There is a very good chance that you missed the exceptional “Fast Color” (Lionsgate) in theaters, since it didn’t open in many places, and stayed all too briefly when it did. So take this opportunity to catch up with Julia Hart’s powerful and provocative follow-up to “Miss Stevens.” This time out, Hart and co-writer Jordan Horowitz take the indie-arthouse approach to a superhero story, as Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) makes her way home to the family she’d fled years ago, with authorities on her tail because of her extraordinary powers. Mbatha-Raw gives an indelible performance (as does the legendary Lorraine Toussaint as her mother), and Hart manages the feat of turning a well-trod genre on its head to find characters and soul.
Also available: Freezing winter temperatures set the homeless against the police in Emilio Estevez’s library stand-off “The Public” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment); “Chain of Death” (Cleopatra Entertainment) co-stars Ray Wise and Adrienne Barbeau as members of an assisted-suicide cult; Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen make a somewhat unlikely but still utterly romantic pairing in the hilarious “Long Shot” (Lionsgate), one of the year’s most delightful comedies; Frances Conroy plays an aging actress in “Mountain Rest” (FilmRise), who gets a surprise visit from her estranged daughter and granddaughter; director and co-star Ralph Fiennes tells the story of Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the west in “The White Crow” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment).
A definite contender for my Top 10 of 2019 list is Jafar Panahi’s “3 Faces” (Kino Lorber), another example of how being forbidden by the Iranian government to make movies isn’t stopping one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. An apparent suicide video by a young would-be thespian in a remote town sets Panahi and actress Behnaz Jafari (playing themselves) on a trek to discover the truth; on their travels, they spotlight various contemporary issues in the nation, from bureaucracy to sexism. This film has the immediacy of a found-footage thriller and the delicate mix of drama and social commentary for which Panahi has become legendary. (The film won Best Screenplay at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival.)
Also available: Kuba Czekaj’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to “Baby Bump,” “The Erlprince” (Altered Innocence), is another trippy coming-of-age tale from the Polish up-and-comer; a “Working Woman” (Zeitgeist Films) gets #MeToo-ed by her boss at an Israeli real-estate agency and faces some tough choices; shot over three years in South Africa, the French family tale “Mia and the White Lion” (Shout Studios) is a stirring tale of wildlife bonding; a decades-long examination of female friendship, “Soulmate” (Cheng Cheng Films) explores the evolution of gender roles in contemporary China.
A lottery winner — and his unredeemed ticket — gets stranded on “The Island” (Well Go USA Entertainment) with his co-workers in this Chinese comedy-drama; Keira Knightley is a British officer’s wife caught up in “The Aftermath” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) of World War II as she embarks on an affair with German architect Alexander Skarsgard; speaking of WWII, “Transit” (Music Box Films) is based on a book set during that time, but somehow a film about escaping the rise of Fascism in Europe feels completely contemporary in this non-period adaptation.
Another contemporary classic from Jia Zhangke, “Ash Is Purest White” (Cohen Film Collection) powerfully captures the rapid changes in modern-day China (and offers an extraordinary performance from Zhao Tao); Mongolian-born, German-raised documentary filmmaker Uisenma Borchu makes her scripted debut with the provocative “Don’t Look at Me That Way” (IndiePix Films); “Dogman” (Magnolia Home Entertainment) is another stirring crime drama from Italian director Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”); ShoutFactory/GKIDS offer up two of the last year’s most acclaimed animated films: the French-Belgian anthology “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales” (from the creators of “Ernest & Celestine”) and Kitaro Kosaka’s anime feature “Okko’s Inn.”
Sexy French import “Sauvage/Wild” (Strand Releasing) stars Félix Maritaud (“BPM”) as a hustler looking for love in the places, wrong and otherwise; Haiti’s first Oscar entry, “Ayiti Mon Amour” (IndiePix Films), is a magical realist tale set five years after the devastating 2010 earthquake; cops and crooks team up to take down a legendary con man in the Korean caper “The Swindlers” (Well Go USA Entertainment); in “Styx” (Film Movement), a doctor’s plan for a solo sail across the Atlantic finds a hitch when she encounters a damaged boat teeming with refugees and seemingly no one else willing to help them.
