DVD Obscura: 'Skate Kitchen,' 'La Boyita,' 'Critters' and More

DVD Obscura: 'Skate Kitchen,' 'La Boyita,' 'Critters' and More

Dec 17, 2018

Skate Kitchen

Here is what's new on home video for fans of indie, foreign-language, documentary, classic and grindhouse films.

New Indie

While it didn’t get nearly as much media coverage as Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90s, Skate Kitchen (Magnolia Home Entertainment) tackles a similar milieu – troubled teens create a chosen family with their fellow skateboarders – and does so from a female point of view. Documentary filmmaker Crystal Moselle makes her fiction debut, blending real-life skateboarders making their screen debuts alongside Jaden Smith (fitting in comfortably, having seemingly shed his nerves from After Earth). These skater girls are tough, vulnerable, funny and have each other’s backs, and the film achieves a glorious lyricism in an often gritty setting.

Also available: John Cho snagged a Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor for his gripping turn in the social-media thriller Searching (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); Zosia Mamet (Girls) discovers that The Boy Downstairs (FilmRise) is none other than her ex-boyfriend in this offbeat comedy; Angie Wang’s crime saga MDMA (Shout Studios) stars Annie Q as a woman who starts making Ecstasy in her university lab to cover her tuition; Blindspotting (Summit/Lionsgate) got raves at Sundance for its provocative exploration of race and gentrification issues.

Kelly Macdonald plays a housewife who discovers she’s a jigsaw genius in the drama Puzzle (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); the let’s-save-the-old-theater dance drama Breaking Brooklyn (Lionsgate) co-stars Vondie Curtis-Hall and Louis Gossett Jr.; Beyond the Sky (RLJE Films) sees a UFO skeptic change his tune after meeting a young woman who claims to have been abducted.


New Foreign

One of my favorite coming-of-age tales in recent years, La Boyita (Film Movement) finally makes it to home video after wowing them on the film festival circuit (under its original title The Last Summer of La Boyita). Director Julia Solomonoff makes a dynamite feature debut with this story of a young Argentine girl who travels with her father in their weathered Boyita camper-van; along the way, she reconnects with a lifelong playmate who’s going through some unexpected changes. Add this to the list of films like Amarcord, Crooklyn and Hope and Glory, which summon childhood memories with sweetness but without sentimentality.

Also available: Among Ethan Hawke’s many notable acting turns this year was as a washed-up rocker in Juliet, Naked (Lionsgate) who falls for the girlfriend (Rose Byrne) of his biggest fan (Chris O’Dowd); Brazilian award-winner Good Manners (Icarus Films) couches an examination of class and race within a werewolf movie; the hilarious Heavy Trip (Doppelganger Releasing) follows a stage-fright-stricken metal singer in his quest to perform at Norway’s hottest music festival; a true-crime murder case brings together two otherwise unconnected Viennese men in the dark thriller Agony (IndiePix Films).

If Shoplifters has you seeking out more films by Hirokazu Kore-Eda, check out The Third Murder (Film Movement), in which he switches from his usual genre of family drama to murder mystery; Vincent Cassel plays the legendary artist in the biopic Gauguin: Voyage to Tahiti (Cohen Media Group); director Tsui Hark returns to his delightful wuxia fantasy franchise with Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings (Well Go USA Entertainment); Emma Thompson plays a judge who gets too close to one of her family-law cases in The Children Act (Lionsgate), adapted by Ian McEwan from his own novel.


New Doc

The selling point of Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood (Greenwich/Kino Lorber) is, undeniably, the gossip – legendary showbiz "procurer" Scotty Bowers holds forth here (as he did in his memoirs) about sexual escapades with legends like Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, Charles Laughton, and many more. But documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Studio 54) is interested in more than the dirt; this film gives us a deeper understanding of Bowers’ life – the nitty-gritty version as well as his all-smiles take – and delves into deeper questions about the erasure of LGBTQ history and whether it’s somehow "defamatory" that we know a version of celebrities’ lives that isn’t the studio-approved one.

