Don’t feel bad if you missed one of 2018’s best films on the big screen: with its four-hour running time (two parts at two hours each) and city-by-city distribution schedule, “A Bread Factory” (Grasshopper Film) traveled under many viewers’ radars. Now that it’s finally on Blu-ray, however, you can carve out the time for this delicately brilliant comedy-drama about a small town in upstate New York and the community arts center operating out of the titular building. Writer-director Patrick Wang uses his real estate to tie together various plots and storylines among the town’s citizens and the visiting artists, and he gets the most out of an exceptional ensemble that includes Tyne Daly, Glynnis O’Connor and Janeane Garofalo. (The latter plays an exasperated film director in one of the funniest Q&A scenes I’ve ever seen.) Get this one for your collection, and don’t be put off by the length — you’ll want to savor it more than once.
Also available: The Shia LaBeouf-issance of 2019 includes his charming turn in the rambling road comedy “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (Lionsgate); if you like “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,” then check out “Ophelia” (IFC/Shout Factory), based on the YA novel that gives Hamlet’s beloved (played here by Daisy Ridley) an even break; believe the hype — “The Farewell” (Lionsgate) is one of the year’s best films; “After the Wedding” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), an acclaimed remake of Susanne Bier’s film, features a memorable clash between Michelle Williams and Julianne Moore.
Julian Fellowes wrote the screenplay for “The Chaperone” (PBS), about the titular minder (Elizabeth McGovern) of young star-to-be Louise Brooks (Haley Lu Richardson); “American Dreamer” (Lionsgate) stars the very busy Jim Gaffigan in a gritty crime thriller; three young aficionados of the French New Wave take their love of “Jules and Jim” too far in James Franco’s “Pretenders” (Cleopatra Entertainment); Saheer Zamata spends “The Weekend” (Lionsgate) with her ex and his new girlfriend, and sparks fly in this comedy from Stella Meghie (“Jean of the Joneses,” the upcoming “The Photograph”).
If you’re going to make a docudrama about a legendary surrealist, why not make it an animated film? Festival smash “Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles” (Shout Factory/GKIDS) follows the life of legendary Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel, reeling from the financial disaster of the scandalous “L’Age d’Or” and moving on to make the documentary “Las Hurdes,” about some of Spain’s poorest peasants. Director Salvador Simó has a clear affection for his subject, both the man himself and an artist’s pursuit of meaning, in a film of true visual splendor.
Also available: The writer of a popular soap opera finds himself enmeshed in the Israel-Palestine conflict in the provocative comedy “Tel Aviv on Fire” (Cohen Film Collection); in “Feliz Año Tijuana” (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), a Chicano Studies professor from Los Angeles has a Mexican New Year celebration he’ll never forget; Dominga Sotomayor won Best Director at Locarno for “Too Late to Die Young” (KimStim Films), about a group of teens trying to make sense of their lives in post-Pinochet Chile; Film Movement releases Phillip Lesage’s poignant coming-of-age tale “The Demons” and its sequel “Genèse.”
Keira Knightley knows “Official Secrets” (Paramount Home Entertainment) in this ripped-from the-headlines tale about the political conspiracy behind the 2003 invasion of Iraq; in “The Other Story” (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), two women grapple with personal, political and spiritual issues in contemporary Israel; if you’ve never seen a comedy from mainland China, check out “Absurd Accident” (Cheng Cheng Films), which takes aim at toxic masculinity and materialism through a noir lens; the colorful African animated feature “Aya of Yop City” (Kino Lorber/GKIDS) reflects the vibrancy of 1970s Ivory Coast; “Mom + Mom” (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment) follows a lesbian couple through the comic and poignant pursuit of motherhood.
“The Corporate Coup d’État” (First Run Features) is the kind of horror movie I watch through splayed fingers, an examination of where we are and how we got here. The film follows the decades-long path of how corporations and billionaires took over the political process and crushed the American workforce, and while it’s not a tale for the faint of heart, it’s essential viewing for voters and anyone else who cares about how we dig ourselves out of this hole.
Also available: The Ganga-Longoba people of Cuba have a long-awaited reunion with their relatives in Sierra Leone in the one-of-a-kind “They Are We” (Icarus Films); one of this year’s most talked-about docs, “For Sama” (PBS) gives viewers a painfully intimate look at five years of the conflict in Syria; visit Park Slope’s “Food Coop” (Bullfrog Films), one of many such collective grocery stores that are gaining in popularity around the country; “Scared of Revolution” (Film Movement) profiles poet Umar Bin Hassan, who became a key influence on subsequent generations of hip-hop artists.
