Now that it’s out on Blu-ray, can we please reopen the discussion of how great “Booksmart” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is, since that original conversation was quickly usurped by the “why didn’t this have a better opening weekend” narrative? Whether or not audiences immediately flocked to Olivia Wilde’s impressive and hilarious directorial debut, this comedy starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever discovering at the last minute that they could have partied and studied in high school — and giving themselves one last night to squeeze in four years’ worth of debauchery — is humane and outrageous, empathetic and bordering-on-surreal (particularly when Billie Lourd’s otherworldly party girl is on screen). There’s still time to catch up on this one before making your Best of 2019 list; it’s got a firm lock on mine.
Also available: Lindy Booth plays a young author dealing with the downside of instant success in the comedy “The Creatress” (Gravitas Ventures), also starring Fran Drescher and Peter Bogdanovich; sweeping 1930s period piece “The Iron Orchard” (Santa Rita Film Co.) recalls the early years of oil-digging in Texas.
Mix one part Pierre et Gilles with one part Lisa Frank — to mention a queer sensibility at this point would be redundant — and you’ve got the candy-colored “Diamantino” (Kino Lorber), an outrageous comedy about a world-class soccer star (played by Carloto Cotta) contending with evil sisters, giant puppies and the global refugee crisis. You kind of have to see it to believe it, but you absolutely should see it — even if directors Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt can’t always maintain the tone or the plot, they’re absolutely going for broke in every frame of this funky feature.
Also available: Two Canadian ne’er-do-wells share a boozy night to remember in “We’re Still Together” (Strand Releasing Home Video); Willem Dafoe plays haunted director Pier Paolo “Pasolini” (Kino Lorber) on the last day of the filmmaker’s life in this ambitious biopic from Abel Ferrara; Chinese import “Crosscurrent” (Cheng Cheng Films) features cinematography by the legendary Mark Lee Ping-Bing (“In the Mood for Love,” “The Assassin,” “Norwegian Wood”).
The Blu-ray of acclaimed anime feature “The Case of Hana & Alice” (Shout Factory/GKIDS) includes a special message from acclaimed filmmaker Makoto Shinkai (“Your Name.”); in Mexico’s “Hypnosis to Be Happy” (IndiePix Films), a troubled couple finds guidance from a vintage 1970s self-help audiocassette; “Yomeddine” (Strand Releasing Home Video), Egypt’s Oscar entry for 2018, follows a cured leper as he makes his way across the country in search of family.
Co-workers at a German big-box store find romance “In the Aisles” (Music Box Films Home Entertainment); legendary Vietnamese filmmaker Trân Anh Hùng served as artistic advisor on “The Third Wife” (Film Movement), the debut film from female writer-director Ash Mayfair; two young adults in Shanghai seek “Intimacy” (IndiePix Films) in this romantic drama from China.
If you loved Ken Burns’ “Country Music” (PBS) on public television, you won’t want to miss the home-video release, which features a whopping three hours of additional material on top of the broadcast version. And if you’re a fan of music documentaries, then September offers a bumper crop, including the acclaimed “Echo in the Canyon” (Greenwich Entertainment), about L.A.’s legendary Laurel Canyon music scene of the 1960s; Ron Howard’s “Pavarotti” (Lionsgate), which takes an intimate look at the on- and off-stage life of the legendary opera star; jazz history “Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes” (Eagle Vision); the comedic “Mock & Roll” (Soundview); “Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am?” (Virgil Films), a portrait of the E Street Band’s iconic sax player; vintage 1980s performance “Santana: Live at US Festival” (Shout Factory); and from Time Life, two collections capturing once-in-a-lifetime live performances, “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: In Concert” and “CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments 1968-2015.”
Also available: Susan Sarandon narrates “Ghosts of Attica” (Icarus Films), a chilling look at the legendary prison riot; follow Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein as they travel to battle the fossil fuel industry in “Divest! The Climate Movement on Tour” (Bullfrog Films); “Hesburgh” (Music Box Films Home Entertainment) follows Notre Dame president Theodore Martin Hesburgh through a rough period of U.S. political history.
Four millennials attempt to keep the game of Contract Bridge alive in “The Kids Table” (Beyond the Porch); “Cassandro the Exotico!” (Film Movement) has been called the “Liberace of lucha libre,” and this new doc by Marie Losier (“The Ballad of Genesis and Lady J”) examines a performer who manages to stand out in a sport already known for its high drama and flamboyance.
