Odds are you missed the delightful Ernest & Celestine (Cinedigm/GKids) in theaters, although the title might ring a bell since it was one of the five Best Animated Feature nominees at this year’s Oscars. If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t let this charmer pass you by. Little mouse Celestine and big, hungry bear Ernest are on opposite ends of the food chain, but they become unlikely friends who shake up their world.
I think animated films are the one genre where the subtitles-versus-dubbing purism is kind of pointless, since they’re ALL dubbed, even in their original language. So whether you’re a fan of subtitles (the French cast includes Lambert Wilson and Féodor Atkine) or not (the English dub offers an all-star line-up including Forest Whitaker, Mackenzie Hoy, Lauren Bacall, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Paul Giamatti, William H. Macy, and Jeffrey Wright), this gorgeous animated treat is perfect for all ages.
Also available: Two lesbian ex-cons try to make their way through a sinister world in the film fest fave Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (KimStim); Steve Coogan’s hilarious Alan Partridge (Magnolia Home Entertainment) character makes it to the big screen with dim wit and huge ego intact; The Machine (XLrator Media) sees artificial intelligence being stolen for unscrupulous military applications; family problems rouse a blocked writer out of his stupor in A Short History of Decay (Arc Entertainment), featuring Bryan Greenberg, Linda Lavin, and Harris Yulin.
Visionary filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov (Russian Ark) puts a new spin on a classic tale in Faust (Kino Lorber Home Video); Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve get into each other’s heads — and pants — in Neil LaBute’s provocative Some Velvet Morning (Cinedigm/Tribeca Film); lest you’ve given up on the idea of Nicolas Cage being an actual actor, David Gordon Green’s powerful drama Joe (Lionsgate) reminds us that the Oscar-winner still has chops; the powerful Omar (Adopt Films) takes a very human look at the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Stephen Dorff and Emile Hirsch have stories to tell in the richly dramatic The Motel Life (Cinedigm/Random Media), also featuring Kris Kristofferson and Dakota Fanning; fans of Donnie Darko will have new Jake Gyllenhaal enigmas to solve in the puzzling Enemy (Lionsgate); Blood Ties (Lionsgate) stars Clive Owen and Billy Crudup as brothers on opposite sides of the law in a taut thriller from Guillaume Canet (Little White Lies) and James Gray (The Immigrant); a mid-year survey of critics shows The Grand Budapest Hotel (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) to be their favorite of 2014 to date, in case you haven’t seen it yet.
The wrongly-imprisoned West Memphis Three continue to inspire filmmakers, this time Atom Egoyan, whose narrative Devil’s Knot (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment) stars Oscar winners Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth; you’d never know it from Transformers: Age of Extinction, but young actor Jack Reynor has been racking up acclaim internationally, principally for his title role in What Richard Did (Cinedigm/Tribeca Film); Song Kang-ho (Snowpiercer) is The Attorney (Well Go USA Entertainment) in this drama about a successful lawyer who develops a conscience while working a big case; Lukas Haas stars as a family man who tragically becomes a Meth Head (Random Media/Cinedigm) in this gut-wrenching tale.
Teller is most famous as the mute half of Penn & Teller, but he spins a hell of a yarn in his first go-round as a documentarian. Tim’s Vermeer (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) looks at inventor and entrepreneur and inventor Tim Jenison as he attempts to recreate Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” using only the materials and paints available to the Dutch master. Jenison, it should be noted, has never painted anything before, but he sets up a series of optics that current artists (such as David Hockney, interviewed here) think that Vermeer might have used.
It’s a fascinating movie — despite literally being about watching paint dry — that raises a number of questions about the artistic process while showing how very difficult and grueling it is just to create an expert imitation of a masterpiece. The editing and score are superb, telling a great story unto itself, and this new DVD and Blu-ray offers a hefty two and a half hours of deleted sequences for those left wanting more. Don’t be surprised to find yourself in that category.
Also available: An American acting legend gets the spotlight as himself in Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (Adopt Films); the powerful Sundance hit Valentine Road (Cinedigm) explores a middle-school hate crime as a way to address bullying and homophobia in schools; director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass (Koyaanisqatsi) collaborate on another trippy examination of the world around us, the stirring Visitors (Cinedigm); Anita (First Run Features) tells the story of the courageous and much-maligned woman who testified against Clarence Thomas during his SCOTUS nomination hearings and brought discussion of sexual harassment into the cultural conversation; meet the Mirage Men (Random Media/Cinedigm), who are out to shake up everything you think you know about ETs and UFOs.
When is a cannibal movie also a cult arthouse fave? When it’s the darkly hilarious Ravenous (Scream Factory), starring Guy Pearce as a Mexican-American war veteran who finds himself at an isolated outpost fighting off flesh-eating settlers. Directed by Antonia Bird (Priest — the gay one, not the crappy vampire one), co-starring Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella, Neal McDonough, and David Arquette, and featuring an unforgettable score from the unlikely pairing of Michael Nyman and Damon Albarn, this weird and wonderful chiller is finally getting its due on Blu-ray.
Also available: Gia Carano (Haywire) kicks in a lot of faces as she hunts down her kidnapped groom (Cam Gigandet) in In the Blood (Anchor Bay Films/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment); in the Dutch import Kill Zombie! (Well Go USA Entertainment), the title pretty much says it all; Beyond The Trophy (Arc Entertainment) sees Michael Madsen and Eric Roberts caught in the crossfire of an L.A./Vegas gang war; if Horror Rule #1 is “Don’t go in the basement,” surely #2 is never wish on The Monkey’s Paw (Scream Factory).
