Don’t let the Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress make you think that Cate Blanchett didn’t actually do great work in “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), easily one of the most underappreciated films of 2019. From a confusing marketing campaign to dissatisfaction among fans of the book, this Richard Linklater comedy’s unique charms and insights were appreciated by too few moviegoers, so here’s hoping it finds an audience on home video. Blanchett is riveting and hilarious as an architect choking in domesticity and desperately searching a way to kickstart her life. Billy Crudup — the MVP of “The Morning Show” — and Kristen Wiig lead up a terrific supporting cast.
Also available: Nat Wolff pops up in two military-themed dramas for Lionsgate, as Marine Corps reservist Jai Courtney’s ne’er-do-well brother in “Semper Fi” and as a soldier in Afghanistan who’s seen too much in “The Kill Team”; one of the year’s most talked-about LGBTQ films was the controversial “Adam” (Wolfe Video), the feature directorial debut of “Transparent” producer Rhys Ernst; believe the hype — Renee Zellweger’s knockout performance as Judy Garland in “Judy” (Lionsgate) is the stuff of legend; Ethan Hawke stars in Logan Marshall-Green’s directorial debut “Adopt a Highway” (RLJE Films); the ’80s-flavored thriller “Low Tide” (Lionsgate) sends as group of friends on a treasure hunt with escalating stakes.
The 2017 suicide of director Hu Bo at age 29 leaves us with just one feature, but it’s a memorable one: “An Elephant Sitting Still” (KimStim) follows a day in the life of a group of people in an industrial Chinese city, all left behind by the nation’s economic book and looking to start over elsewhere. At nearly four hours long, it’s a film that both demands and rewards your attention, and it’s a tragic testament to a promising young filmmaker.
Also available: Danish Oscar submission “Queen of Hearts” (Breaking Glass Pictures) sees a powerful female attorney embarking on a taboo love affair; a policeman and a trio of thieves square off against the elements and each other in the Chinese thriller “Savage” (Well Go USA Entertainment); in Dennis Do’s “Funan” (GKIDS/Shout Factory), the filmmaker channels his harrowing memories of life under the Khmer Rouge into haunting animation.
The “Battle of Leningrad” (MPI Home Video) forms the basis of an epic new war film from Russia; a South African young man and his adopted brother enter a power struggle for their parents’ love in the fascinating “The Harvesters” (Altered Innocence); not to be confused with the O’Neill play, the Chinese drama “Long Day’s Journey into Night” (Kino Lorber) demands to be seen on a 3D TV for the film’s bravura use of the medium.
In “The Ground Beneath My Feet” (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), a lesbian executive in Germany fights to keep her work life and her own sanity under ruthless control; two teen runaways make their way through Sardinia in hopes of a better life in “Twin Flower” (Film Movement); Vincent Cassel stars in legendary Brazilian filmmaker Carlos Diegues’ “The Great Mystical Circus” (Kino Lorber), a saga of five generations of show folk under the big top.
The roots of where American politics has sunk to are explored in “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), another fascinating documentary by Matt Tyrnauer (“Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood,” “Studio 54”) that examines queer culture and its impact on society at large. The deeply closeted Cohn happily helped Joe McCarthy during the HUAC hearings and then spent the life lining his own pocket while supporting some of the most unethical and corrupt people around, including the current POTUS. Tyrnauer wisely never tries to humanize Cohn, but he does examine where he came from and what motivated him to commit the acts he did.
Also available: To raise your mood after watching the Roy Cohn deck, check out “Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins” (Magnolia Home Entertainment), a reminder of the impact of speaking truth to power, especially when you do so with wit; the 4K nature documentary “Turtle Odyssey: Bunji’s Big Adventure” (Shout Factory) features narration by Russell Crowe and will beautifully show off your home system; a legendary cinematographer gets to be in front of the camera in “Water and Sugar: Carlo Di Palma, The Colours of Life” (Kino Lorber); service dogs comfort veterans with PTSD in “To Be of Service” (First Run Features), a moving tribute to these loving Best Friends.
Yoko Ono and Jonas Mekas are among the expert witnesses discussing the mid-20th century’s avant-garde art movement in “George: The Story of George Maciunas and Fluxus” (Kino Lorber); in “Tattoo Uprising” (First Run Features), filmmaker Alan Govenar takes a close look at skin art, both in history and in its many current iterations; the treatment of refugees worldwide is the vital focus of Markus Imhoof’s “Eldorado” (Kino Lorber).
“The Miracle of the Little Prince” (Film Movement) uses the much-translated novel as a way of looking at efforts to save dying languages around the planet; a fascinating piece of TV history is captured in “David Susskind Archive: Interview with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” (MVD Visual), while “Dick Cavett: Pioneers of New York Radio” (Liberation Hall) features discussions with on-air personalities ranging from Bob and Ray to Howard Stern; “Barbara Rubin and the Exploding NY Underground” (Juno Films) celebrates a forgotten figure who played a key role in the counterculture of the 1960s.