“Hail Satan?” (Magnolia Home Entertainment) examines an unlikely group of defenders of the wall between church and state — the Satanic Temple, an organization whose prankish demands to erect statues and distribute literature serves to keep more powerful religions in check as they attempt to dominate the public sphere. Documentarian Penny Lane (“Our Nixon”) captures the mischievous spark of these media-savvy pranksters in an era when that afore-mentioned well often feels wobblier than ever.
Also available: An old mining town performs a historical recreation of its darkest moment — the forced deportation of 1,200 immigrant miners — in the timely and powerful “Bisbee ’17” (Grasshopper Film); “Eternity Has No Door of Escape” (Icarus Film) fascinatingly traces outsider art back to its roots; trans young people and their families stand up to discriminatory “bathroom bills” in the empowering “The Most Dangerous Year” (Passion River).
Now that we’ve had umpteen documentaries about male chefs, we’re overdue for a look at “The Goddesses of Food” (Kino Lorber); never-before-seen footage offers a compelling peek into “Creating Woodstock” (Cinema Libre), 50 years after the legendary concert; “The Pretenders — With Friends” (Cleopatra Entertainment) sees Chrissie Hynde and company sharing the stage with the likes of Shirley Manson, Iggy Pop, Incubus and Kings of Leon; “Long Gone Wild” (Vision Films) examines both the worldwide whale trade and a new sanctuary designed to give performing orcas a place to retire with dignity.
Legendary martial-arts choreographer Yuen Woo-Ping directs Max Zhang, Tony Jaa, Michelle Yeoh and Dave Bautista in “Master Z: Ip Man Legacy” (Well Go USA Entertainment), a movie that’s less biopic (like the previous “Ip Man” movies) and more crime tale. Still, it’s exhilarating to see Yeoh engage in on-screen combat again, and the movie’s adrenaline jolts more than make up for any narrative drag.
Also available: A violent cop pursues a serial killer with a machine gun in the Italian crimesploitation saga “The Tough Ones” (Grindhouse Releasing); Scream Factory offers up two more gems from the Hammer library: a 4K scan of “Lust for a Vampire” along with a new Blu-ray of “The Reptile,” and both come loaded with fun and informative extras; a park employee finds a “Body at Brighton Rock” (Magnolia Home Entertainment), and then discovers she’s not alone in the woods; “Deadsight” (RLJE Films) sees a pregnant police officer, on her last day before maternity leave, plunged into survival mode when a horrifying plague hits.
A tomb raider finds monstrous creatures in the entertaining “Mojin: The Worm Valley” (Well Go USA Entertainment); if you’re looking for a movie that somehow combines stranded lunar astronauts, a seemingly unmanned space shuttle, and the Bermuda Triangle, then I’ll see you on “The Dark Side of the Moon” (Unearthed Films); the creepy “Silent Hill” (Scream Factory) gets a sumptuous “Collector’s Edition” release, including new interviews and commentary.
A killer (Luke Macfarlane), an author (Tatum O’Neal) and a vengeful policeman (Michael Madsen make a sinister triangle in “Rock Paper Scissors” (Lionsgate), from “Child’s Play” director Tom Holland; a woman who thought she’d left her violent past behind her summons her deadly skills when her daughter is kidnapped in the Vietnamese thriller “Furie” (Well Go USA Entertainment); “The Chill Factor” (Arrow Video) offers that blend of snowmobiling and demonic possession you’ve been missing in your horror diet, and this new edition features a new commentary track and interviews as well as a 2K restoration.