Wolf Creek 2 (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment) continues to do the Australian tourism board no favors, with another chilling look at a serial killer roaming the Outback; The Angela Mao Ying Collection (Shout Factory) features six adventures (When Taekwondo Strikes, Stoner, The Tournament, Queen’s Ransom, The Himalayan, Broken Oath) featuring the martial arts legend (not to mention plenty of Sammo Hung fight choreography); The Chef, The Actor and the Scoundrel (Well Go USA Entertainment) are the only ones who can save occupied China from a cholera epidemic in this WWII action comedy; 2013’s Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles (Shout Factory) serves up old-school martial arts action just the way you like it.
Woooo! The “Citizen Kane of jukebox musicals” gets the deluxe treatment as A Hard Day’s Night (The Criterion Collection) gets a gorgeous 4K restoration in a set that also includes interviews, documentaries, and director Richard Lester’s Oscar-nominated The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film, the short that made the Beatles pick him for this gig. (Running, featuring Peter Sellers and his Goon Show compatriots, feels like a warm-up for the anarchy with which Monty Python would finish out the 1960s.)
A Hard Day’s Night is one of those rare movies that’s influential, important, cinematically groundbreaking, and tons of fun all at the same time. Made at a time when the studio worried that Beatlemania would flame out before the film’s 1964 release, the movie shows the magic and the magnetism that made the Fab Four one of the greatest bands of all time.
Also available: Pay tribute to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman with his searing portrait of an addict in Owning Mahowny (Sony Pictures Choice Collection); Claudelle Inglish (Warner Archive Collection) takes you back to the days of heavy-breathing literary adaptations that dripped with the promise of sex without ever quite delivering, but it’s solidly entertaining in an overdone kind of way; best known for Westerns, director Anthony Mann weaves thrills and paranoia into the French revolution drama The Black Book (Film Chest Media Group).
The lush musical Kismet (Warner Archive Collection) gets the Blu-ray treatment — and features one of the all-too-rare screen appearances of the legendary Dolores Gray; Georges Franju (Eyes Without a Face) pays tribute to another filmmaking legend, Louis Feuillade, with a remake of the latter’s Judex, and the excellent new Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection loads up the information on both great directors.
Don’t let the title fool you, since Albert Brooks has anything but traditional rom-com clichés in mind in the brilliantly neurotic Modern Romance (Sony Pictures Choice Collection); The Cisco Kid (20th Century Fox Cinema Archives) features Warner Baxter in an iconic early talkie; Oliver Stone is going to hammer away at his historical epic until we all love it, and now here comes Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) (Warner Home Entertainment); Robin Williams and Nathan Lane camp their way through La Cage aux Folles remake The Birdcage (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment); and The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Warner Home Entertainment) will scratch your Jerry Lewis itch with gorgeous, hi-def versions of some of his most brilliantly funny movies.
Admit it, you like to be one of those internationally in-the-know TV fans, the kind that respond to friends who raved about Steve Carell on The Office with, “Yeah, he’s really good – but have you seen Ricky Gervais on the British original?” So while you’re checking out The Bridge: Season One (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) in anticipation of the acclaimed FX drama’s upcoming second season, you might also want to dip into The Bridge (MHZ Entertainment), the original version of the show.
The Bridge 1.0 shares the premise of two countries and two jurisdictions dealing with a murder that happens on the span between them, but originally those countries were Sweden and Denmark. (That part of the world has been popping out some amazing cop shows, many of them looking to follow The Bridge to American TV.) If you’re a fan of the US The Bridge, you should definitely give its foreign forebear a peep.
Also available: She’s hilarious, she’s adorable, she’s potty-mouthed: it’s Sarah Silverman: We Are Miracles (HBO Home Entertainment); relive the glory days of cable softcore with Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries: Season One and Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries: The Movie (both Kino Lorber Entertainment); Louie: The Complete Season 3 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is wall-to-wall excellent, and a perfect warm-up for an even greater fourth season.
You don’t need a bun to enjoy Bob’s Burgers: The Complete 3rd Season (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment); The New Normal: The Complete First Season (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is technically “The Complete Series,” but while this sitcom never quite took off with audiences, it’s a milestone in queer-friendly TV; speaking of which, Six By Sondheim (HBO Home Entertainment) is must viewing, even for non-fans of musical theater, if only for the sequence where Todd Haynes directs Jarvis Cocker singing “I’m Still Here.”
Trust me when I tell you that Masters of Sex: The Complete First Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) makes for excellent binge-watching; Liev Schreiber’s bad-ass private eye is just one of the draws of Ray Donovan: The First Season (Showtime/CBS/Paramount); The Boondocks: The Complete Series (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) captures the full run of the hilariously trouble-making animated show; small-screen drama just doesn’t get much better than Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in True Detective (HBO Home Entertainment).
We thought they were immortal, but True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season (HBO Home Entertainment) features the penultimate set of episodes of the vampire hit; set your Blu-ray player to stun with Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Sixth Season (CBS/Paramount); before there was Don Draper and Walter White, fans of “difficult men” on TV had Sipowicz on NYPD Blue: Season Six (Shout Factory).
Klondike (Cinedigm) follows the men who risked their lives in the Gold Rush, with an amazing cast that includes Richard Madden, Abbie Cornish, Sam Shepard and Tim Roth; so many mysteries that Resurrection: The Complete First Season (ABC Studios) can only begin to answer; after Star Trek and before TJ Hooker came Barbary Coast (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn), starring William Shatner as an undercover agent in the untamed San Francisco of the 1880s; and finally, you’ve just got to watch House of Cards: The Complete Second Season (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), so we can talk about that one thing, and then that other thing, and then holy crap, the other OTHER thing.