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2017 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part III - Limited Releases, Classics, Foreign Imports

December 16th, 2017

The Big Sick

Both the first installment First-run Releases and the second installment, TV on DVD releases, were shorter than I would have liked, as this hasn’t been a great year for either wide releases or TV on DVD releases. That said, the third installment of our Holiday Gift Guide deals with limited releases, classics, and foreign imports and this list can get out of hand rather quickly. There will more releases on this list than the previous two, starting with...

For those who want my favorite movie of the year...
The Big Sick - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: The true story of how Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon met and fell in love, and the obstacles (family and a medically-induced coma) that nearly kept them apart.
Pros: This is my favorite movie of the year. The chemistry between Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan is the best I’ve seen in a romantic comedy is years. Holly Hunter gives an Award-worthy performance as Beth. There are a lot of extras on the DVD / Blu-ray, especially for a limited release.
Cons: While I consider this the best movie of the year, it isn’t getting as much love from Awards Season voters as I would have liked. Although if the biggest complaint is, “Likely won’t win an Oscar.” then you know it is an amazing movie. To be fair, there’s a lot of bad stand-up comedy in the movie (It is about a struggling stand-up comic, after all.) and some of this is hard to sit through.

Speaking of hard to sit through...
Beatriz at Dinner - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: Salma Hayek plays the titular Beatriz, a massage therapist, who drives to one of her clients, Kathy. When she’s done, her car won’t start, so Kathy invites her to stay for dinner. However, the other guests include rich investor, Doug Strutts, who seems to delight in taunting the working class Beatriz.
Pros: Salma Hayek gives what is arguably her best performance in her career, while John Lithgow managed to walk the fine line between reprehensible without going into caricature.
Cons: It only came out on DVD and there are absolutely no extras on said DVD. I was less enthusiastic about the film in my initial review because of the lack of extras, but the performances have stuck with me a long time and that’s a great sign.

For those who want a Christmas movie for Christmas...
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas: 40th Anniversary Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Emmet Otter and his mother are poor otters trying to make it in Frogtown Hallow. When they learn of a talent show, they enter separately hoping to win so they can have Christmas this year.
Pros: This is one of Jim Henson’s earliest projects debuting on TV in 1977. The Muppet Show had only be on TV for a year at this point. It remains one of his best. The extras on the DVD include an hour-long behind-the-scenes / restrospective featurette, alternative / extended scenes, deleted song, and outtakes. The DVD is barely more than $5.
Cons: It is a Christmas movie and a lot of people are burned out on Christmas by the time it arrives.

For those who like a bit of foreign-drama with their Christmas...
Glory - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Description: A railroad worker finds a bag of money on the tracks and turns it in. As a reward, he’s given a fancy watch at a ceremony celebrating what he did. However, the watch is a cheap knock-off and breaks within the week. Worse still, he had to take off his old watch at the ceremony, one that was actually an expensive heirloom, and his watch was lost. Now a bureaucrat has to track down the watch to set things right.
Pros: It is Bulgaria’s selection for the Oscars this year, and for good reason. The only extra is a short film, Helium; However, it is an Oscar-winning short film.
Cons: It’s a foreign-language film, which limits its target audience.

For those who want a little heat during Christmas...
How to Be a Latin Lover - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Maximo stars as a man whose dream as a child was to marry a rich woman and live a live of leisure. He found his perfect woman, until she decided to dump him for a younger man. Now he has to move in with his sister and his sister’s son.
Pros: The film stars Eugenio Derbez and is directed by Ken Marino, both of whom have comedic sensibilities that many people love. If you really liked Instructions Not Included, you will likely love this movie as well. Extras include audio commentary track, two featurettes, and deleted scenes.
Cons: If you don’t like Eugenio Derbez and Ken Marino’s comedic sensibilities, then you won’t like this film. The comedy is quite broad.

For those who prefer their lovers less Latin... and less loving...
Lady Macbeth - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Florence Pugh stars as Katherine, a woman forced into a loveless marriage. When her husband leaves, she still has to deal with her domineering step-father, who enforces rules that include Katherine not being able to leave the house. Despite this, she begins an affair with Sebastian and she’s willing stop at nothing to protect her new life.
Pros: The film has earned excellent reviews, especially for Florence Pugh’s performance. It even picked up an Independent Spirit Awards Nomination, as well as every single nomination at the British Independent Film Awards. I’m exaggerating, a little. There are only 20 categories the film was eligible for and it earned 11 nominations and 5 wins. That’s amazing.
Cons: It earned $1 million here, which is great for a limited release, but it only got a DVD release and the only extra is a six-minute featurette.

For those who like their lovers cotton candy colored...
The Love Witch - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Samantha Robinson plays Elaine, the titular Love Witch, who arrives in a new town looking for love. That’s not good news for the men of the town, as men who disappoint her tend to not live long.
Pros: This film earned amazing reviews, with a Tomatometer Score of 95% positive. I was reminded of 1970s sexpliotation mixed with Hammer Horror aesthetic, but it is a deconstruction of those films. The film is a celebration of femininity and Elaine has more agency than the women in sexploitation or horror movies have. There are plenty of extras, including an audio commentary track with the writer / director / producer / editor / production designer / etc. Anna Biller, making of featurette, interview, deleted / extended scenes, and more.
Cons: It’s not for everyone. There’s a little too much nudity to watch with family on Christmas morning.

