directorial debut with the ensemble comedy A Happening of Monumental Proportions (Lionsgate); based on a true story, Making a Killing (Cleopatra Entertainment) focuses on rival morticians (played by Mike Starr and Christopher Lloyd) doing battle over a valuable coin collection; indie provocateur Bruce La Bruce returns with The Misandrists (Strand Releasing Home Video), another biting and controversial satire; Arizona (RLJE Films) stars Danny McBride as a frustrated home-owner who kidnaps real-estate agent Rosemarie DeWitt in a dark comedy set against the collapse of the housing market.

Vera Farmiga tries to set Boundaries (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) with drug-smuggling dad Christopher Plummer in this road-trip comedy; mockumentary The Landing (Random Media/Rocket 66 Entertainment) asks whether or not the moon landing was "fake news"; Gus Van Sant and Joaquin Phoenix examine the life of quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan in the acclaimed Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (Lionsgate); Paul Rudd stars as the multi-lingual genius bisexual baseball-playing WWII espionage agent you never heard of in The Catcher Was a Spy (Paramount Home Media).

New Foreign

French director Bruno Dumont’s career has veered from offbeat and sometimes shocking entries like Lil' Quinquin and L'Humanité to more straightforward historical dramas along the lines of Flanders and Camille Claudel 1915. He combines both modes with Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc (Icarus Films), a rock opera about the life of the Catholic martyr as a young girl. Critic Simon Abrams described it as "a cross between Annie and Jesus Christ Superstar, only with more speed metal." Do you want to see that? Answer: Yes. You want to see that.

Also available: Angels Wear White (Icarus Films) takes a tough look at #MeToo in China when two young girls are assaulted by a middle-aged man; a married Korean poet falls for a teenager who works in a donut shop in the moving and funny The Poet and the Boy (Altered Innocence); in Trauma (Artsploitation), director Lucio A. Rojas uses the horror genre to examine the impact on Chile of the brutal Pinochet regime; a backpacker decides to explore Kenya more deeply than the average tourist in the docudrama Gabriel and the Mountain (Strand Releasing Home Video).

Legendary artist Rodin (Cohen Media Group) is the subject of a new biopic from director Jacques Doillon (Ponette); the wild feminist Western Marlina: The Murderer in Four Acts (Icarus Films) follows an Indonesian widow on a trail of bloody vengeance; a father and son go on the lam in Venezuelan Oscar submission La Familia (Film Movement).

Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden (Film Movement) tells the story of the legendary Expressionist painter, set against the outbreak of World War I; a Norwegian resistance fighter flees the Nazis across an Arctic Scandinavian landscape in the true-life drama The 12th Man (Shout Factory/IFC Midnight); three lonely strangers become a surrogate family in the Chilean festival fave La Madre, El Hijo y La Abuela (IndiePix Films), about the aftermath of a volcano's destruction of a village; a beautician who's the Number One Fan (Icarus Films) of a popular French crooner has her life turned upside down when he shows up one day on her doorstep.

New Doc

A B-movie legend gets his long-overdue props in King Cohen (La La Land Entertainment), a delightful documentary examining the life and work of Larry Cohen, the man behind such unforgettable films as Q the Winged Serpent, The Stuff, Phone Booth and the It's Alive series. Martin Scorsese, J.J. Abrams and Joe Dante are just some of the peers, collaborators and fans who share their stories of this one-of-a-kind cinematic legend. It's equally a must-see for admirers of his 50-year career and those who have never heard of him.

Also available: Even though it was made with the cooperation of the Whitney Houston estate, the documentary Whitney (Lionsgate) asks the tough questions and reveals some hard truths about this musical legend; A Dangerous Idea: Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream (Bullfrog Films) takes a timely look at crackpot science that just never seems to go away, particularly as White Nationalism once again rears its ugly head; Rupert Everett narrates Love, Cecil (Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist), a fascinating glimpse at the life and art of legendary photographer, writer and painter Cecil Beaton.

Kimberly Reed (Prodigal Sons) smoothly transitions from personal documentary to investigative journalism in the riveting financial tale Dark Money (PBS); In the Land of Pomegranates (First Run Features) takes an up close and personal look at young Palestinians and Israelis caught up in the conflict between the two countries; taking a tough look at issues surrounding the civil rights of the mentally ill, God Knows Where I Am (Juno Films) uses the first-person diary of Linda Bishop as a launchpad to explore complicated issues.

Executive-produced by Priscilla Presley, Elvis Presley: The Searcher (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) goes deeper into the Graceland archives than perhaps any other film about the legendary singer; cellist Dane Johansen carries his instrument with him on the legendary Camino de Santiago, playing music and getting to know his fellow pilgrims in the moving Strangers on the Earth (First Run Features); in Generation Wealth (Lionsgate), director Lauren Greenfield (The Queen of Versailles) takes a provocative look at the rich in America.

