We heard you liked Parasite, so we’ve got a lot – seriously, a LOT – of films to recommend by British auteur Ken Loach, starting with Sorry We Missed You (Kino Lorber Zeitgeist). He’s been digging deep into the class war for years now (he’s on the side of the poor, by the way; sorry, billionaires) and his movies champion the dignity and communal power of people struggling to get by in a capitalist system designed to crush them. Sorry We Missed You is both furious and exceptionally relevant right now, telling the story of a family hanging by a thread as both parents work in precarious jobs that could disintegrate with the slightest hiccup. Then come the hiccups. Let it radicalize you.
Also available: Brian Cox stars as an independent man with Parkinson’s who gets The Carer (Corinth), a caretaker he didn’t ask for but who just might change his life; The Other Lamb (IFC Midnight) tells the chilling tale of a young woman who rebels against the cult she was born into; and Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Mary J. Blige stars as the only cop on the force who can see the supernatural entity wreaking havoc in the creepy Body Cam (Paramount).
Sometimes escapism is about watching someone else make their own literal escape. Chinese import The Wild Goose Lake (Film Movement), unfortunately timed for what turned out to be a truncated arthouse rollout earlier this year, is an elegant, suspenseful thriller from filmmaker Diao Yinan. It’s about a small-time gangster on the run with a price on his head and a suspicious femme fatale along for the ride. The follow up to his breakthrough film Black Coal, Thin Ice, it’s an inventively shot, stylishly violent trip into deep dark noir.
Also available: Samurai Marathon (Well Go USA) has director Bernard Rose (Candyman) taking a feudal lord challenging a samurai to a punishing marathon and then adding a dizzying Philip Glass score to ramp up the action; 19thcentury Germans struggle against poverty and oppression in Home From Home: Chronicle of a Vision (Corinth), a four hour black-and-white arthouse odyssey; the Romanian New Wave gets an injection of sunshine, crime, and sexiness with Corneliu Porumboiu’s stylish Cannes hit The Whistlers (Magnolia Home Entertainment).
Acclaimed filmmaker Kleber Mendonca Filho (Aquarius, Neighboring Sounds) joins forces with Juliano Dornelles for the staggering Bacurau (Kino Lorber), a wild revenge tale about a rural Brazilian village that’s mad as hell and not going take it anymore, starring Sonia Braga and featuring Udo Kier; The Prince (Artsploitation Films) is a downcast but still homoerotic Chilean prison drama that won Venice Film Festival’s Queer Lion Award in 2019.
Is Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 box office fiasco Showgirls a masterpiece? Or is it shit? Or is it a masterpiece of shit? This is the question explored in You Don’t Nomi (RLJE), a provocative and utterly entertaining new documentary from director Jeffrey McHale. A wildly divergent variety of opinions and critical voices compete for the truth, and all of it is mixed with footage from the source material, vintage interviews, and corroborating evidence from Verhoeven films before and after Showgirls. You Don’t Nomi takes a every stance about Showgirls all at once – it’s feminist, it’s queer, it’s garbage, it’s brilliant, it’s camp, it’s an evisceration of everything hideous and banal about American life, it’s all of the above — and makes you decide for yourself who’s right. Just remember, it’s pronounced Ver-SAYSE.
Also available: Hands of God (Film Movement) chronicles the agonizing journey of the Iraqi Olympic Boxing Team when their gym is blown up; in 1985, Philadelphia police dropped a military-grade explosive on a residential building occupied by the Black liberation group MOVE, killing 5 children and 6 adults, and that shameful bit of U.S. history is explored in Target: Philadelphia (Indiepix Films).
HandMade Films, the George Harrison–backed production company that gave us modern classics like Brazil and Withnail & I, is the subject of An Accidental Studio (RLJE Films), featuring interviews with Terry Gilliam, Neil Jordan, Michael Palin, Richard E. Grant and more; gerrymandering is one of the reasons American politics is currently such a nightmare, and Slay the Dragon (Magnolia Home Entertainment) explains what it is and how we can fight against it.