So many music documentaries this month, from the avant-garde of “That Pärt Feeling: The Universe of Arvo Pärt” (Film Movement); to the moving portraits of essential vocalists like “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (Kino Lorber) and “Holly Near: Singing for Our Lives” (Omnibus Entertainment). “Monochrome: Black, White & Blue” (MVD Visual) tracks the evolution of the blues and of American history, and where they intersect; one of rock’s legendary plane crashes is recalled in “I’ll Never Forget You: The Last 72 Hours of Lynyrd Skynyrd” (MVD Visual); “Voice of the Eagle: The Enigma of Robbie Basho” (MVD Visual) examines a fascinating cult figure in American music; “Come on Feel the Noize: The Story of How Rock Became Metal” (Cleopatra Entertainment) tracks the rise of the head-banger; a legendary British music publication is the subject of the acclaimed “Melody Makers” (Cleopatra Entertainment); and a country legend gives one last concert in “Kenny Rogers: The Gambler’s Last Deal” (Wienerworld), filmed in London.
While I still chafe at the phrase “elevated horror,” it is fascinating to see the evolution of what was once considered an outcast genre into something that’s taken seriously as art (from time to time, anyway). Case in point: “The Fly” Collection (Scream Factory), which takes us from the low-budget monster movies of yore to David Cronenberg’s elegant (but terrifying) 1980s reimagining, moving the story of an experiment gone wrong from creature-feature to metaphor about AIDS. But in the same way that there is terror to be found in the more recent telling, there’s also art (and craft) to the older one. This collection features 1958’s original “The Fly” and its two sequels as well as the 1986 remake and its own follow-up, plus loads of new interviews and extras.
Also available: Little-seen Canucksploitation horror fave “Wicked World” (AGFA/Bleeding Skull) gets a new director’s cut; “Automation” (Dread) wonders what happens when the robots who replace us get replaced themselves; we can’t call it a Stephen King “revival” if he never went away, but the “Silver Bullet”: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) features new interviews and commentary for his werewolf saga; there’s a masked killer appearing on Halloween in “Trick” (RLJE Films), and only the cop who tried bringing him down before can stop him.
Universal Horror Collection: Volume 3 features some of the studio’s fun deeper cuts — starring the likes of Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price — including “Tower of London,” “Man-Made Monster,” “The Black Cat” and “Horror Island” (Scream Factory); it’s totally a cookbook in the cannibal comedy “A Feast of Man” (IndiePix Films); two new double-feature discs feature some of the goofy genre movies Sylvester Stallone makes between “Creed” and “Rambo” sequels, offering selections like “Avenging Angelo”/”Shade” and “Eye See You”/”Reach Me” (both MVD Marquee Collection).
For years, one of my most-wanted Blu-rays was a U.S. release of the legendary five-hour director’s cut of Wim Wenders’ “Until the End of the World,” and now, thanks to The Criterion Collection, that wish has come true. Butchered to half its length in its theatrical cut, this globetrotting epic finally exists in its true form, and it’s a movie that grows in impact with each passing year. Wenders set out to make “the ultimate road movie,” as adventurer Solveig Dommartin chases William Hurt around the world (often with her boyfriend Sam Neill in tow). This 1991 film was incredibly prescient about the Y2K panic, GPS and the internet, and the way humanity would eventually become obsessed with staring at handheld screens all day. It’s sweeping and provocative, featuring one of the 1990s’ greatest soundtracks, and this long-awaited release vindicates a long-unseen masterpiece.
Also available: Kurt Vonnegut’s brilliant “Slaughterhouse-Five” (Arrow Video) was brought to the screen with intelligence and intensity by director George Roy Hill (with the story’s time-hopping handled brilliantly by legendary editor Dede Allen); “The Cotton Club Encore” (Lionsgate) doesn’t entirely fix the flaws of Francis Ford Coppola’s ambitious gangster musical, but it restores some amazing previously-unseen footage, including an instant-classic number featuring a young Jackee Harry; bizarre Canadian cult classic and kid-movie freakout “The Peanut Butter Solution” (Severin Films) demands to be seen; Bertrand Tavernier’s “A Sunday in the Country” (Kino Classics) isn’t like watching paint dry, but it is the filmic equivalent to a great Impressionist painting.
Critic-turned-filmmaker Paul Schrader made an auspicious debut with the still-relevant labor tale “Blue Collar” (Kino Lorber); “Candy” (Shout Select) afforded the late Heath Ledger a rare opportunity to make a movie using his native Australian accent; the post-apocalyptic 1950s drama “The World, the Flesh and the Devil” (Warner Archive Collection) would make a great double-bill with the more recent “Z for Zachariah,” which parallels the earlier film in many ways.
