Paul Dano’s directorial debut, Nancy Kelly’s feminist Western & more number among May’s physical media releases.
You can rely upon an actor’s directorial debut to feature notable work from the performers, but whether it will be any good beyond that is anyone’s guess. What a relief, then, that Paul Dano’s first film Wildlife (The Criterion Collection) not only features career-best work from leading lady Carey Mulligan but is, overall, a powerful adaptation (co-written by Dano and Zoe Kazan) of the novel by Richard Ford. Mulligan stars as a discontented 1950s housewife, trying to keep it together when her mendicant husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) goes off to fight forest fires, in an increasingly tense situation we experience through the eyes of the couple’s teenage son (an empathetic Ed Oxenbould). It’s a very promising calling card for an up-and-coming filmmaker.
Also available: speaking of actors in the director’s chair, Waterlily Jaguar (Shoreline Entertainment) marks Melora Walters’ first time behind the camera, directing James Le Gros, Mira Sorvino, and Dominic Monaghan; a stockbroker under house arrest and his home-from-war brother uncover dark secrets in Point Defiance (Shoreline Entertainment).
Director Hiroyuki Imaishi and production company Studio Trigger make their feature debuts with the acclaimed Promare (GKIDS/Shout Factory), a visually extravagant anime that has dazzled audiences around the globe. Unlike other animators making the leap from small to large screen, Imaishi and his Studio Trigger collaborators are working on a grand scale here, and the results are both hypnotic and hallucinogenic. There’s some degree of plot familiarity here – there’s a future dystopia, and there are giant robots – but this movie is anything but run-of-the-mill. (Read our more detailed review of the DVD release here.)
Also available: A couple checks into the Time Zone Inn (IndiePix Films) to see if they can handle their relationship going long-distance; Nocturama director Bertrand Bonello returns with Zombi Child (Film Movement), another feature that has prompted strong reactions (in all directions) from viewers; Emma. (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) is not your typical Austen adaptation, although it manages to hang onto fidelity to the source material while also juicing up the romance and the comedy; a budding relationship between a bullied student and a young criminal is tested by a murder investigation in Chinese import Better Days (Well Go USA Entertainment); in Marco Bellochio’s The Traitor (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), a high-level gangster risks everything by cooperating with the authorities.
Ten strangers set sail on The Raft (Metrograph/Kino Lorber) in an early-1970s experiment in human nature and interpersonal relations that occasionally came off more like an ambitious predecessor to “Bachelor in Paradise.” But while some at the time dismissed the experiment as “the sex raft,” director Marcus Lindeen takes a serious look at the endeavor, mixing archival footage with interviews with the surviving members (and a soundstage recreation of the original vessel).
Also available: The legendary Barbet Schroeder returns with The Venerable W. (Icarus Films), a controversial examination of the intersection of religion and fervent, violent nationalism; narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker, The Times of Bill Cunningham (Greenwich/Kino Lorber) looks at the life of a legendary NYC photographer; meet the Lithuanian special forces who trained to beat back the Soviets during the final years of the Cold War in Delta Zoo (IndiePix Films).
You might not be able to recreate the experience of watching D-Day: Normandy 1944 (Shout Factory) in IMAX on your home system, but this new 4K Blu-ray beautifully captures this powerful documentary and its original score performed by the London Symphony Orchestra; environmental documentary Land of Little Rivers (Cinema Libre Studios) pays homage to the area of the Catskills known as the birthplace of fly fishing; Jia Zhangke’s I Wish I Knew (Kino Lorber) gets a 10th anniversary Blu-ray release; if you’re a fan of Swan Lake, get to know the choreographer who first crafted the moves to Tchaikovsky’s music in Marius Petipa: The French Master of Russian Ballet (Icarus Films).
A festival hit and a critical darling, Issa López’s Tigers Are Not Afraid (Shudder/RLJE) put the filmmaker on the radar of both Blumhouse and Guillermo del Toro, with whom she will be making her next films. Set amidst the carnage of the drug wars and conveyed from a child’s point of view, this dynamic horror film has garnered comparisons to classics like Forbidden Games and Spirit of the Beehive as well as more recent del Toro epics like The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth.
Also available: Detective Jeffrey Dean Morgan travels from NYC to London to investigate his daughter’s murder in The Postcard Killings (RLJE Films); Oliver Reed suffers The Curse of the Werewolf (Scream Factory) in this legendary horror entry from Hammer.
The 1990 indie Thousand Pieces of Gold (IndieCollect/Kino Lorber) somehow managed to slip between the cracks over the last three decades, so it’s exciting that the film has received a 4K restoration to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Director Nancy Kelly, who had a background in documentary, gives us the American West we’ve seen so often in movies, but with a perspective that’s rarely featured – that of a female Chinese immigrant, played indelibly by Rosalind Chao (listen to our podcast interview with her here). Lalu is sold into slavery by her parents and trafficked by a saloonkeeper, but she always maintains her agency, eventually finding love (with Chris Cooper, in an early screen appearance).
