A major buzz-generator at the 2019 Sundance, the snake-handling drama “Them That Follow” (Lionsgate) marks the directorial debut of Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage but nonetheless features an impressively A-list cast including Olivia Colman (who would win an Oscar for “The Favourite” just a month or so after that Sundance debut), Kaitlyn Dever (“Booksmart”), Jim Gaffigan, Walton Goggins and Thomas Mann. It’s an intense tale that offers a rare glimpse into the world of hard-core Pentecostals in Appalachia.
Also available: A death in the family tears its members apart and draws them back together in “The Grief of Others” (Grasshopper Films), from director Patrick Wang (“A Bread Factory”); Jason Mewes plays “himself” in his directorial debut, the meta-comedy “Madness in the Method” (Cinedigm); “Strange But True” (Lionsgate) features rising stars Margaret Qualley (“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”) and Nick Robinson (“Love, Simon”) in a tale of familial secrets and lies; filmmaker Shane Carruth (“Upstream Color”) plays a troubled psychiatrist in acclaimed indie horror film “The Dead Center” (Arrow).
Lila Avilés’ “The Chambermaid” (Kino Lorber), Mexico’s 2019 Oscar submission, follows titular heroine Eve (Gabriela Cartol) through another monotonous day as an invisible laborer at a luxury hotel. It achieves a sumptuous minimalism in its beautiful but sterile environments, and the film makes poignant and relevant observations about the working class and wealth inequality. Whether or not it winds up as a nominee, Avilés’ debut feature is a film well worth experiencing.
Also available: Chen Kaige tackles lush fantasy in “Legend of the Demon Cat” (Well Go USA Entertainment); “Ulysses & Mona” (Film Movement) sends a young artist and her mentor off on a life-changing road trip; based on a true story, “The Silent Revolution” (Icarus Films Home Video) recalls students in 1956 East Berlin standing up for their rights; the real-life assassination of a pair of Indian folk singers in the village of “Mehsampur” (IndiePix Films) inspired this mockumentary, where fact and fiction blur together.
Guillaume Canet searches for his missing child, fueled by guilt over being a neglectful father, in the French thriller “My Son” (Cohen Media Group); in “Jirga” (Lightyear Entertainment), a soldier returns to Afghanistan seeking redemption; “An Israeli Love Story” (Film Movement) unfolds between an actress and the son of the nation’s president in this poignant true story.
French union workers and management are “At War” (Cinema Libre) in this timely drama; a man travels through Europe with an old friend to see his childhood home for the last time, only to discover how much their lives have changed over the years, in the Italian drama “Drive Me Home” (Breaking Glass Pictures); the biblical tale of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar is transposed to the contemporary world of classical music in “Harmonia” (Film Movement).
Cheng Wei-hao directs the stylish and sexy Taiwanese neo-noir thriller “Who Killed Cock Robin” (Cheng Cheng Films); “Genius Party & Genius Party Beyond” (Shout/GKIDS) features an eclectic collection of shorts from some of the biggest names in contemporary anime; Dev Patel perpetrates a kidnapping that marks only the beginning of his troubles in Michael Winterbottom’s “The Wedding Guest” (Sundance Selects/MPI).
One of the year’s most inspirational and talked-about documentaries, “Maiden” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) tells the story of sailor Tracy Edwards who — when no team would take her on to participate in the dangerous Whitbread Round the World sailing race — started her own all-female crew, and the results made history. An exhilarating mix of archival footage and new interviews, this is a celebratory examination of underdogs fighting the system and winning.
Also available: Three of this year’s most popular docs have focused on musical icons of the 1960s, notably “David Crosby: Remember My Name” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love” (Lionsgate), examining the romance between Leonard Cohen and his muse Marianne Ihlen; and “The Quiet One” (Sundance Selects/MPI), which shines a rare spotlight on reclusive Rolling Stone Bill Wyman.
Before Johnny Weir, there was ground-breaking gay figure skater John Curry, the subject of the fascinating “The Ice King” (Film Movement); 1975’s “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” (VCI Entertainment) uses archival footage and clips from 1930s Hollywood to tell the story of the Great Depression; meet the relatives of one of rock’s most infamous provocateurs in “GG Allin: All in the Family” (MVD Visual); five underprivileged Zulu women go on a life-changing journey in “Sisters of the Wilderness” (IndiePix Films).
Early cinema offers a look at life before the 1947 independence in “Around India with a Movie Camera” (Icarus Films Home Video); filmmaker Gerald McCullouch returns to the male-stripper well with “All Male, All Nude: Johnsons” (Breaking Glass Pictures), a sequel set in Wilton Manners, Florida; Danish-American rockers Nekromantix celebrate 30 years with a once-in-a-lifetime concert in “Nekromantix: Three Decades of Darkle” (Cleopatra Entertainment).
