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2015 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part III - Limited Releases, Foreign Films, Classics, and Canadian Films

December 13th, 2015

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki

The third installment of the Holiday Gift Guide focuses on smaller releases, movies that opened in limited release, foreign films, classics getting new releases, and a few Canadian films. This year the list looks different to the previous guides for a simple reason. While there were only eight releases on the TV on DVD installment of the holiday gift guide, the first pass had more than 30 films on this list. I tried trimming the list, but that resulted in me remembering more films I wanted to add to it. Even after getting rid of the ones that won't be released until after Christmas, like Bone Tomahawk, there are still way too many releases to deal with. So let's not delay anymore and get to the list, starting with the biggest release...


The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Eleven films from Hayao Miyazaki, plus a bonus disc of extras. The films include both the original Japanese Translation Subtitles and the English Dubbed Subtitles, which is good. Unfortunately, the individual discs don't have the extras that were on the original releases. Also, fans of his work probably have most, if not all of these on Blu-ray already.

Limited Releases

I was going to start off this list with Grandma, because Lily Tomlin is being screwed over by Awards Season voters and deserves more love. However, it doesn't come out till February and it isn't on Amazon.com yet. Speaking of people being screwed over by Awards Season voters.


Clouds of Sils Maria - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Reviews
I previously reviewed this film and loved it, especially the performances by the three leading ladies. It didn't do well in theaters, but it deserves to be seen by more, especially those who think Kristen Stewart is a bad actress, as this film will prove they are wrong. Unfortunately, it didn't get a Blu-ray release here and the DVD has no extras.


Ex Machina - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
One of the best Science Fiction films in years. This genre usually gets ignored by Awards Season voters, but Alicia Vikander picked up a Golden Globe nomination earlier this week. The DVD and Blu-ray have two hours of extras.

 


It Follows - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A horror film that opened in limited release. Usually horror films flounder in limited release and most are DOA, but this one did well enough to expand semi-wide and crack the top five. Extras include an audio commentary track, interview with the composer, and more. Which is good, but not great. Then again, the movie was called the best American horror film in years, so it doesn't need a lot of extras to be an amazing gift.


Spring - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
However, if you know a horror fan who already owns It Follows, then try Spring instead. Its reviews are almost as good as It Follows' were, but their release dates were too close and It Follows got all of the buzz and this film earned less than $50,000 in theaters. On the other hand, its extras are even better.


Mistress America - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Reviews
Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach team up for the third time. This film earned excellent reviews, but not Award-worthy reviews, and I was expecting the latter. I was hoping to get a screener, but that's not happening, so I'm not 100% sure what the extras are like. I've read a review of the Blu-ray, and there doesn't appear to be much there.


End of the Tour - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Reviews
Jason Segel plays a writer and Jesse Eisenberg plays the journalist interviewing him while on a book tour. Both actors received praise for their performances and the film even picked up a couple of Independent Spirit Awards nominations. Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include an audio commentary track, two featurettes, and some deleted scenes.


Big Game - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
Samuel L. Jackson stars as the President, who is flying to a conference when Airforce One gets shot down. He's found by Onni Tommila, who is a young Norwegian boy on a solo hunt and this boy might be the President's only chance to avoid being captured by the terrorists. This is a great movie, but it didn't find an audience in theaters. Because of this, there are no extras on the DVD or Blu-ray. It does come with the Unrated Edition, which has about 4 minutes of additional action.


Once I Was a Beehive - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Reviews
A faith-based film about a girl dealing with the sudden death of her father and her mother marrying into a Mormon family. Usually faith-based films have terrible reviews, because there's no concern for crossover appeal, so it feels like a sermon rather than a movie. This one is different. It has crossover appeal.

  This is already more items than we had on the TV on DVD portion of the Holiday Gift Guide and we are not even a third of the way through.


To Write Love On Her Arms - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Reviews
This movie is the reason 2 Broke Girls exists. This film was shot in 2011 and it earned a lot of praise, especially for Kat Dennings' performance. However, it sat on a studio shelf for three years before being dumped Direct-to-video earlier this year. This is not the first film Kat Dennings made that had a delayed release and she got sick of making movies no one saw, so she decided to return to TV. The movie is excellent and the DVD has better extras than most limited releases.


Mr. Holmes - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Reviews
Ian McKellen stars as the titular Sherlock Holmes. In the movie, Holmes had retired many, many years ago, but his memory is failing and he can't actually remember why. He knows it has to do with the last case he took, so he tries to piece together what happened, with some help from Roger, his housekeeper's son. Ian McKellen gives an incredible performance and I'm pissed off he hasn't been given much in the way of Awards Season recognition. There are not a lot of extras on the DVD or Blu-ray, but it is still a great gift.