“Mike Wallace Is Here” (Magnolia Home Entertainment) in a fascinating documentary about the legendary TV journalist; “Humble Pie: Life & Times of Steve Marriott” (Cleopatra Entertainment) features reminiscences from Peter Frampton, Chris Robinson and other musicians and historians about the legendary rocker, and the doc comes packaged with an audio CD of Humble Pie in concert in 1973; water itself is the star of “Aquarela” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), filmed at 96 frames per second and capturing the power of this liquid element from waterfalls to hurricanes.
So here’s a movie that never really got a fighting chance: 2011’s “The Thing” (Mill Creek Entertainment), a prequel to the John Carpenter cult hit (which was, itself, a remake). So vaguely marketed that people weren’t sure if it was a remake or what — and this contemporary habit of giving multiple movies the exact same title (e.g. “Shaft,” “Shaft” and “Shaft”) didn’t help — audiences mostly stayed away, assuming that the Carpenter movie is unassailable. And while it absolutely is, that doesn’t mean that this prequel doesn’t offer its own share of frozen chills and entertainingly hard-bitten performances (particularly from Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Try watching this one on its own terms, and you might be pleasantly surprised.
Also available: Don’t let the subtitles fool you — “The Wave” & “The Quake” (Magnolia Home Entertainment) are thrilling natural-disaster thrillers that Irwin Allen would have loved; if Tarantino’s latest has clued you in to the greatness of Sharon Tate, check her out in the horror-comedy classic “The Fearless Vampire Killers” (Warner Archive Collection); “Dry Blood” (Epic Pictures) asks, What if you’re suffering from drug withdrawal AND there are ghosts and a plot to kill you?; genre title “Tattoo of Revenge” (Breaking Glass) comes from an unlikely source: Mexican auteur Julián Hernández, best known for dreamy arthouse films like “A Thousand Clouds of Peace.”
Before the recent big-screen remake came the genuinely creepy made-for-TV movie “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” (Warner Archive Collection); legendary stinker “Eegah!” (The Film Detective) never looked better — it got a 4K restoration — and this new edition features interviews with Joel Hodgson and the film’s star, Arch Hall, Jr.; and speaking of 4K, if you’ve got the souped-up home entertainment system, you can enjoy the sharp new releases of “Universal Soldier” (Lionsgate) and Dario Argento’s original, superior “Suspiria” (Synapse Films).
Logan Miller (“Escape Room,” “Take Me to the River”) stars in Blumhouse’s “Prey” (Cinedigm); a lady disappears from the back seat of a cab in “The Fare” (DREAD), and that’s just the beginning of a chilling, wild ride; “Hitchhike to Hell” (Arrow Video) follows a creepy killer with an eye for nubile young women looking for rides.
“47 Meters Down: Uncaged” (Lionsgate) assembles new sharks and new chums in a film that will test your claustrophobia; Peter Cushing’s antique store is the focal point for four tales of terror in the 1974 all-star anthology “From Beyond the Grave” (Warner Archive Collection); Gary Oldman and Emily Mortimer set sail on “Mary” (RLJE Films) which is, unfortunately for them, a quite haunted ship.
Indie film legend Bob Shaye directs “Ambition” (Scream Factory), about a musician losing her grip as her rivals begin to get killed off; noir meets sci-fi in cult favorite “Yesterday Was a Lie” (IndiePix Films), celebrating its 10th anniversary; Sammo Hung directs Jackie Chan in the martial arts extravaganza “Mr. Nice Guy” (Warner Archive Collection), featured here in the “Extended Cut.”
The Criterion Collection offers up two of Bette Davis’ finest screen performances: in 1942’s “Now, Voyager” — one of the greatest melodramas Hollywood ever made — she blossoms from neurotic shut-in to glamorous woman of the world, falling in love along the way with Paul Henreid. (This is the movie where he famously lights two cigarettes and hands her one — sexy stuff, no matter what you feel about smoking.) And of course, her portrayal of aging Broadway legend Margo Channing in “All About Eve” is the stuff legends are made of. (And if you’re worried about how Disney is going to be handling the Fox library, all the more reason to have a physical copy of this classic in your permanent library.)
Also available: Hard to find for many years, Mark Rappaport’s provocative, essential documentaries “From the Journals of Jean Seberg” and “Rock Hudson’s Home Movies” (both Gartenberg Media) are now available on region-free DVDs, and the former is must viewing now that the biopic “Seberg” is hitting theaters; Roger Vadim takes a crack at “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” (Kino Classics), featuring a delicious early performance from Jeanne Moreau; he gets better with age, but Frank Langella was already pretty great when he was young, playing a very sexy, very dangerous “Dracula” (Scream Factory).
“Buffet Froid” (Kino Classics) is one of the lesser known dark-comedy collaborations between Gérard Depardieu and director Bertrand Blier, but it’s caustically entertaining nonetheless; Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick take an alcoholic spiral in Blake Edwards’ unforgettable “Days of Wine and Roses” (Warner Archive Collection); Anthony Mann’s cult Western “The Far Country” (Arrow Video) gets a two-disc edition, including a version of the Jimmy Stewart film framed in the rarely-used 2.00 aspect ratio; one of Jamie Lee Curtis’ essential post-“scream queen” roles came in the Australian thriller “Road Games” (Scream Factory), directed by Richard Franklin and co-starring Stacy Keach.