Absurdly underpromoted for its release over the summer, “Crawl” (Paramount Home Entertainment) gained of a cult following in theaters that will, with any luck, propel it to a much wider audience on home video. Director Alexandre Aja, who made “Piranha 3D” both funnier and scarier that one would imagine, ratchets up the tension in this tale of a young woman (Kaya Scodelario) and her father (Barry Pepper) trapped in the rising flood waters of their basement by killer alligators that have washed into their neighborhood. Lots of big new horror releases this month for Halloween, but this one belongs at the top of your spooky-viewing list.
Also available: John Hawkes makes an early screen appearance in 1991’s creepy “Scary Movie” (AGFA); Rob Zombie returns to the director’s chair with “3 From Hell” (Lionsgate), a continuation of his bloody crime saga; “The Omen” Collection: Deluxe Edition (Scream Factory) features every iteration of dastardly Damien Thorn, from the original to its three sequels to the 2006 remake, along with tons of new extras.
The exceedingly bizarre 1972 exploitation flick “Toys Are Not for Children” (Arrow Video) gets a new 2K restoration; a martial-arts master is a murder witness’ only hope for survival in “My Samurai” (MVD Rewind), which features Terry O’Quinn and Mako; it’s a veritable trilogy of terror with the Blu-ray releases “Malevolence” and “Malevolence 2: Bereavement” (Director’s Cut) and “Malevolence 3: Killer” (all from Mena Films); Christopher Lee faces off against a satanic cult in the Hammer classic “The Devil Rides Out” (Scream Factory).
Wuxia epic “Kung Fu Monster” (Well Go USA Entertainment) mixes high-flying martial arts and nasty beasts; “Gwen” (Shudder/RLJE) battles forces both natural and supernatural to save her family’s farm; a ghost refuses to move on in the Chinese chiller “The Lingering” (Well Go USA Entertainment); “Killer Nun” (Arrow Video) boasts not only a great B-movie title but also a standout cast (including Alida Valli, Joe Dallesandro and, in the title role, Anita Ekberg); put your arachnophobia to the test with the creepy-crawly “Itsy Bitsy” (Scream Factory); one of the year’s best-reviewed horror indies, “Satanic Panic” (RLJE Films) features Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn in this comic tale of a pizza delivery person trying not to be sacrificed on her first night on the job.
Fans of this contemporary Japanese horror franchise won’t want to miss “Ringu” Collection (Arrow Video), which also features “Ringu 2,” prequel “Ringu 0” and “lost” sequel “Spiral,” all in hi-def; a mobster and a detective team up to take down a sadistic killer in “The Gangster, the Cop and the Devil” (Well Go USA Entertainment); “The Blob”: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory) serves up the 1988 horror remake with lots of new interviews and commentaries.
Tracking this legendary series from its serious, metaphor-laden origins to its somewhat goofier (but no less metaphorical follow-ups), Godzilla: The Shōwa Era Films, 1954-1975 (The Criterion Collection) is sheer delight, capturing its corner of cinema with love and detail. From its eye-popping design to the thoughtful essays from noted film historian Steve Ryfle, this is a Blu-ray box set you’ll want to display as much as you’ll enjoy digging into such treasures as “Destroy All Monsters!” and “Godzilla vs. Megalon.” Criterion does its usual brilliant job of offering great films looking their best and packaged with fascinating and essential material, but this set is so gorgeous as an object that it’s a reminder of the tactile delights of physical media. If you invest in one lavish Blu-ray collection this year, make it this one.
Also available: Millennial/Gen Z fave “The Swan Princess” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) makes its Blu-ray debut to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary; Bette Davis gives one of her most wonderfully complex performances in the passionate thriller “The Letter” (Warner Archive Collection); thanks to the new animated version, we get new Blu-ray releases of both “The Addams Family” and “Addams Family Values” (Paramount Home Entertainment), available separate or in a two-pack.
And speaking of reissues tied to new release, “Zombieland” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) marks its 10th anniversary with its own 4K debut; the Blu-ray of Robert Wise’s gritty noir “The Set-Up” (Warner Archive Collection), about an over-the-hill boxer played by Robert Ryan, features a commentary with Wise and Martin Scorsese; horror comedy classic “An American Werewolf in London” (Arrow Video) gets a lavish new Blu-ray release.
Back when Vin Diesel directed Sundance movies and wanted to be taken seriously as an actor, he starred in Sidney Lumet’s courtroom comedy “Find Me Guilty” (MVD Marquee); Glenda Jackson (who won her second Oscar) and George Segal swap world-class banter in the sophisticated sex comedy “A Touch of Class” (Warner Archive Collection); “Hellboy” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) turns 15 — they grow up so fast — and marks the occasion with a new 4K release that includes theatrical and Director’s Cut versions.