You’ve seen Willam Belli on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and in “A Star Is Born,” and now he’s ready for his final-girl spotlight in the zombie comedy “Dead Don’t Die in Dallas” (ITN/Mill Creek). In this horror comedy, gays and Evangelicals in small-town Texas must unite to fight a zombie outbreak, so in a way, this is a vision of the world as we’d like to see it. Except for the zombies.
Also available: Wes Craven’s 1984 sequel “The Hills Have Eyes 2” (Arrow Video) gets a new 2K restoration and making-of documentary; 1970 Hammer fave “Scars of Dracula” (Scream Factory) features star Christopher Lee and director Roy Ward Baker doing what they do best; Nicolas Cage’s ex-con doesn’t have long to live, but he’s also got “A Score to Settle” (RLJE Films) with his former gang; “The Woman” star Pollyanna McIntosh directs (and co-stars in) “Darlin’” (Dark Sky Films), a sequel to the controversial horror hit that promises to kick up as much discussion as its predecessor.
Narrative meets documentary meets Sasquatch in “MOMO: The Missouri Monster” (Small Town Monsters); Jay Chou (“The Green Hornet”) stars in “Kung Fu League” (Well Go USA Entertainment), which combines martial arts with, of all things, the rom-com; George Lazenby tracks a killer through Venice in Aldo Lado’s giallo “Who Saw Her Die?” (Arrow Video); the Collector’s Edition of “John Carpenter’s Vampires” (Scream Factory) features new interviews with the director, along with cast members James Woods, Thomas Ian Griffith, and Tim Guinee, as well as effects legend Greg Nicotero.
Aaron Harvey’s thriller “Into the Ashes” (RLJE Films) features a solid quartet of contemporary character actors: Luke Grimes, Robert Taylor, Frank Grillo and James Badge Dale; vampires meet A-listers (Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill) in “Daybreakers” (Lionsgate), making its 4K debut; cult classic “Fear No Evil” (Scream Factory) makes it to Blu-ray with a new 4K scan and new interviews and commentary; given his signature reliance on scantily-clad ladies and big, booming violence, it was perhaps inevitable that exploitation-meister Andy Sidaris would eventually make a movie entitled, simply, “Guns” (Mill Creek Entertainment).
The indie film world lost a promising young filmmaker to cancer, but the new collection The Films of Sarah Jacobson (AGFA) offers a look a talented and singular artist cut down in her prime. Before her death at the age of 32 in 2004, Jacobson showed herself capable of bridging the worlds of punk and cinema, not only in the pared-down DIY aesthetic of her work but also in her tireless and creative work ethic as a self-promoter. (She was just as likely to be screening her brilliant coming-of-age feature “Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore” in a grungy underground music club as at a film festival.) This essential set features “Mary Jane” and her 27-minute short “I Was a Teenage Serial Killer” (both in 2K preservations from the original 16mm elements) as well as Jacobson’s other shorts and music videos, plus new essays by Alicia Coombs and Annie Choi.
Also available: Speaking of groundbreaking directors, one of the few women to direct movies during the studio era gets the spotlight in Ida Lupino: Filmmaker Collection (Kino Lorber Studio Classics), a box set featuring four of the actress-filmmaker’s hard-bitten noir films, all directed between 1949 and 1953: “Not Wanted,” “Never Fear,” “The Hitch-Hiker,” and “The Bigamist,” the latter making her the first woman in Hollywood to direct herself in a major feature; Warner Archive Collection offers two Westerns made by legendary directors in the latter period of their careers, Fritz Lang’s “Moonfleet” and John Ford’s “Wagon Master”; and in his penultimate film “Cluny Brown” (The Criterion Collection), starring Jennifer Jones and Charles Boyer, the great Ernst Lubitsch proved he still had his famous “touch” when it came to romantic comedy.
Kino Lorber’s lineup for this month features some eclectic match-ups, including the pre-“The Lobster” films of Yorgos Lanthimos, “Alps” and “Dogtooth”; two affably charming Western comedies starring James Garner, “Support Your Local Sheriff” and its sequel “Support Your Local Gunfighter” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics); and three immortal comedies from Ealing Studios (and leading man Alec Guiness), “The Man in the White Suit,” “Kind Hearts and Coronets” and “The Lavender Hill Mob” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics).