Also available: The Grateful Dead were legendary for concerts that ran to epic lengths, so it’s only fitting that Amir Bar-Lev’s acclaimed portrait of the band, Long Strange Trip (Rhino Entertainment) runs nearly four hours, making this new Blu-ray a must for any Deadheads in your life; other music docs new on video this month include Glastonbury Fayre: 1971 – The True Spirit of Glastonbury (Odeon Entertainment) – featuring performances by Melanie, Traffic, and Fairport Convention, among others – and Sheryl Crow – Live at the Capital Theater (Cleopatra Entertainment).

If Netflix’s Five Came Back doc has whetted your appetite for more background on the "Why We Fight" films, Mr. Capra Goes to War (Olive Films) collects all five of Frank Capra’s WWII documentaries, with introductions and analysis from critic Joseph McBride; Planetary (Bullfrog Films) posits that the interconnectedness of life – and our understanding of it – may be humanity’s last, best hope; the multi-part And the Award Goes to…: 80 Years of the Academy Awards (Mill Creek Entertainment) exhaustively examines the first eight decades of Oscar.


New Grindhouse

The Critters Collection (Scream Factory) is here to remind us that what started as yet another low-budget Gremlins rip-off evolved into a cult-favorite series that would eventually include Leonardo DiCaprio and Angela Bassett among its ensemble. This four-disc set of the humans-versus-alien-beasties saga contains new extras for the entire quartet of entries, including new 2K scans from the original negatives, commentaries, making-of docs and plenty more. If you’re crazy for Critters – or buying holiday presents for someone else who is – look no further.

Also available: Christopher Lee is sucking blood and taking names in 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula (Warner Archive Collection); it’s senior citizens against bloodthirsty cowboys in the horror Western Lasso (Epic Pictures); Blood, Sweat and Terrors (RLJE Films) is a stunt-packed British crime blow-out starring John Hannah and Ed Speleers (of Downton Abbey and Wolf Hall); Takeshi Kitano closes out his violent underworld trilogy with the gangster saga Outrage Coda (Film Movement); Luciferina (Artsploitation) has come to possess your soul in this Argentine thriller.

Besides the Criterion Collection, almost no other home-video distributor puts the effort into remasters, extras, interviews, commentaries, documentaries, etc., that Scream Factory does. And if you’re a fan of their Collector’s Edition releases, they’ve got three noteworthy new ones: the Stephen King adaptation Sleepwalkers, the creepy po-mo teen slasher Urban Legend – they’ve also put out a new Blu-ray of Urban Legend: Final Cut – and speaking of urban legends, the chilling Candyman.


New Classic

You would be hard-pressed to find another Blu-ray box set in 2018 that rivals the majesty of Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema (The Criterion Collection), an extraordinary collection celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of a cinematic giant. Featuring 39 films – including the TV and theatrical cuts of Fanny and Alexander, along with many previously unavailable titles – more than 30 hours of supplemental features and a 248-page book, this is a definitive collection that belongs in every serious film library.

Also available: But hey, the first print of the Bergman box sold out, so until new ones get shipped out in February, you can at least pick up a new Blu-ray of The Serpent’s Egg (Arrow Academy); Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers (Kino Classics) won a well-deserved special citation from the New York Film Critics Circle for its ambitious collection of early cinema directed by women; at long last, a proper Blu-ray release for David Byrne’s glorious True Stories (The Criterion Collection), which had only ever been released on DVD in a non-letterboxed format; also making its Blu debut is Carlos Saura’s 2004 family-feud tale The 7th Day (Olive Films), starring Victoria Abril.

Carole Lombard gives one of her greatest comedic performances in the knockabout rom-com Nothing Sacred (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); the very existence of Can’t Hardly Wait: 20-Year Reunion Edition (Mill Creek Entertainment) is going to make a certain demographic feel hella old; Lucille Ball was perhaps the wrong choice to star in Mame (Warner Archive Collection), but at least the film immortalizes Bea Arthur’s Tony-winning turn as Vera Charles; often overlooked or misunderstood in the Robert Altman canon in the delightfully quirky Brewster McCloud (Warner Archive Collection), now available in hi-def.