Given the American studio system’s general reluctance to court controversy or engage in politics, it’s something of a miracle that Universal released Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” (The Criterion Collection) 30 years ago this summer. And Criterion’s beautiful new Blu-ray pays tribute to this influential American film in a very Criterion way, from the 4K restoration approved by cinematographer Ernest Dickerson (and the 2K restoration of St. Clair Bourne’s “Making ‘Do the Right Thing’” documentary) to the many interviews, essays, deleted and extended scenes, historical footage and other essential extras. (Yes, it’s also got Public Enemy’s Lee-directed “Fight the Power” video.) A film that has lost none of its energy or relevance in three decades gets the Blu-ray it deserves.
Also available: Contemporary culture has brought the term to the forefront, so the timing is perfect for the Blu-ray debut of “Gaslight” (Warner Archive Collection); French gangsters don’t come cooler than “Bob le Flambeur” (KL Studio Classics) in Jean-Pierre Melville’s caper classic, while Melville’s “Léon Morin, Priest” (KL Studio Classics) gave us a sexy cleric (played by Jean-Paul Belmondo) decades before “Fleabag” did; watch Jane Fonda’s unforgettable lead turn in “Klute” (The Criterion Collection) and then catch her in-depth discussion of why she almost didn’t take the role in the new Blu-ray extras; director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton bring their signature style to “The Leopard Man” (Scream Factory), one of the big screen’s first realistic(-ish) examinations of a serial killer.
The musicals of 20th Century Fox aren’t as highly regarded by film history as their MGM counterparts, but a trio of new releases from Twilight Time — “Hello, Frisco, Hello,” starring Alice Faye, and Betty Grable vehicles “Mother Wore Tights” and “Pin Up Girl” — make a case for the enduring legacy (and entertainment value) of these wartime diversions.
Jean-Luc Godard goes sci-fi in “Alphaville” (KL Studio Classics) while Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy (“The Marriage of Maria Braun,” “Veronika Voss,” “Lola”) (The Criterion Collection) sees the German auteur digging into his country’s complicated legacy from World War II; as you gear up for the just-announced Godzilla box from Criterion, a new steelbook Blu-ray of “Mothra” (Mill Creek Entertainment) pays tribute to the great winged legend of kaiju cinema; Billy Wilder co-wrote “Hold Back the Dawn” (Arrow Academy), a fascinating tale of love and survival starring Charles Boyer, Paulette Goddard and Olivia de Havilland.
Kino offers up some essential titles from mid-century Euro auteurs, including Claude Chabrol’s “The Champagne Murders” (KL Studio Classics), starring Anthony Perkins, and two from Luis Buñuel in his French period, “Death in the Garden” and “The Milky Way,” the latter co-written by Jean-Claude Carrière (both Kino Classics).
Mark Hamill’s first post-“Star Wars” vehicle (you’ll pardon the expression) was the sunny, silly “Corvette Summer” (Warner Archive Collection); Bette Gordon’s “Luminous Motion” (Kino Lorber) offers another great performance from the underrated Deborah Kara Unger; even if “Grace Quigley” (KL Studio Classics) never quite nails its tone, you kind of have to watch a movie where elderly Katharine Hepburn forms a bond with hitman Nick Nolte, whom she has hired to kill her; jiggle auteur Andy Sedaris’ “Savage Beach” and “Picasso Trigger” (both Mill Creek Entertainment) both make their Blu-ray debuts with bikinis and explosions a-plenty.
The eerie anthology “Dead of Night” (KL Studio Classics) offers up one of the screen’s most iconic creepy ventriloquist dummies; “Footlight Parade” (Warner Archive Collection) shines a spotlight on Warner Bros.’ best triple-threats, including James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell; Oliver Stone says “final cut” the way Cher says “farewell tour,” but for now “The Doors”: The Final Cut (Lionsgate), available on 4K, is his last word on the subject.
