Ralph Macchio doing things other than karate, Béla Tarr’s epic, Marlon Brando’s “stinker” movie, a truth-exposing Filipina journalist, inspiring activists, a possessed tape player, Jordan Peele, and more!
AMERICAN DREAM (2021)
Nicky (Michiel Huisman, who most famously played Daario Naharis in Game of Thrones) and Scott (Luke Bracey, who you might recognize from the 2015 remake of Point Break) are struggling to attain their idea of success and improve their lives in Los Angeles. They pour everything they have into a construction project, so the stakes are already high. And when they seek out help from a brutal Russian crime boss (Nick Stahl)… well, you can imagine how much higher those stakes become.
CARTOON ROOTS: OTTO MESSMER’S FELINE FOLLIES (1923)
“History’s most famous cat has ‘kept on walking’ for generations: from 1919 right down to the present day! But nobody drew him like his creator drew him—and here’s your chance to meet New Jersey-born cartoon genius Otto Messmer for yourself! From Messmer’s rare ‘Charley’ Chaplin cartoons to the seminal FELINE FOLLIES (1919) and even some wild, inspired cat tales all-new to home video, we’re bringing you a fully-remastered HD anthology worth its weight in catnip! … Extras! Booklet, archival galleries, and new music by Charlie Judkins.”
(Blu-ray and DVD)
While most of us think of Ralph Macchio as the kid who learned karate in the 1980s from a wise, waxing master, he’s done other stuff too! After The Outsiders (1983) and before My Cousin Vinny (1992), he played a talented guitarist mentored by a blues music great (Joe Seneca) in Walter Hill’s Crossroads. The movie features music by Ry Cooder, who first won my ears in his soul-bending score for Paris, Texas (Wim Wenders, 1984).
ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS (2019)
Shailene Woodley plays a woman on the heels of a break-up who finds herself in a tough spot as she tries to choose between two men she’s attracted to for very different reasons (Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan).
THE FRESHMAN (1990)
Marlon Brando essentially brings back his Godfather character with a different name for this mafia comedy about a film student (Matthew Broderick) who gets wrapped up in working for the mobster. Making The Freshman prompted Brando to say in an interview that he was done with acting, citing how he thought the movie was “a stinker” (it’s pretty agreed upon that he did this to force more money out of the producers). Within days, he took it back and said the movie might actually be good (he got the money), so his genuine thoughts on it were never clear. Most regard it as smart and charming, but you’ll have to watch and judge for yourself.
FRONTLINE: A THOUSAND CUTS (2020)
A relevant and essential documentary that follows Filipina journalist Maria Ressa as she investigates the truth behind Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s use of social media in his spread of disinformation. Jessica Kiang writes for Variety that the film “is highly relevant outside the Philippines too, clearly outlining the similarities between the assault on press freedoms there and the deepening divisions between the political right wing and the Fourth Estate in the U.S.”
IT CUTS DEEP (2020)
A comedy horror that delves into the relationship struggles of a young couple when a handsome and peculiar guy comes into the picture. The debut feature film of Nicholas Santos stars Quinn Jackson, Charles Gould, and John Anderson.
IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE (1947) (WARNER ARCHIVE)
Edged out by Miracle on 34th Street for the 1947 Best Original Story Oscar, It Happened on 5th Avenue is a heartwarming musical romantic comedy about people who occupy an unwitting millionaire’s New York City mansion while he’s out of town during Christmas. Many involved in the making of the film seem to have wished that Frank Capra (It’s a Wonderful Life) had directed it instead of Roy Del Ruth, and maybe that would have made it better, but it’s done alright for itself regardless.
While one could describe this as an underground boxing movie about a couple down-on-their-luck guys (Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell) who are trying to make things even with a dangerous gangster and get out of their rut, Sheila O’Malley makes an excellent point for RogerEbert.com: “To talk about the plot is to do ‘Jungleland’ a disservice. It’s a road movie, where the road is nothing but detours. The destination shifts, depending on the circumstance. Nothing goes as planned… [the film] prioritizes mood and character over plot, and it prioritizes atmosphere almost above all else.”