One of the great anime features of all time, “Millennium Actress” (Shout Factory) gets a lavish new Blu-ray release; Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic gives a 4K restoration to the film titan’s two-part saga (“The Tiger of Eschnapur” and “The Indian Tomb”) and the extras include documentarian Mark Rappaport’s tribute to actress Debra Paget (Film Movement); and speaking of lesser-known films from legendary auteurs, Hitchcock: British International Pictures Collection features a quintet of titles — “The Ring,” “The Farmer’s Wife,” “Champagne,” “The Manxman” and “The Skin Game” — made by the Master of Suspense before Hollywood came calling (Kino Classics); the outrageous teen satire “Jawbreaker” gets a Blu-ray debut to celebrate its 20th anniversary (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment).
Jacques Rivette’s ambitious, two-part telling of the story of Joan of Arc, from battlefield to courtroom, gets a beautiful restoration in a new collection, “Joan the Maid” (Cohen Film Collection); there’s tongue-in-cheek derring-do aplenty in 1980’s action comedy “Jake Speed” (Arrow Video); Jeff Bridges and seemingly every up-and-coming white actor of 1996 test their limits in “White Squall” (Kino Lorber).
John Carpenter’s beloved “Big Trouble in Little China” (Scream Factory) gets a Collector’s Edition release with two new audio commentaries; “The Bad and the Beautiful” (Warner Archive Collection) ranks among the best Hollywood movies about how Hollywood destroys everyone and everything; right up there with “Danger: Diabolik” among the best films ever subjected to the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” treatment, the fantasy epic “The Magic Sword” (Kino Lorber) is actually lots of fun; Jim Jarmusch’s most divisive movie, “The Limits of Control” (Arrow Video), gets a new Blu-ray, so judge this 2009 experiment for yourself.
The platonic ideal of a career-retrospective box set features titles from multiple distributors, so kudos to Shout Selects for curating The Anne Bancroft Collection, even though the films featured — including “Don’t Bother to Knock,” “The Miracle Worker,” “The Pumpkin Eater,” “The Graduate,” “Fatso” (her directorial debut), “To Be or Not to Be,” “Agnes of God” and “84 Charing Cross Road” — were no doubt a contractual nightmare to assemble in one package; Oscar nominee “Camille Claudel” (Kino Classics) stars Isabelle Adjani as the passionate young pupil of sculptor Rodin (Gérard Depardieu); in “Glorifying the American Girl” (Kino Classics), we see the Ziegfeld Follies captured for the big screen, along with early-talkies-era stars Eddie Cantor and Rudy Vallee.
Streaming is great, but guess what — you can’t wrap ones and zeroes and put them under your Christmas tree. If you want to dazzle the TV-lover in your life this holiday, two collections stand out as exhaustive collections of acclaimed programming. “Twin Peaks”: From Z to A (CBS/Paramount) features all three seasons of David Lynch’s visionary series, plus the feature film and more than 20 hours of extra materials. There’s also no shortage of extras on “Game of Thrones”: The Complete Series (HBO Home Entertainment), which features more than 15 hours of additional content from earlier seasons as well as plenty of new interviews, outtakes and featurettes from the show’s climactic season.
Also available: Check out the one-of-a-kind Canadian comedy series that’s become a cult sensation in the lower 48 with “Letterkenny”: Seasons 1 & 2 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment); “Sesame Street”: 50th Anniversary Celebration (Shout Kids) captures five decades of letters, numbers, and sweepin’ the clouds away; if “Bombshell” left you wanting to see more about the downfall of Roger Ailes, the cable miniseries “The Loudest Voice” (Showtime/CBS/Paramount) has a lot more to say on the subject; the antics continue in that amazing piece of San Francisco real estate on “Fuller House”: The Complete Fourth Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
“The Orville”: The Complete Second Season (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) continues to go familiarly boldly; the ongoing release of the full run of the legendary Japanese sci-fi adventure continues with “Ultraman: UltraSeven” (Mill Creek Entertainment); they just don’t make TV movies like they used to, but they used to make deliciously cheesy movies like “Amazons” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), about a squad of deadly female assassins; “Noon Wine” (Kino Classics) stars Fred Ward and Stellan Skarsgård in an “American Playhouse” adaptation of the Katherine Anne Porter novella, produced by Merchant Ivory.
Probably not coming to Disney+ anytime soon is “Family Guy”: Season 17 (20th Century Fox Home Video); the French chiller “The Returned”: The Complete Second Season (Music Box Films) continues to contemplate a world in which the departed come back and expect to step back into their old lives; Danny Huston and Tom Conti guest-star in the cozy comedy “Doc Martin,” Series 9 (Acorn TV); “City on a Hill”: Season One (Showtime/CBS/Paramount) shows the nitty-gritty of law and order in 1990s Boston.