The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye (Kino Lorber/Adopt), from Marie Losier, details the last stages in the lives of Throbbing Gristle founder Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and performance artist Lady Jaye, as their love story grew to involve intense physical transformations; Joseph Hillel’s City Dreamers (First Run Features) chronicles a quartet of influential mid-century female architects who forever changed the concept of urban living; the subject of female ejaculation gets overdue attention in Sacred Water (Icarus Films), when radio host and sex educator Dusabe Vestine goes on a mission in Rwanda to promote women’s sexual pleasure.
Enter the Fat Dragon (Well Go USA Entertainment) is a remake of Sammo Hung’s 1978 martial arts comedy classic, which was itself a parody of Bruce Lee’s 1972 film, The Way of the Dragon, which makes this update a meta-reboot-tribute-spoof. Donnie Yen stars this time as a police officer whose reassignment to the evidence room and a concurrent love of snack cakes makes him into a more plush version of himself. Does this stop him from fighting crime and using his martial-arts skills to regulate all the bad guys? It does not, which is something of an achievement in the cinematic representation of fat dudes existing and successfully delivering kicks to the throat. It’s always better to tell the joke rather than to be the joke.
Also available: Have you seen The Room (Shudder/RLJE)? No, not that one, the one about people stuck in a Room. No, not that one, either. This is a horror film about a room that turns your wishes into trouble, and it’s got a title designed to confuse; little baby demons make the Vatican unhappy in Belzebuth (Shudder/RLJE), starring Saw’s Tobin Bell.
Kiss of the Vampire: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) serves up classic 60s Hammer horror and all the lurid color-story that implies; in Inferno of Torture (Arrow), Japanese exploitation master Teruo Ishii (Horrors of Malformed Men, Orgies of Edo) sees to it that lots of young women are tattooed and tortured in the sixth film in his “Abnormal Love” series.
Indonesia’s most well-known comic book superhero, named Gundala (Well Go USA), goes up against a disfigured mob boss and his band of deadly orphan assassins; filmmaker Dietrich de Velsa, who later collaborated with Joseph Losey on Mr. Klein, directed exactly one movie: Equation to an Unknown (Altered Innocence), and it’s a masterpiece of downbeat French, queer erotic cinema. If you know, you know.
Legendary producer Arthur Freed meets legendary choreographer Busby Berkeley (the guy who invented immaculate and elaborate musical production numbers that were shot overhead for maximum wow) meets legendary singer Judy Garland and her most enduring screen partner Mickey Rooney in Strike Up the Band (Warner Archive), a wild romp about high-school kids determined to make it big in the world of music. Spoiler: They succeed. Watch the big Conga number for a taste of what kind of taskmaster “Buzz” Berkeley was with his exhausted-yet-smiling-through-it-all young stars. Pairs well with another new-to-Blu Mickey and Judy hit, Girl Crazy (also Warner Archive).
Also available: Eco-thriller The Day the Earth Caught Fire (KL Studio Classics) is an eerily prescient 1961 British doomsday shocker, the godfather of all 70s disaster films, from director Val Guest; Go Go Mania aka Pop Gear (KL Studio Classics) is another 60s Brit artifact, a splashy concert affair with The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, The Spencer Davis Group, and, oh, The Beatles.
Airplane! (Paramount Presents) is 40 years old, and here’s the Blu-ray. Now you feel old, too; same goes for Clueless (Paramount) celebrating its own 25th anniversary with a loaded-up Blu-ray. Yes, the ’90s are that far away. Deal with it.
Even older is the 1936 Buck Jones: The Phantom Rider (VCI) cowboy serials, restored and compiled on one very lengthy Blu-ray; meanwhile W.C. Fields’ 1941 Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (KL Studio Classics), the comedy legend’s last starring role, also gets the Blu-ray treatment; pre-code cult classic The Sin of Nora Moran gets revived from the folks at The Film Detective; and Mädchen in Uniform (Kino Classics), a landmark in the history of lesbian cinema released back in 1931, remains powerful enough to stay relevant almost 90 years later. And if you really want to fire up the wayback machine, there’s a new Blu-ray of the very first submarine feature ever made, the 1916 silent 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Kino Classics). (If you’re only aware of the later Disney adaptation of the Jules Verne novel, note that the remake’s star, Kirk Douglas, was born in 1916.)