Relive Sylvester Stallone’s sweaty, Reagan-era heyday with the 4K releases of First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, and Rambo III (all from Lionsgate) – and yes, the third one is the one where he fights alongside the mujahideen; even 40 years later, you will believe a man can fly with the 4K reissue of Richard Donner’s Superman (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); Billy Crystal and Alan King team up in Memories of Me (MVD Marquee), directed by Henry Winkler.

More ghostly screwball shenanigans are showcased in the hilarious Topper Returns (VCI Entertainment); Alison Anders’ subtle and heartfelt Gas Food Lodging (Arrow Academy) instantly made her one of this generation’s most essential indie filmmakers; Salma Hayek had her breakout role in the acclaimed Mexican ensemble piece Midaq Alley (Film Movement Classics).

Charlize Theron won acclaim for killing a guy with a high-heeled shoe in Atomic Blonde, but Jennifer Jason Leigh was there first in Single White Female (Scream Factory); The Killing of Sister George (Kino Lorber) was a breakthrough for LGBTQ representation in the 1960s, and it still holds up as a bitter (and bitterly funny) character piece; the success of Robert Altman’s delightful ensemble whodunit Gosford Park (Arrow Academy) inspired writer Julian Fellowes to create Downton Abbey; while many complained at the time that Michael J. Fox was miscast, he brings a certain poignance to Jay McInerney’s tale of yuppie woe in Bright Lights, Big City (MVD Rewind).

Nineties drug drama Crackdown Big City Blues (The Film Detective) gets an HD restoration from its original 35mm elements; international screen icon Romy Schneider first made an impression as the ingenue of the "Sissi" trilogy, collected here as Forever My Love (Film Movement); it definitely has its problematic moments, but School Daze (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) sees Spike Lee ambitiously tackling an old-school musical as his sophomore feature and there are plenty of great numbers; I still resent Kevin Costner for winning a Best Director Oscar for Dances with Wolves: Collector’s Edition (Shout Factory) over Martin Scorsese for Goodfellas, but that’s neither here nor there if you’re a fan of this historical Western.


New TV

Love Star Trek, but didn’t want to shell out for CBS’s streaming service? Then get your hands on Star Trek Discovery: Season One (CBS/Paramount), a collection that features more than two hours of special features and supplemental material that should delight any fan of the franchise. There are deleted and extended scenes alongside a plethora of documentaries about how this latest incarnation of the beloved series was put together.

Also available: Anthony Perkins hosts Chillers (Mill Creek Entertainment), an all-star anthology of psychological thrillers; there’s more legal maneuvering in the cult favorite The Good Fight: Season Two (CBS/Paramount); Guillermo Diaz plays a legendary real-life stalker in Dating Game Killer (Lionsgate); Elizabeth Banks lends her voice to Sesame Street: The Magical Wand Chase (Shout Kids/Sesame Workshop).

Sasha Baron Cohen returns to make more trouble for unsuspecting politicians in the satirical Who Is America (Showtime/Paramount); they do those live TV musicals in the UK as well, and their version of The Sound of Music Live (Shout Studios) has been widely praised; cocaine is a hell of a drug and Narcos: Season Three (Lionsgate) is a hell of a drug-cartel series; historical facts meet precise reenactments in the docudrama Elizabeth I and Her Enemies (Athena); one of the year’s most talked-about TV events was Sharp Objects (HBO Home Entertainment), written by Gillian Flynn and featuring another great Amy Adams performance.

Celebrate the centenary of a genius and hilarious visionary of early TV with Ernie Kovacs: The Centennial Collection (Shout Factory); binge the smartypants crime-solvers of Scorpion: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount); if you wanted the big-business maneuvering of Billions with family backstabbing thrown in, look no further than Succession: The Complete First Season (HBO Home Entertainment); Claire Foy and Matt Smith return to the throne in the award-winning The Crown: Season Two (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment).

And the folks at Acorn TV keep feeding our fix for great TV from around the world, with releases like the acclaimed small-screen remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock and popular series like Single-Handed: The Complete Collection, Detectorists: The Complete Collection, Hidden, No Offence, Series 2 and Jack Irish, Season 2.

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