For those who think The Little Mermaid needed Go-go dancers...
The Lure: Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: This film focuses on two sisters, Gold and Silver, who happen to be mermaids. They are discovered by a band and asked to be part of their act, as backup singers / go-go dancers. However, in this movie, mermaids are cannibals.
Pros: This is a weird movie, but it is very engaging. The Criterion Collection release has a 40-minute making of featurette, half-a-dozen deleted / alternative scenes, as well as two short films from the director, Aria Diva and Viva Maria!
Cons: It’s a strange film, easily the strangest film on this list.

For those who don’t mind being bugged...
Phenomena - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Jennifer Connelly stars as a young lady sent to a boarding school. She has a connection to insects, which makes her an outsider at school. However, her connections with insects could help her help the police solve a string of murders.
Pros: This is a cult classic and this two-disc set has all three versions of the movie. There’s the 116-minute original cut, the 110-minute international cut, as well as the 82-minute North American cut. The second disc also has a 70-minute long documentary about Dario Argento.
Cons: It’s a cult classic, so it doesn’t really have mainstream appeal.

For those who demand chronological order...
Porky Pig 101 - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: 101 Porky Pig short cartoons, in chronological order. This is what true fans have been demanding.
Pros: 101 Porky Pig short cartoons, in chronological order. For most fans of Looney Tunes, that’s enough to want this DVD. I’ve been asking Warner Bros. to release chronological collections for years. I didn’t even care if they would be mostly double-dips; however, this collection has 101 shorts and 63 of them are new to DVD. Extras include audio commentary tracks on 15 shorts, as well as storyboards for a few other shorts.
Cons: Porky Pig isn’t among my favorite Looney Tunes characters. Also, it only got a DVD release, instead a full Blu-ray release.

For those who are still pissed this film bombed in theaters...
Slither: Collector’s Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The directorial debut of James Gunn is a horror film with a Cronenberg-like feel to it.
Pros: While the film bombed in theaters, it found an appreciative audience on the home market and fans of body horror and horror comedies will likely love this movie. There are a ton of extras on the Collector’s Edition, including two audio commentary tracks, interview featurettes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, making of featurettes, and more.
Cons: Body horror and horror comedies are both outside the mainstream, so combining them cuts the target audience down even further.

For those who haven’t got over Gord Downie’s death...
The Tragically Hip: Long Time Running - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray and A National Celebration Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Last may, it was announced that Gord Downie had terminal brain cancer. He and his bandmates decided The Tragically Hip should do one last concert tour of Canada. Long Time Running is a documentary of that tour, while A National Celebration is the concert in their home town of Kingston, Ontario that was the culmination of that tour.
Pros: Both are must haves for fans of The Tragically Hip. It’s a great way to celebrate one of the greatest Canadian bands ever and one of the best songwriters the world has ever known.
Cons: It’s still difficult to watch. It’s going to take a while to deal with the death of Gord Downie. Then again, I still occasionally get pissed off Freddie Mercury died, so maybe this will never pass.

For those who like the their action stylish...
The Villainess - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Kim Ok-vin plays Sook-hee, a woman who was trained from a very young age to be an assassin. She’s been promised her freedom, but there are two obstacles. Firstly, there’s a conspiracy surrounding the organization. Secondly, when you’ve been a killer since childhood, the prospect of a normal life seems daunting.
Pros: This is a stylish action film in the same vein as John Wick: Chapter Two and Atomic Blonde, both of which were featured in our first installment of our holiday gift guide.
Cons: It’s an import from South Korea, so it should come as no surprise that there are hardly any extras.

For those who want to give the artists a chance, despite what the studio heads did...
Wind River - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The death of a young lady brings in the FBI, who teams up with the man who found the body to investigate her death.
Pros: It earned great reviews and was one of the biggest limited release of the year. Many thought it was going to be an early Awards Season contender, except...
Cons: While the movie was still in theaters, the Harvey Weinstein / Sex Predator story broke. On the one hand, it isn’t fair to punish the artists who worked on this film for what Harvey Weinstein did. On the other hand, I can see why people would just want to avoid anything he’s associated with.

We should wrap it up there, lest the list gets out of hand. Next week we will talk about some books, music, and whatever else I missed from the first three parts.


Filed under: Holiday Gift Guide, Slither, No se Aceptan Devoluciones, John Wick: Chapter Two, Atomic Blonde, How to Be a Latin Lover, The Love Witch, Slava, Lady Macbeth, Córki dancingu, Wind River, The Big Sick, Beatriz at Dinner, Aknyeo, Phenomena, Jennifer Connelly, Holly Hunter, Dario Argento, Connie Britton, David Cronenberg, Eugenio Derbez, James Gunn, Salma Hayek, Jim Henson, Zoe Kazan, John Lithgow, Ken Marino, Kim Ok-vin, Jeremy Renner, Harvey Weinstein, Elizabeth Olsen, Kumail Nanjiani, Florence Pugh, Anna Biller, Samantha Robinson, Cosmo Jarvis, Michalina Olszanska, Marta Mazurek, Raphael Alejandro, Emily V. Gordon, Agnieszka Smoczyńska