*indicates that this title is also available to view, rent, or buy on various digital streaming sources.
“Hugo” (2011, Arrow Video*) Audiences didn’t take to Martin Scorsese’s affectionate, Oscar-winning adaptation of Brian Selznick’s “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” about a young boy whose discovery of film pioneer Georges Melies (Ben Kingsley) proves integral to his own burgeoning creative efforts. It’s understandable on a surface level: “Hugo” is a sprawling period piece which hinges on the joys of silent movies, mechanics, and reading – worthy subjects, and while certainly not outside the scope of viewers’ interests, perhaps not on the radar of Scorsese fans or some younger audience members.. Too bad, since the movie is lovely to look at, features remarkable 3D and recreations of Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” (the one with the rocket in the Man in the Moon’s eye) and a cast that includes Michael Stulhbarg, Chloe Grace Moretz, Helen McCrory, Ray Winstone, Richard Griffiths, Emily Mortimer, and Sir Christopher Lee in a rare gentle turn. Arrow’s Limited Edition two-disc set includes the 4K Ultra HD debut of the film (you’ll need a 4K player to watch it), Blu-ray presentations in 2D and 3D, interviews with (among others) Selznick, composer Howard Shore, DP Robert Richardson, and featurettes on Melies, the film’s production, its special effects, and cast.
“Sweetheart” (2021, Film Movement*) British teen AJ Barlow, who wears all the colors of her demographic’s social/emotional outlook (solitude, loneliness, extreme snark, and sexual curiosity/confusion), finds an escape valve from her family’s visit to a seaside holiday camp in lifeguard Ella Rae-Smith. Queer take on the summer romance sidesteps the familiar route taken by its plot with fresh performances by Barlow and Jo Hartley as her mom, whose own emotional turmoil upends her efforts to bridge the gap with her daughter. Sweet without being cloying and smart without preciousness, “Sweetheart” is a notable debut from first-time writer/director Marley Morrison; Film Movement’s DVD includes cast and crew interviews and Emma Aikman’s charming queer short “Admit One.”
“The Complete Comic Strip Presents… Channel 4 Films” (1982-2000, Severin Films) Collection of television comedy specials, some brilliant, others anarchic, all made for the UK’s Channel 4 and featuring a then-up-and-coming cast of performers, many of whom would go on to greater fame (like Jennifer Saunders and Robbie Coltrane). “Bad News Tour,” about an atrocious British metal band (played by three-fourths of “The Young Ones”), is perhaps the best known special outside the UK, and additional sketches involving the band, including their take on “Bohemian Rhapsody” (produced by Brian May), fill out the four-disc set’s extensive extras. But “Spinal Tap” has largely stolen these segments’ thunder, and there’s better and funnier material to be found in “Five Go Mad in Dorset,” a parody of a popular children’s book series that shows how awful the eponymous heroes actually are (a sequel, “Five Go Mad on Mescalin,” takes it even further), as well as “The Yob,” a spoof of “The Fly” with Keith Allen transforming into a football hooligan, and “Mr. Jolly Lives Next Door,” in which idiots Adrian Edmonson and Rik Mayall discover that their neighbor (Peter Cook) is a serial killer. Some of the material is entirely dependent on your appreciation for the cast (Mayall, though a tornado of energy, is still an acquired taste), but the best of it underscores why these players were and remain some of England’s most creative comic talents. Severin’s set includes two feature-length documentaries about the series with several cast members (including Alexei Sayle) contributing comments, a 1981 short directed by Julien Temple and featuring many of the “Comic Strip” players in their original sketch groups, and the aforementioned Bad News extras.
“Children of the Mist” (2021, Film Movement*) Di, the subject of Ha Lie Diem’s documentary, is 12 years old and like many girls her age, loves her phone and her friends and occasionally flirting with boys. But as a member of Northwest Vietnam’s rural Hmong community, she also lives with the idea that at some point in her teen years, she may be kidnapped by a boy (or even an adult man) who wants to marry her. Though the tradition is outlawed in Vietnam, it’s accepted as part of life by the Hmong, though less so by the younger generation like Di and new boyfriend Vang, both of whom seem confused by cultural forces compelling to echo traditions they don’t understand. Harrowing and heartbreaking in equal measure, “Mist” details this clash and the chaos it creates in intimate and often alarming interviews and at least one moment that is more shocking than any fictional drama; Film Movement’s DVD includes an interview with Diem.
“Fill ‘Er Up with Super” (1976, Radiance Films/MVD Entertainment*) Car salesman Bernard Crombey forgoes his family vacation in order to personally deliver a new Chevy station wagon to its owner on the French Riviera. Initially accompanied by friend Xavier Saint-Macary, the trip become exponentially more enjoyable – and complicated – with the addition of hitchhikers Etienne Chicot (also the film’s composer) and Patrick Bouchitey. Director Alain Cavalier signaled his shift from structured dramas to more introspective, experimental fare with this honest look at men navigating the awkward transition between immature youth and the supposed responsibilities of their 30s and beyond. Their behavior and conversation, which at times plays like a less skeevy take on Bertrand Blier’s “Going Places,” is appealingly vulnerable and funny, even when the quartet talk like fools (the dialogue was conceived by Cavalier and the cast during production), and the result feels like an anticipation of the American indie scene of the ’90s (minus the self-serving angst). Radiance’s Limited Edition Blu-ray includes a 2K restoration a lengthy interview with Crombey, and three recent shorts, all directed by Cavalier and featuring members of the cast (including an odd visit with Bouchitey); an appreciation by Cahiers du Cinema deputy editor Charlotte Garson and liner notes round out the disc.