Alonso Duralde’s monthly column comes to The Spool to discuss the latest indies, classics, TV, and new releases coming to DVD and Blu-ray.
The path from supermodel to actress is rarely a smooth one—anybody remember Cindy Crawford in Fair Game?—but Slick Woods seems to be taking some capable first steps in Goldie (Film Movement), giving a turn that won acclaim at the Berlin and Tribeca film festivals last year in a film that’s now making its way to home video. Woods stars in the title role as an up-and-comer who’s out to beat the odds and make something of herself, mainly so she can take care of her two younger siblings. It’s a New York story that balances the grit of the city with Cinderella ambitions. (Read our review here.)
Also available: Another NYC tale, The Cat and the Moon (MVD Visual) stars Alex Wolff from Hereditary as a teen whose horizons expand when he moves to the city during his mom’s stint in rehab; Tye Sheridan stars as The Night Clerk (Paramount) in a hotel where he becomes the prime suspect in a murder; a woman in her mid-20s is haunted by the Unintended (MVD Visual) murder she committed as a child.
L’amour fou exists on every continent, and From Iceland to Eden (Cinema Libre) serves up star-crossed lovers, a dangerous criminal underworld, and the one-last-heist trope, Reykjavik-style. Hansel Eagle and Telma Huld Jóhannesdóttir are the lovers in question—Óliver and Lóa, respectively—and writer-director Snaevar Sölvason livens up the familiar story elements by showing us a seamier side of Iceland than we usually see in movies or on TV.
Also available: The spouse-swapping survivors of a tragedy turn to each other for support in the stylish, time-hopping Mexican import Two Times You (Synergetic); in 15 Years (Breaking Glass Pictures), a gay Israeli architect unravels when his husband wants them to become parents; the beautifully animated Adama (Icarus/Distrib) follows an African child into the horrors of World War I; in Sundance award-winner The Sharks (Breaking Glass Pictures), a teenage girl’s sexual coming-of-age is mirrored by the predators that might be swimming around the edges of her resort town.
Jazz aficionados should absolutely make room on the shelf for Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Eagle Vision); this set not only features Stanley Nelson’s insightful, Grammy-winning documentary about the music legend, but it also includes a 16-page hardcover book along with a bonus DVD featuring selections from three different Davis appearances at the Montreux Jazz Festival in the ’70s and ’80s.
Also available: There’s maybe never been a better time for a documentary exposing the weaknesses of capitalism, and System Error and The Sequel (both Icarus Films) are two (and certainly not the only ones) that fit the bill; Chichinette: The Accidental Spy (Kino Lorber) recounts the amazing true story of a young French woman who fought the Nazis behind enemy lines; if you didn’t dig physical media, you wouldn’t be reading this column, so The Vinyl Revival (MVD Visual)—about the rebirth of the LP—should be totally in your wheelhouse; before Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, there was Anne Innis Dagg, also known as The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (Kino Lorber).
Donnie Yen and director Wilson Yip cap off their multi-movie biopic saga with Ip Man 4: The Finale (Well Go USA Entertainment), a movie that, among other notions, offers some vindication to the late Bruce Lee (Ip Man’s most famous student) in the wake of Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood. Is there Chinese nationalist propaganda? Sure. But do American white supremacists get kicked in the face? Absolutely.
Also available: If you hunger for kaiju action and don’t mind dipping into the off-brand stuff, check out Raiga: God of the Monsters (SRS Cinema); when I mention that Final Kill (Cinedigm) features Randy Couture and Danny Trejo and Billy Zane and James Russo, a certain breed of fan is moving it to the top of the list.
The Criterion Collection has released a great many essential films from a great many essential filmmakers, but there’s something special about the label’s collaborations with Wes Anderson. Maybe it’s the overlapping sensibilities of detail and design, but the results always make for must-own Blu-rays. And The Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception, as it features a brand-new making-of documentary, a commentary track (featuring Anderson, Jeff Goldblum, Roman Coppola, and critic-turned-director Kent Jones), video essays from Matt Zoller Seitz and David Bordwell, and two written essays by Richard Brody. The beautifully assembled and information-packed Criterion releases of Anderson’s films, even if you aren’t a fan of the auteur, demonstrate the best of physical media.
Also available: He wasn’t just Scrooge—the new collection Alastair Sim’s School for Laughter (Film Movement Classics) features of a quartet of the esteemed actor’s most popular comedies (The Belles of St. Trinian’s, School for Scoundrels, Laughter in Paradise, and Hue and Cry); “Paramount Presents” is a new initiative from the studio to get classics from their library back onto home media and, eventually, the big screen, and their DVD push kicks off with the eclectic trio of To Catch a Thief, Fatal Attraction, and King Creole; early-’80s Western comedy Cattle Annie and Little Britches (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) mixes rising young actors Diane Lane and Amanda Plummer with veterans Burt Lancaster and Rod Steiger, to charming results.