Kino Classics presents three new Blu-rays spotlighting the work of director Istvan Szabo: Mephisto won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film of 1981 for the story of an actor in World War II whose career benefits from Nazi rule; Oscar nominee Colonel Redl stars Klaus Maria Brandauer as a counter-intelligence expert whose secret gayness threatens to compromise his safety; and Confidence, another Best Foreign Film nominee, spins a love story between two Resistance fighters, each married to someone else, in the waning days of WWII.
Whoopi Goldberg won her own Academy Award for Ghost (Paramount Presents) – now celebrating its 30th anniversary — the monstrously popular supernatural drama where Patrick Swayze is the ghost of a murdered man who has to save lover Demi Moore from the same fate. Whoopi helps.
Thirteen Ghosts: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) is the 2001 remake you never knew you needed, starring Matthew Lillard, Shannon Elizabeth, Rah Digga, and F. Murray Abraham; Pride and Prejudice (Warner Archive), another story that enjoys regular remakes, delivered a classic version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier; Esther Williams does all the elaborate swimming in the sparkly treat Million Dollar Mermaid (Warner Archive); and long before Guardians of the Galaxy, James Gunn wrote the 2000 cult comedy The Specials (La La Land Entertainment), which introduces the sixth-greatest superhero team in the world – including Thomas Haden Church, Judy Greer, and Rob Lowe — none of whom are million-dollar mermaids, alas.
Among the more sober offerings this month are Lorenzo’s Oil (KL Studio Classics), an exceptionally moving true story starring Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon as parents who fought to find a cure for their child’s mysterious and fatal illness; Keith Gordon’s acclaimed 1992 drama A Midnight Clear (Shout Select) depicts an attempted surrender during World War II that goes terribly wrong, featuring a stunning ensemble that includes Ethan Hawke, Gary Sinise, Arye Gross, Kevin Dillon, and Frank Whaley; and legendary filmmaker Luchino Visconti’s last feature, the 1976 historical drama L’Innocente (Film Movement), starring Giancarlo Giannini, Laura Antonelli, and Jennifer O’Neill, finally gets a Blu-ray release.
Stephen King’s domestic creepshow The Outsider (HBO) begins with what appears to be an open-and-shut case of child murder. There’s a suspect. There’s camera footage. And yet there’s also an ironclad alibi, and quite possibly a supernatural boogeyman at work. Simultaneously chilling and heartbreaking, it’s a miniseries about what happens when a town is torn apart by forces beyond its control, and how people go on living in the midst of rampant, inexplicable death. In other words, it’s about the United States. Cheers!
Also available: James Cameron’s Story of Science Fiction (AMC/RLJE) is a miniseries that wrangles the heavy hitters of sci-fi, including Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, to talk about their bodies of work; Castle Rock: The Complete Second Season (Warner Bros Home Entertainment) features Misery’s Annie Wilkes (Lizzie Caplan) as she gets stuck in Castle Rock while an epic feud between warring families is underway.
For completists: Hawaii Five-O: The Final Season (Paramount) brings the hit reboot to a close; Murdoch Mysteries: Season 13 (Acorn/ITV) is here to refill your cozy mystery cup; and one of the shows that first taught audiences how to stream comes to a climax with Orange Is the New Black: The Final Season (Lionsgate).
The Birth of Ultraman (Mill Creek Entertainment) gathers seven classic episodes from the original series, as well as the very rarely seen Birth of Ultraman, a live stage show that aired on Japanese television in July of 1966 one week before the premiere of the original series; shot in black-and-white, it was the introduction of the character and has never been released in the US until now.
- July DVD Releases: “Sorry We Missed You”, “You Don’t Nomi” - July 28, 2020
- June DVD Releases: “Etruscan Smile,” “Watchmen”, “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” - June 30, 2020
- May DVD releases: “Wildlife”, “Promare”, and more - May 26, 2020