Also available: The plays of Tennessee Williams, during his peak on Broadway, were always too hot for 1950s Hollywood, but even a bowdlerized Sweet Bird of Youth (Warner Archive Collection) features steamy turns from Paul Newman, Geraldine Page and Shirley Knight; Susan Sontag’s Duet for Cannibals (Metrograph/Kino Lorber) marks a fascinating dabble at filmmaking from one of her generation’s leading thinkers; if you can get past Rock Hudson’s bronzer-iffic performance as a native American in Taza, Son of Cochise (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), this Blu-ray maintains all of this Western’s wonderfully cheesy 3D thrills; just in time for Father’s day, new 4K releases Top Gun, War of the Worlds, and Days of Thunder (all Paramount Home Video) serve up Tom Cruise at his movie star-riest.
Something Weird and Kino Classics continue their series of classic exploitation of yore with two new double-feature Blu-rays: Marihuana, Weed with Roots in Hell and Narcotic tell all the hard truths about hard drugs, while the more well-intentioned Tomorrow’s Children and Child Bride examine the issues of eugenics and, well, child brides; John Huston’s Reflections in a Golden Eye (Warner Archive Collection) gets a new double-disc Blu-ray that also features his gold-tinted version, making this adaptation of the Carson McCullers novel even more baroque.
Barbra Streisand flexes her comedy muscles and flummoxes an unsuspecting Gene Hackman All Night Long (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); the necks of sweatshirts were never the same again after the juggernaut that was Flashdance (Paramount Presents); you don’t hear a lot about the 1933 Alice in Wonderland (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), but if nothing else, it’s an all-star curiosity, featuring the likes of Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields, Polly Moran and Edna May Oliver; Natalie Wood made a valiant stab at I’m-an-adult-now roles with the show-biz exposé Inside Daisy Clover (Warner Archive Collection).
Éric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales (The Bakery Girl of Monceau, Suzanne’s Career, La Collectioneuse, My Night at Maud’s, Claire’s Knee, and Love in the Afternoon) gets a handsome Blu-ray release from The Criterion Collection, including interviews, essays, and a book with Rohmer’s stories that were the basis for the films; cult favorite A Thousand Clowns (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) makes its Blu-ray debut as does the early horror classic The Mystery of the Wax Museum (Warner Archive Collection), featuring what is probably Fay Wray’s most prominent role not opposite a giant ape.
Kevin Costner and Bull Durham writer-director Ron Shelton reteamed for the golf comedy Tin Cup (Warner Archive Collection), which is just about as smart and as sexy as its sports-movie predecessor; Stanley Kramer’s final film The Runner Stumbles (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) features Dick Van Dyke in a rare dramatic role, as a priest obsessed with a young nun (Kathleen Quinlan); Patty Duke stars in Me, Natalie (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), but keep an eye peeled for a young Al Pacino; Kirk Douglas stars opposite Gena Rowlands and Walter Matthau in the Dalton Trumbo–scripted Western Lonely Are the Brave (Kino Lorber Studio Classics).
Gunsmoke: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount) is an object of majesty, capturing TV’s longest-running scripted show (until The Simpsons came along) in one astounding, awe-inspiring box set. We’re talking 440 hours and 32 minutes of material, on 143 discs, spanning 20 seasons of television. If there aren’t teams of podcasters out there girding themselves to watch every second of this landmark series (for a show called, I dunno, Still Gunsmokin’?) then what are we even doing here? It’s collections like this that vividly demonstrate what physical media offers that streaming doesn’t – sure, you could own digital files of all this material, but when you collect it in a big box like this, it’s got literal weight. You almost want to build an entire room around it. And at a time when lots of us are spending lots of time at home, why not tackle one of the small screen’s most epic sagas?
Also available: Small-town New Zealand offers its share of mayhem in the tongue-in-cheek The Brokenwood Mysteries, Series 6 (Acorn); keep the kids entertained with The Loud House: Absolute Madness – Season 2, Volume 2 (Nickelodeon/Paramount); do not, however, let the kids watch The Deuce: The Complete Third Season (HBO/Warner), HBO’s examination of the nascent American porn industry; Ashley Jensen brings the snarky sleuth of cozy mysteries to life in Agatha Raisin, Series Three (Acorn).
Bid farewell to those naughty nerds in Silicon Valley: The Complete Sixth and Final Season (HBO/Warner); Liev Schreiber just keeps kicking ass and taking names in Ray Donovan: Season Seven (Showtime/CBS/Paramount); Humans: Complete Collection (Acorn) captures the full run of the provocative sci-fi series, starring William Hurt and Gemma Chan; you would think Shameless: The Complete Tenth Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) would find the family running out of ways to do bad, but they keep thinking of new ones.