Mississippi Grind - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A gambling drama starring Ben Mendelsohn as a gambler who is deep in debt and really needs a win. He meets Ryan Reynolds and Ryan Reynolds becomes his lucky charm. The reviews are stellar and a lot of the praise has been going to the two leading actors. In fact, Ben Mendelsohn picked up an Independent Spirit Awards nomination. The only extra is a reasonably long behind-the-scenes / making of featurette.


Love and Mercy - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Reviews
A Biopic of Brian Wilson, starring Paul Dano and John Cusack. One of many fantastic movies I got to review this year. Extras include audio commentary track, two featurettes, and some deleted scenes. That's good for a limited release.


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
This film came out in limited release in the summer and earned a lot of pre-release buzz. Its reviews lived up to the hype and it did really well for a limited release, cracking the top ten one week. It even picked up an Independent Spirit Awards nomination. Extras include an audio commentary track, two featurettes with a total running time of just over an hour, and a bunch of smaller bits about the movie-within-the-movie.


Tangerine - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A movie about two trans women, starring two trans women. That is very rare. The reviews are stellar and it picked up four Independent Spirit Awards nominations. Extras include a trio of featurettes and a short clip of some test footage.


What We Do in the Shadows - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A mockumentary about a group of very different vampires living in the modern world. This is one of the funniest films of the year and was the first limited release of 2015 to earn some measure of mainstream success. The DVD and Blu-ray are loaded with extras, including an audio commentary track, an hour of deleted scenes, the rough short version of the film, interviews, and more. On the downside, it came out on the home market in the summer, so there's a chance the person you are buying for already has it, especially if they are a fan of Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, the creative team behind this film.

Kumiko the Treasure Hunter - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A movie inspired by a real life tale of a woman inspired by a movie pretending to be based on a real life tale. A lot of the praise went to the lead actress, Rinko Kikuchi, who picked up an Independent Spirit Awards nomination last year. (It was one of two the film earned.) While the film was eligible for last year's awards, it didn't hit theaters till this year and came out on the home market over the summer. The extras include an audio commentary track and a few deleted scenes. This is perfectly fine for a limited release.

Documentaries

That's right, we are only done the first part of this list. I told you it was going to be a long one. I'm going to have to speed things up, so I'm reducing the details for the documentaries.

Amy - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A documentary about Amy Winehouse, who was an incredibly talented singer, but had personal demons. Extras include an audio commentary track, nearly an hour of interviews, half-an-hour of deleted scenes, rare performances, and more.

 

Red Army - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A documentary about the Red Army hockey team from the 1970s, who were the face of the U.S.S.R. to a lot of people. Extras include audio commentary track, interviews, Q&A session, deleted scenes, and more. If you know someone who likes documentaries and hockey, then this is a must have.

 

 

Best of Enemies - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A look at the series of TV debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal that changed the way politics is handled on TV... and not always for the better. One of the best documentaries of the year; it even picked up an Independent Spirit Awards nomination. There are a ton of deleted scenes / additional interviews on the DVD and Blu-ray, which is perfect for extras for a documentary.

 

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A look at Scientology and some of their less reputable practices. This is a powerful film to watch, but there are no extras on the DVD or Blu-ray.

 

The Hunting Ground - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A documentary about the epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses. It is also powerful, but it deals with a very difficult subject matter. It's not Christmas material, but important nonetheless. Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include additional interviews and a Q&A with the filmmakers. That's on par with most documentaries.

 

 

The Wolfpack - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A documentary about the Angelu brothers. They grew up in poverty and isolation in New York City and overcame their dysfunctional situation through their love of movies. Extras include additional interviews, one of the films the brothers shot, their trip to Los Angeles, and more.

  Okay, that's it for the documentaries, but we still have Classics, Foreign releases, and a few Canadian films to get through. This is going to be a really long list.

Classics

Diary of a Lost Girl - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Reviews
A German silent film starring Louise Brooks as a young lady who is taken advantage of, impregnated, disowned, and sent to a home for "wayward women". This Blu-ray includes the most complete version of the movie, which was heavily censored due to its controversial nature. Because it is put together from various sources, there are some changes in video quality throughout the movie. However, the movie is closing in on 90 years old, so this is not a shock. The extras on the Blu-ray include an audio commentary track and a short film, also starring Louise Brooks.

Forbidden Zone - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray CD Soundtrack Combo Pack
Reviews
This ... is a movie? It's about a group of people who get sucked into the sixth dimension, the titular Forbidden Zone, and have to deal with the craziness that's there. The film is intentionally offensive to satirize the actual offensive stereotype that were common in Hollywood, but Poe's Law kicked in and the film was attacked from all sides at the time. It did rise to become a cult classic later on. The DVD and Blu-ray are loaded with extras, including audio commentary track, making of featurette, deleted scenes, and more. The colorized version is also there. The film was always meant to be colorized, to add to the surreal nature of the film, but they didn't have the budget when they originally made it.