LUPIN III: THE FIRST (2019)
“Lupin III goes on a grand adventure to uncover the secrets of the Bresson Diary, which is tied to the legacy of his famous grandfather.” A computer-animated film adaptation of the franchise created by Monkey Punch, a legendary Japanese manga artist who passed away in 2019.
(Blu-ray and DVD)
After ten years of not knowing the whereabouts of her son, who she lost touch with after a mysterious event, Elena (Marta Nieto) meets a teenage boy who reminds her of the child she lost. William Repass praises the Rodrigo Sorogoyen-directed film in Slant, writing that it “presents the aftermath of traumatic loss in all of its ambiguity—how what we lose revisits us in disguise… By projecting [Elena’s] despair into the landscape, Sorogoyen shows us her grief inside out, where it cannot be judged, only witnessed.”
MINDING THE GAP (2018) (CRITERION)
A powerful and visually stunning documentary from Bing Liu that explores the lives of several young men (including Liu) who have found freedom and meaning through skateboarding, an activity they love that has offered them an escape from their troubled lives and minds. Bonuses on this Criterion Blu-ray disc include audio commentary featuring Liu and documentary subjects Keire Johnson and Zack Mulligan; a follow-up conversation between Liu and documentary subject Nina Bowgren; interviews with professional skateboarder Tony Hawk, Liu, executive producer Gordon Quinn, and producer Diane Quon; and an earlier short film by Liu.
(Blu-ray and DVD)
Writer/director Hong Khaou’s first feature-length film stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) as Kit, a man who returns to Vietnam for the first time since his family fled in the aftermath of the Vietnam-American war. He no longer recognizes the place he’s been away from for 30 years, so he sets off on a revealing personal journey across the country. Carlos Aguilar of The Los Angeles Times says Monsoon is “an authentic and gorgeous character study about the trauma of displacement, conflicted cultural identity and the parts of ourselves that feel almost forgotten. Laden with bittersweet sentiment, the film packs a muted but lasting emotional wallop.”
NOT DONE: WOMEN REMAKING AMERICA (2020)
An inspiring and critical PBS documentary that focuses on modern American feminist movements and the crucial work still do be done, featuring interviews with influential contemporary activists such as Roxane Gay, Lauren Underwood, Linda Sarsour, and Gloria Steinam.
Restored on occasion of its 25th anniversary, director Béla Tarr’s gorgeous and devastating 7-hour film focuses its artful eye on members of a struggling agricultural community in rural Hungary. Manohla Dargis notes for The New York Times that in the world of the film, “life is beautiful and grotesque by turns, and never less than mesmerizing.”
“When a virus threatens to turn the now earth-dwelling friendly alien hybrids against humans, Captain Rose Corley must lead a team of elite mercenaries on a mission to the alien world in order to save what’s left of humanity.” Following Skyline (2010) and Beyond Skyline (2017), this is the final entry in the martial arts sci-fi trilogy.
SNIPER: ASSASSIN’S END (2020)
“Legendary sniper Thomas Beckett and his son, Special Ops Sniper Brandon Beckett, are on the run from the CIA, Russian Mercenaries, and a Yakuza-trained assassin with sniper skills that rival both legendary sharp shooters.” Stars Chad Michael Collins, Sayaka Akimoto, and Tom Berenger.
THEY REACH (2020)
A tape player is found by a girl in the late 1970s. Little does she know that it’s possessed and in switching it on, she will unleash an evil town-devouring demon. What does it want? Blood and sacrifice, of course.
TWILIGHT ZONE: SEASON 2 (2019) (3 DISKS)
Jordan Peele, current king of horror and suspense that provides sharp social critique, is back to host a second season of this reimagining of the classic series. Features stars like Jurnee Smollett, Joel McHale, Jenna Elfman, Damon Wayans Jr., and Topher Grace.
VERA: SET 10 (2020) (2 DISKS)
The complete tenth season of Vera, a witty British crime mystery TV series based on the Vera Stanhope novels by author Ann Cleeves. The series has been running since 2011, which has a lot to do with how fun it is to watch its charming and delightful star, Brenda Blethyn.
THE WORKING CLASS GOES TO HEAVEN (1971) (PAL)
An accident resulting in injury at a factory motivates a worker to become more active in revolutionary causes and groups. Directed by Elio Petri (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) and starring Gian Maria Volontè (A Fistful of Dollars).