Isabelle Adjani, Alan Bates and Maggie Smith star in “Quartet” (Cohen Film Collection), a Merchant/Ivory/Prawer Jhabvala collaboration not based on an E.M. Forster novel (it’s Jean Rhys); Peter O’Toole swoops to conquer as a boozy movie star of yore faced with the live television camera in the hilarious “My Favorite Year” (Warner Archive Collection); with “The Irishman” around the corner, it’s a great time to dig into those corners of Martin Scorsese’s filmography you might have missed — like, say, “Kundun” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); while never quite as trashy as its literary roots, “Flowers in the Attic” (Arrow Video) still achieves real steaminess while its cast utterly commits to the film’s florid campiness.
The uproarious satire “Galaxy Quest” (Paramount Home Entertainment) still gets sci-fi excesses and geek culture just right, 20 years later; check out one of Sofia Coppola’s first screenwriting credits in one of the “New York Stories” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), an anthology featuring the work of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Woody Allen; Lionel Atwill plays an English aristocrat who goes hunting for a substance that will help him launch World War III in “Lost City of the Jungle” (VCI Entertainment).
James Cagney puts himself into Lon Chaney’s shoes — and prostheses — in the biopic “Man of a Thousand Faces” (Arrow Academy); with a new crew hitting theaters soon, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz get a 4K makeover for “Charlie’s Angels” and new Blu-ray of “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (both Sony Pictures Home Entertainment); the Gérard Depardieu epic “The Return of Martin Guerre” (Cohen Film Collection) gets a 4K restoration of Daniel Vigne’s director’s cut.
Whether or not they were intentionally timed to go with Criterion’s “Godzilla” box, Mill Creek Entertainment has shrewdly begun its own mammoth reissue of fun vintage Japanese pop culture with “Ultra Q” and “Ultraman,” both available in new collector’s steelbook releases. These sets are the first in what the company promises will be an exhaustive survey of the Ultraman catalog, with 50 years’ worth of TV series and feature films.
Also available: “Star Trek”: Picard Movie & TV Collection (CBS/Paramount) lets you brush up on your Jean-Luc in anticipation of Patrick Stewart’s new CBS All Access show; relive unforgettable moments like the reveal of Snuffleupagus and the death of Mr. Hooper — to say nothing of that “Ladybug’s Picnic” cartoon — in “Sesame Street”: 50 Years and Counting! (Shout Kids/Sesame Workshop); one of network TV’s only examination of the lives of women in war zones, “China Beach”: The Complete Series (Time Life) is available exclusively at Walmart; a one-of-a-kind leading man and trailblazer for Latino actors is celebrated in American Masters’ “Raúl Juliá: All the World’s a Stage” (PBS).
Everyone’s favorite no-longer-a-teen detective returns in “Veronica Mars” (2019): The Complete First Season (Warner Archive Collection); for Lucille Ball completists, “Life with Lucy”: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount) archives her final sitcom; welcome to the terrordome in “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment).
Legendary 1970s TV movie “Nightmare in Badham County” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics) gets a well-deserved Blu-ray release; the darkly chilling “Tell Me a Story”: Season One (CBS/Paramount) ain’t your parents’ bedtime stories; the “Robin Williams: Comic Genius” (Time Life) set is available in iterations ranging from five discs to a massive 22-disc collection featuring HBO specials, talk-show appearances and other comedic explosions; one of anime’s coolest titles returns with “FLCL: Progressive” (Cartoon Network), the sequel to the 2001 original.
“Princess Emmy” (Shout Kids) can talk to the animals, but she’ll have to earn the right to keep that ability in this charming kids’ cartoon; “Mystery Science Theater 3000”: Volume 12 (Shout Factory) reissues the out-of-print compilation featuring the “Secret Agent Super Dragon,” “The Rebel Set,” “The Starfighters,” and “Parts: The Clonus Horror” episodes; a new trio of witches casts a new set of spells in “Charmed”: Season One (CBS/Paramount).
“Bakugan: Origin of Species” (Cartoon Network) features 13 episode of the animated hit series; you might have watched “The Haunting of Hill House” (Paramount Home Entertainment), but this collection features extended episodes and director commentaries you won’t find anywhere else; the weird and wild DC Universe hit “Doom Patrol”: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) makes its Blu-ray debut with deleted scenes and a gag reel.
And from those wonderful purveyors of genre TV at Acorn, there’s the hit Swedish crime drama “The Truth Will Out,” the lush, sexy fantasy of “A Discovery of Witches,” and female crime-fighters in “Queens of Mystery.”