Edward Scissorhands - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Reviews
This is a classic? But it only came out ... 25 years ago. I feel old. Moving on, this is a classic and arguably Tim Burton's best live-action film. (Although I would also accept Beetle Juice or Ed Wood instead.) Its one of the best modern fairytales and Christmas is the perfect time to watch it. The extras include two audio commentary tracks and an archival promotional featurette. That's not bad for a release like this, but it is the 25th anniversary, so I would have liked a fully loaded disc.

Aladdin - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Reviews
While Robin Williams had a long and amazing career, for a lot of people, it is his role as Genie that he will be most remembered for. Because of his untimely death, this film has taken on more significance. Disney has put out an excellent Blu-ray with plenty of extras, including a mix of old and new, while it looks as good as it did opening day in theaters.

Ikiru - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
Akira Kurosawa was best known for his samurai movies, but this film is set in a more contemporary setting. It's about an older man who learns he has stomach cancer and his family isn't comforting, but he meets a young woman and he's attracted to her energy. Extras include an audio commentary track and two featurettes with a combined running time of over two hours.

That's a good segue to our next section...

Foreign Films

Girlhood - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
Karidja Toure stars as Marieme, a young lady living in the poorer part of Paris. She's struggling in school and her family life isn't great, so she joins a gang with some other girls. The film's Tomatometer Score is 95% positive and it even picked up an Independent Spirit Awards nomination, but there are almost no extras on the DVD or Blu-ray.

White God - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
Lili's father is forced to abandon the family dog when the government institutes a Mongrel Tax. The dog tries to reunite with Lili and along the way gathers hundreds of other abandoned dogs to fight back against those who did this to them. The film is incredibly good, but also incredibly violent, so keep that in mind. Extras include a making of featurette and a couple of interviews.

Canadian Releases

Almost done.

The Voices - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
Ryan Reynolds stars as a man with issues. His mother had a mental illness and so does he. She heard voices, which she said where her angels. His pets talk to him. His dog represents all his good impulses, while his cat is his dark side. ... In the United States there are roughly 30 fatal dog attacks each year, while there have been less than 30 fatal cat attacks in the past century and that's only if you include cougars. I don't understand why cats have this reputation. Also, cats are better than dogs, and I can prove it scientifically. Growing up, we always had at least one cat and one dog and I have never been drooled on by a cat. Checkmate. ... Anyhoo... The reviews are great, especially for a dark comedy, and the extras include a lot of short behind-the-scenes stuff and some deleted scenes.

WolfCop - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A Canadian movie about a cop who is turned into the werewolf. It's intentionally a B-movie, which definitely limits its target audience, as this genre isn't for everyone. On the other hand, fans of these movies should be pleased and there's a chance it could become a cult classic. Extras include an audio commentary track, making of featurette, some behind-the-scenes, outtakes, and more. That's a better than most limited releases get.

Mommy - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A French-Canadian film about a single-parent trying to raise a 16-year old son with severe ADHD. She begins to get help from a new neighbor. The film earned excellent reviews and cleaned up at the Junos and the Canadian Screen Awards. It is written and directed by Xavier Dolan, who is developing into a serious talent. (He's only 26.) Extras include an audio commentary track, deleted scenes, interview, and more.

A Christmas Horror Story - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Reviews
A horror anthology film with William Shatner playing the lead in the wrap-around story. I don't think there's anything more to be said.

Okay, we are finally done. I know there are a few films missing from this list, some of which are not out on DVD or Blu-ray yet, some of which I had to trim for space, and others I just forgot about. That said, I started this list on Friday and it will be Monday by the time you guys read it. Next week's list of Books, CDs, and whatever I forgot will be shorter. It can't possibly be longer, can it?


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Filed under: Limited Releases, Bone Tomahawk, Mississippi Grind, A Christmas Horror Story, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Williams, Ian McKellen, Noah Baumbach, Tim Burton, Jemaine Clement, John Cusack, Paul Dano, Kat Dennings, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Rinko Kikuchi, Akira Kurosawa, Laura Linney, Ben Mendelsohn, Hayao Miyazaki, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Segel, William Shatner, Kristen Stewart, Lily Tomlin, Gore Vidal, Onni Tommila, Xavier Dolan, Alicia Vikander, Taika Waititi, Amy Winehouse, Milo Parker, Zsofia Psotta, Karidja Toure, William F. Buckley, Louise Brooks