It’s Blu-ray hi-def and Odorama scratch-and-sniff as Divine finds love with Tab Hunter — or does she? — in John Waters’ brilliantly bizarre “Polyester” (The Criterion Collection); Nicolas Roeg isn’t the kind of director you imagine making a family film, which made him the perfect person to bring Roald Dahl’s spooky and funny “The Witches” (Warner Archive Collection) to the big screen; two masterpieces from the late Derek Jarman – the soundscape “Blue” and the autobiographical “The Garden” – get stunning new Blu-ray collections (Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist); the script for the who’s-zooming-who comedy “Duplicity” (Mill Creek Entertainment) doesn’t always deliver, but Julia Roberts and Clive Owen have great movie-star chemistry, and James Newton Howard’s delicious score is undercelebrated.
Billy Wilder’s directorial debut “The Major and the Minor” (Arrow Academy) has him tweaking sexual mores out of the gate, with Ray Milland as an Army officer who can’t understand his attraction to Ginger Rogers, who’s pretending to be underage to get a cheaper train ticket; the hit 1970 French comedy “The Mad Adventures of ‘Rabbi’ Jacob” (Film Movement Classics) makes its Blu-ray debut; veteran second banana Dick Miller gets a rare starring role in the hilarious horror-comedy “A Bucket of Blood” (Olive Films), a fun satire of beatniks and modern art; a slew of not-yet-stars like Michael Shannon, Tracy Letts, John C. Reilly and Julianne Moore pop up in 1997’s “Chicago Cab” (Liberation Hall).
Bette Davis’ consolation prize for not getting cast in “Gone with the Wind” was “Jezebel” (Warner Archive Collection), in which she won an Oscar for playing a different kind of independent-minded daughter of the South; Bill Forsyth’s “Local Hero” (The Criterion Collection) still holds up as a delightfully charming comedy — and keep an eye out for a very young Peter Capaldi; a real-life indigenous uprising in Australia gets a sterling tribute in Fred Schepisi’s brilliant and uncompromising “The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith” (Kino Classics); “In the Aftermath” (Arrow Video) mixes anime (specifically, 1985’s “Angel’s Egg” from “Ghost in the Shell” director Mamoru Oshii) with live-action to create a one-of-a-kind melding of past and future, fantasy and reality.
It’s hard to express now what a game-changer the mini-series “Holocaust” (CBS/Paramount) was forty years ago, but when it aired in 1978, it was one of the first mainstream portrayals of the genocide perpetrated during World War II. The Final Solution has since been the subject of countless narrative and documentary films — and even pops up as a subplot in genre material like “The Strain” or the “X-Men” movies — but this was ground-breaking stuff in its original broadcast, when it received eight Emmys. (It was also the first big splash on the national stage for a young actress named Meryl Streep.) If you’ve never seen it before, this Blu-ray debut provides the perfect opportunity.
Also available: Caleb Carr’s “The Alienist” (TNT/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) gets the prestige treatment on TNT, with a cast that includes Dakota Fanning, Daniel Brühl and Luke Evans; with a new version being worked up for CBS All Access, what better time to revisit TV’s first stab at “Stephen King’s The Stand” (CBS/Paramount); two beloved and long-running hits are calling it quits after this season, so get caught up their penultimate efforts, namely “Modern Family”: The Complete Tenth Season (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) and “Supernatural”: The Complete Fourteenth Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment).
Now that Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu’s Holmes and Watson have hung up their magnifying glasses, look back on their sleuthing adventures with “Elementary”: The Final Season or go all-out with the expansive “Elementary”: The Complete Series box set (both CBS/Paramount); one of the leading men on everyone’s favorite cozy mysteries picked his favorite episodes for “Midsomer Murders”: John Barnaby’s Top Ten (Acorn TV); if you’re a fan of The CW’s fun take on the DC Universe, you’ll need to pick up “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”: The Complete Fourth Season and “Supergirl”: The Complete Fourth Season (both Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) collections.
Christine Baranski and company are still fighting “The Good Fight”: Season Three (CBS/Paramount); Hayley Mills co-stars in the charming BBC family drama “Pitching In” (Acorn TV); money, as it turns out, still can’t quite buy happiness, although the characters on “Billions”: The Fourth Season (Showtime/CBS/Paramount) continue to make it the center of their lives all the same; having already visited the coastlines of Britain and Australia, “Martin Clunes’ Islands of America” (Acorn TV) takes us on an exploration of the outlying areas of the U.S.; and for those who need an escape to an alternate political universe — one where Keith Carradine is president — Téa Leoni is holding down the fort on “Madam Secretary”: Season Five (CBS/Paramount).