New Grindhouse

Not for all tastes – OK, maybe just not for mine – but Mandy (RLJE Films) became an instant cult hit, with its larger-than-life combination of 1970s fantasy-novel visuals, a crunching metal score, and a very Nicolas Cage–sized performance from Nicolas Cage. Cage stars as a man who must seek out and destroy the religious cult that has kidnapped the titular love of his life (Andrea Riseborough), and if that means forging his own battle-ax out of molten steel, well, just show him to a foundry. This sophomore feature from Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) has been one of the year’s most talked-about movies.

Also available: John Landis made his feature debut with Schlock (Arrow), a silly and self-aware creature feature that also gave makeup wizard Rick Baker his start; Christopher Lee wants to drink your blood – and check out your groovy hot pants – in Dracula A.D. 1972 (Warner Archive Collection); if the Suspiria remake has whetted your appetite for the Italian horror genre of giallo, check out new Blu-ray releases of vintage titles Blood and Black Lace (VCI Entertainment) and Torso (Arrow Video); William Castle wanted his original film to be confused with The Haunting, so he’d be glad to know there’s a new Blu-ray of the 1999 remake of House on Haunted Hill (Scream Factory) coming out just as The Haunting of Hill House is hitting it big on Netflix.

Very few Halloween movies celebrate Halloween the holiday the way Christmas movies often celebrate Christmas, but the wonderful Trick 'r Treat (Scream Factory), now available in a Collector's Edition, gets both the horror and the autumnal majesty just right; a remake of Johnnie To's Drug War, the action-packed Believer (Well Go USA Entertainment) follows a cop who's out to take down a powerful drug cartel; Stephen King decided to show hacks like Stanley Kubrick and Brian De Palma how it’s done by directing Maximum Overdrive (Lionsgate) himself – you can be the judge of the results; the work of softcore pioneer Joseph W. Sarno is remembered on a triple-feature Blu-ray featuring Confessions of a Young American Housewife, Sin in the Suburbs and Warm Nights Hot Pleasures (Film Movement).

Sam Raimi’s game-changing 1981 classic The Evil Dead (Lionsgate) gets the 4K treatment in a new hi-def release; Stephen King appears on camera in the chillingly hilarious anthology Creepshow (Scream Factory); grad students stay awake only to experience living nightmares in Sleep No More (RLJE Films); young couple, cabin in the woods – time for someone to get Afraid (Well Go USA Entertainment).

Zsa Zsa Gabor is Queen of Outer Space (Warner Archive Collection) in a timeless cult classic that's now available on Blu-ray; students on a camping trip get Feral (Scream Factory/IFC Midnight) as they start turning into cannibal zombies; Molly (Artsploitation) is determined to survive the post-apocalypse in this inventive Dutch English-language thriller; a young woman attempts to resolve childhood traumas with the help of a charismatic cult leader in Housewife (RLJE Films).

New Classic

The United States could take a lesson from other countries when it comes to owning up to, and learning from the mistakes of, our historical wrongdoings. One of the most powerful looks back at a national tragedy is Argentina's powerful Oscar-winner The Official Story (Cohen Film Collection), which examines the country's military dictatorship through the lens of a middle-class family and their circle of friends. Norma Aleandro's performance is shattering, and the film feels perhaps even more resonant with the passing of the years than it did when it first came out in 1985. This is one of those modern classics that you don't hear people talking about nearly enough; here's hoping that this new Blu-ray puts it back into the conversation.

Also available: John Travolta scored one of his best comedic performances ever in the sly Elmore Leonard adaptation Get Shorty: Collector’s Edition (Shout Factory); no one makes a war picture like Sam Peckinpah, whose Cross of Iron (Hen's Tooth Video) offers a harrowing look at the conflict between Germans and Russians during WWII; Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan fell in love making the sexy, sweaty (and now underrated) noir remake D.O.A. (Kino Lorber); anime classic Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis (Mill Creek Entertainment) gets gorgeous, collectible packaging in a new Blu-ray steelbook release.

British filmmaker Terence Davies plums his family's melancholy in the wistful and autobiographical Distant Voices, Still Lives (Arrow Academy); the wonderfully lurid The Other Side of Midnight (Twilight Time) keeps the airport-bestseller flavor of Sidney Sheldon's trash classic; if you celebrate "Noirvember," you’ll want to include the legendary The Spiral Staircase (Kino Lorber), now available in hi-def; Billy Crystal has a rootin'-tootin' midlife crisis in the Oscar-winning comedy City Slickers: Collector’s Edition (Shout Factory).

Both stylish and hilarious, the sleek thriller Looker (Warner Archive Collection) has never looked better than on this new Blu-ray; all the various screen adaptations have been interesting in their own way, but the original 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Olive Signature) still reigns supreme; fans of retro pop will definitely want to rock out to Yessongs (MVD Visual) and Melanie: For One Night Only (Screenbound International); Brian De Palma made a big international splash with the chilling, Hitchcock-influenced Sisters (The Criterion Collection), starring the late, great Margot Kidder.