King Hu’s wuxia classic “The Fate of Lee Khan” (Film Movement Classics) comes to Blu-ray for the first time in the U.S. with a new 2K digital restoration; before becoming the first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, Kathryn Bigelow co-directed “The Loveless” (Arrow Video), starring Willem Dafoe as a motorcycle-gang leader caught in a star-crossed romance; fans of vintage British sci-fi won’t want to miss out on the extras-packed new Blu-ray releases of “Quatermass 2” and “Quatermass and the Pit” (both Scream Factory).
You know the soundtrack, but the movie “FM” (Arrow Video) is just as much a snapshot of ’70s rock culture, with comic turns by Martin Mull, Eileen Brennan and Cleavon Little as well as musical performances by Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffett; “Heroes Shed No Tears” (Film Movement Classics) in what director John Woo calls his “first real film,” now available in a new 2K digital restoration; if you loved the “Columbia Noir” collection on Criterion Channel, Noir Archive, Volume 2: 1954-1956 (Kit Parker Films) serves up nine more offerings from the studio, all making their HD debuts and featuring directors like Hugo Haas, Phil Karlson and William Castle, and actors including John Cassavetes, Beverly Garland and Faith Domergue.
The expansive Universal Horror Collection, Vol. 2 (Scream Factory) lets you binge on more of the studio’s horror classics, including “Murders in the Zoo,” “Mad Doctor of Market Street,” “The Strange Case of Dr. Rx” and “The Mad Ghoul”; probably more famous for its troubled shoot than for the resultant film, “Shortcut to Happiness” (MVD Marquee) — better known as “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” directed by Alec Baldwin (who does not appear credited as such) — is nonetheless part of cinema history; as problematic as most of John Hughes’ other films, “Weird Science” (Arrow Video) offers some great comedic performances, and it’s never looked better than in this new Blu-ray; the late Sondra Locke does some of her best work in her ex’s comedy “Bronco Billy” (Warner Archive Collection).
It might appear on the surface merely to be a high-concept cartoon, but don’t be fooled: “BoJack Horseman”: Seasons One & Two (Shout Factory/The Tornante Company) is some of this decade’s funniest and most insightful television, and in this age of too many good shows, that’s saying something. BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) fits into the “Difficult Men” category alongside Tony Soprano, Don Draper and Walter White — he’s the depressed star of a long-canceled sitcom constantly trying to find meaning in the world, and usually making things even worse for the people in his orbit. (He’s also a horse, but whatever.) If you’ve been napping on this one, check out this Collector’s Edition, which offers plenty of commentaries and extras that you’re not going to find on Netflix.
Also available: Keep one of TV’s greatest miniseries prominently placed in your collection with the new steelbook Blu-ray release of “Lonesome Dove” (Mill Creek Entertainment); if your local PBS station censored the gay-wedding episode, “Arthur Celebrates Community” (PBS) lets you watch it as many times as you want; pay tribute to one of this generation’s crackpot gems with the “Broad City”: The Complete Series (Comedy Central Home Entertainment) collection; there’s cozy mayhem afoot in “Murdoch Mysteries,” Season 12 (Acorn TV).
Before he becomes indelibly linked with Tom Hanks, pay another visit to the original “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”: Would You Be Mine Collection (PBS); Batman does a lot of beginning on the CW’s “Gotham”: The Complete Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); if you wondered what Gerry Anderson’s “Thunderbirds” show would look like with human actors, cult favorite “Space: 1999” — The Complete Series (Shout Factory) answers that burning question.
Lose your luggage and more with the acclaimed “Manifest”: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); BBC unleashes a gaggle of reasonably-priced Doctor Who DVDs, starting with “The Krotons,” “Planet of the Spiders,” “The Sun Makers,” “The Time Meddler” and “Three Doctors” — Special Edition; if you haven’t made the DC Universe streaming commitment yet, you can at least catch up with “Titans”: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment); there’s intrigue and glamour aplenty at “Vidago Palace” (Acorn TV), the Portugese retreat that’s a haven during Spain’s civil war in the 1930s; fan favorite “Forever Knight”: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment) follows a vampire-turned-cop seeking redemption in late 20th century Toronto.