Walter Matthau and director Don Siegel pack a lethal punch in the heist flick “Charley Varrick” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); it’s time for a 40-year reunion with The Ramones and the kids at “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School” (Shout Factory), with a steelbook edition that features a new 4K scan of the cult epic; one of the very few films to present a same-sex relationship in any kind of light, let alone a positive one, in 1951, the French import “Olivia” (Icarus Films) occupies a singular space in LGBTQ cinema history.
Late-stage capitalism makes John Sayles’ gorgeous organized-labor epic “Matewan” (The Criterion Collection) more relevant than ever; Paul Verhoeven’s brilliant satire “RoboCop” (Arrow Video) has lost none of its satirical zing in the ensuing decades; Ida Lupino is a “Woman in Hiding” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) in this thriller about an heiress who finds herself in deadly danger.
One of the greatest animated films ever made, Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” (Studio Ghibli/GKIDS/Shout Factory) is now available in a handsomely mounted Collector’s Edition that includes the Blu-ray, a soundtrack CD and a 40-page book of art and essays; the double-feature disc “Little Women”/”Marie Antoinette” (Mill Creek Entertainment) features two terrific period pieces about and directed by women; the Collector’s Edition of “Snow Falling on Cedars” (Shout Select) features a new 4K transfer and new interviews with director Scott Hicks and cinematographer Robert Richardson; “Winter Kills” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), William Richert’s brilliant and satirical examination of corruption and assassination, makes its Blu-ray debut and will, with any luck, find a new generation of admirers.
Big TV box sets make great gifts for fans: They look great under the tree, and once unwrapped, provide hours and hours of enjoyment. Some of the ones to look for this holiday season include “Batman Beyond”: The Complete Series Limited Edition (Warner Bros./DC) – which comes with a limited-edition Funko Pop figure — “The Big Bang Theory”: The Complete Series (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) – featuring pop-up graphics and tons of extras to accompany every “Bazinga!” — and “Farscape”: The Complete Series (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), a 20th anniversary Blu-ray set that comes with more than 15 hours of archival special features.
Also available: Less extras-heavy but still all-encompassing are “Charlie’s Angels”: The Complete Series — really, if you didn’t see the recent movie, you missed a good time — and “The King of Queens”: The Complete Series (both Mill Creek Entertainment); recently found in a garage in New Jersey, the journalism-anthology drama “Deadline” (Film Chest Media Group), which aired 1959-1961, makes its home video debut; executive George Clooney digs into Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” (Paramount Home Entertainment), and the DVD release features lots of bonus material, including deleted scenes and outtakes.
More internal-affairs drama for the UK cops of “Line of Duty”: Series 5 (Acorn TV); “The Handmaid’s Tale”: Season 3 (MGM/20th Century Fox) sees June fighting the power, even when the power fights back; fans won’t want to miss the four hours of exclusive special features on “Star Trek: Discovery” – Season Two (CBS/Paramount); “Steven Universe: The Movie” (Cartoon Network) gives the beloved character and his friends a feature-film-sized canvas for their ongoing saga.
Golden Globe-winner “The Kominsky Method”: The Complete First Season (Warner Archive Collection) provides meaty, funny roles for Alan Arkin and Michael Douglas; cozy mysteries go mod as “Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries” (Acorn TV) spins the franchise into the swinging ’60s; there’s mice and a ball, yes, but “Cinderella and the Secret Prince” (Shout Kids) tells a story you’ve never heard before; Kevin Costner’s back on the ranch in “Yellowstone”: Season Two (Paramount Home Entertainment)
Jonah Ray and the mad scientists return for “Mystery Science Theater 3000”: Season 12: The Gauntlet (Shout Factory), featuring six more cinematic stink-bombs, including the infamous “Mac and Me”; Daniel-san (Ralph Macchio) returns to SoCal in YouTube’s acclaimed “Karate Kid” sequel series “Cobra Kai”: Seasons 1 & 2 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); British procedural “London Kills,” Series 2 (Acorn) follows homicide detectives through the legendary city.
Mill Creek Entertainment’s reissue of the beloved Japanese adventure series continues with “Ultraman Orb” (The Series/The Movie) and “Ultraman Geed” (The Series/The Movie); Neil Gaiman’s apocalyptic comedy “Good Omens” (BBC Studios) makes its physical-media debut with extras and commentaries you didn’t get on Amazon Prime; an Irish detective investigates the murder of a refugee and discovers the trafficking underworld in “Taken Down” (Acorn TV).