Star Molly Ringwald is the first to point out that there’s plenty problematic about Sixteen Candles (Arrow), but her winning performance stands the test of time in this Blu-ray Collector’s Edition that features a 4K restoration, scads of new extras, and a restored, additional scene; Fred MacMurray takes on a family of homicidal hill people in the hilarious Murder, He Says (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)—and keep your ears open for a ditty that many say inspired the theme music to NPR’s All Things Considered; the pairing of Marlene Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart might have seemed odd on paper, but with Destry Rides Again (The Criterion Collection), they made rom-com-Western magic.
Walter Huston and Ruth Chatterton are an unhappily married couple abroad in William Wyler’s classic adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ Dodsworth (Warner Archive Collection); Jungle Queen (VCI Entertainment) makes its Blu-ray debut with a 2K restoration of the serial about Nazis and Brits battling in Africa during WWII; Gary Cooper joins the French Foreign Legion in Beau Geste (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), a stirring old-school (i.e., heavy on the white colonization) adventure.
Elizabeth Taylor and director Joseph Losey followed up the infamous Boom! with another movie that’s almost as 1960s-groovy-bananas, Secret Ceremony (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), co-starring Mia Farrow and Robert Mitchum; with Heroes (Mill Creek Entertainment), Henry Winkler made one of several stabs at making his 1970s small-screen success translate to movies; speaking of TV-to-film transitions, Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (Arrow) had a better time of it with her hilarious, eponymous comedy; if you loved Their Finest, about the crafting of British wartime propaganda movies, check out the real thing in the collection Their Finest Hour: 5 British WWII Classics (Film Movement Classics), featuring Went the Day Well?, The Colditz Story, The Dam Busters, Dunkirk (1958), and Ice Cold in Alex.
While we light a candle for Billy Bob Thornton to one day release his director’s cut, even the butchered version of his All the Pretty Horses (Mill Creek Entertainment) has some degree of splendor; Miranda July’s debut feature Me and You and Everyone We Know (The Criterion Collection) immediately established her as a filmmaker to watch; Série Noire (Film Movement Classics), Alain Corneau’s 1979 adaptation of Jim Thompson’s A Hell of a Woman, gets a 2K restoration; Florence Henderson gamely sings her way through Song of Norway (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), a musical that came at the end of the roadshow wave that dominated the post-The Sound of Music landscape.
You’ve got the time, but maybe you’re tired of following your favorite sitcoms from Netflix to HBO Max or Peacock or whatever next thing the major entertainment conglomerates decide to make the new home of the content you want. This is where your friend the Blu-ray comes in, specifically with the newly-released Friends: The Complete Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) and 30 Rock: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment) sets. Years apart, both shows anchored NBC’s “Must-See” lineup, and while 30 Rock never quite became the ratings triumph that Friends did, it’s no less archetypal as a sitcom that defined an era.
Also available: Your bingeing tastes might well go in other directions, such as the fantasy of competent governance—Madam Secretary: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount)—the twisty procedural—Criminal Minds: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount)—or the scathingly foul-mouthed, character-based satire—The Righteous Gemstones: The Complete First Season (HBO)—but rest assured that all bases remain covered; and if you’ve got kids to entertain, park them in front of Infinity Train: Book One (Cartoon Network).
The Naked Gun movies are hilarious, sure, but for my money, they never attain the dada perfection of their six-episode, too-smart-for-TV source material, Police Squad!: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount); Mill Creek Entertainment’s ambitious and exhaustive reissue of all things Ultraman continues with Ultraman X: The Series/The Movie (Mill Creek Entertainment); Katharine Hepburn’s two final collaborations with George Cukor were both acclaimed TV movies, and six-time Emmy winner Love Among the Ruins (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) pairs the screen legend with Laurence Olivier; if your idea of a policier is one where policier isn’t the only French word, check out the acclaimed procedural thriller Balthazar, Series 1 (Acorn TV).
John Green’s debut novel became the acclaimed limited series Looking for Alaska (Paramount); Dolly Parton is an Unlikely Angel (Mill Creek Entertainment) who must reunite a family at Christmastime if she wants to get into heaven; the Australian hit The Heart Guy, Series 4 (Acorn TV) keeps beating with its mix of medical tension and family drama; banish your troubles to the deep blue sea with SpongeBob SquarePants: Bikini Bottom Bash (Nickelodeon/Paramount).