Celebrate one of the most quoted comedies of the last two decades with The Big Lebowski: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment), a gorgeous collectible edition that comes with its own bowling bag; show off all the bells and whistles of your home 4K theater with jaw-dropping cinematic achievements like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix Trilogy (both Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); oh fer sure, you need to pick up the new Blu-ray of the 1980s teen classic Valley Girl (Shout Factory); the cutthroat back-room politics of John Ford's The Last Hurrah (Twilight Time) remain as timely as ever.

African cinema often gets short shrift in this country, but the reissues of Apartheid-era South African titles Umbango, Fishy Stones and Gone Crazy (all IndiePix Films) represent a step in the right direction; Dan Aykroyd is Lt. Friday in the comedy Dragnet: Collector's Edition (Shout Factory), but what always stays with me is that Tom Hanks plays a cop named "Pep Streebek"; if you’re getting into HBO's My Brilliant Friend, it's the perfect time to explore other adaptations of the same author with Elena Ferrante on Film (Film Movement), a box set that includes The Days of Abandonment and Troubling Love.

Jean Marais and Josette Day, stars of Jean Cocteau's immortal Beauty and the Beast, team up again in Les Parents Terribles (Cohen Film Collection), Cocteau’s adaptation of his provocative play; the vampires sparkle anew in beautiful 4K as all five of the Twilight films (Lionsgate) get a spiffy new hi-definition release; Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys (Arrow Video) retains its off-putting power after two decades; let us travel back to peak Leo fever, when the only movie that could knock DiCaprio in Titanic from the top spot at the box office was … DiCaprio in The Man in the Iron Mask (Shout Factory).

Bronies and other fans will want to pick up the My Little Pony: The Movie: 35th Anniversary Edition Collection (Lionsgate), featuring both the 1986 and 2017 big-screen adventures of these equestrian heroes; two brilliant comic leading ladies of cinema's early days get the spotlight in Thelma Todd & Zasu Pitts: The Hal Roach Collection 1931-33 (Kit Parker Films); Irwin Allen's The Swarm (Warner Archive Collection) surrounds an all-star cast with bees, bees and more bees.

New TV

Whether you're a fan of the show, a lover of 90s retro, or a fervent subscriber to those "Zack Morris Is Trash" online videos, there’s tons to savor in the staggering Saved by the Bell: The Complete Collection (Shout Factory) box set. Can you even handle this 16-disc set, which features every iteration of the kid-friendly sitcom, from Good Morning, Miss Bliss to the prime-time College Years show and both made-for-TV movies? Or two new documentary features, along with audio commentaries, photo galleries and a 16-page episode? Get so excited, so excited, but not so scared of this definitive collection of the bright and shiny cult TV series.

Also available: Two legendary 70s TV horror flicks make their Blu-ray debuts: Trilogy of Terror (Kino Lorber), starring Karen Black at her screamingest (alongside that Zuni fetish doll) and the real-estate nightmare Bad Ronald (Warner Archive Collection); if Won’t You Be My Neighbor? put you in the mood for more of your favorite kids’ TV host, check out Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like (PBS); Robin Williams: Comic Genius (Time Life) takes an exhaustive dive into the iconic comedian’s career, with 22 DVDs that include everything from vintage comedy specials, late-night appearances, Mork & Mindy episodes, his appearance on Inside the Actor’s Studio, and the acclaimed 2018 HBO documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Head.

A modern TV classic gets the collection it deserves as Batman: The Animated Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) comes to Blu-ray; it was canceled in its prime, but you can enjoy Ash vs. Evil Dead: The Complete Collection (Lionsgate) 'til the zombies come home; Television's Lost Classics, Volume 2: Rare Pilots (VCI Entertainment) includes long-unseen TV gems, including a detective show directed by Jacques Tourneur and an early appearance by William Shatner in a small-screen adaptation of the Nero Wolfe stories.

Each episode of No Passport Required with Marcus Samuelsson (PBS) focuses on a different U.S. city and explores how immigrant culture influences local cuisine; Meghan Markle used to star in cable movies, and Lifetime returned the favor with Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance (Lionsgate); they’re still managing to keep it hot and heavy with The Affair: The Fourth Season (Showtime/CBS/Paramount)

Bill Hader received critical acclaim for Barry (HBO Home Entertainment), the darkly funny series that won Henry Winkler his long-awaited first Emmy; avast, matey, and tie yourself to the mast for all of Black Sails: The Complete Collection (Lionsgate); everybody loves Lucy, but I grew up watching and adoring Joan Davis on I Married Joan: Classic TV Collection, Vol. 4 (VCI Entertainment); your kids will learn plenty from Sesame Street – Elmo’s World: Elmo Explores! (Shout Kids/Sesame Workshop), and you'll learn that he’s not merely about tickling.

And Acorn keeps bringing the best of TV from around the world, with an acclaimed adaptation of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Brenda Blethyn in Vera: Sets 1-7 Collection, and the popular 800 Words, Season 3, Part 1.

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