This week’s top five on the small screen spans America’s favorite lesbian couple, Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, a look at the making of “Troll 2,” and more. TCM’s “Moguls and Movie Stars” returns with a look at the years following the advent of sound films.
1. 2010’s Top Indie Family Film on DVD
Lisa Cholodenko has something of an indie juggernaut on her hands with “The Kids are All Right” (criticWIRE rating: B+). The film, which debuted this summer, is one of the year’s top-grossing specialty releases and continues to hover in most awards prognosticators’ potential Oscar Top 10’s. With Annette Benning and Julianne Moore starring as a couple whose relationship is just becoming ho-hum, and children who eagerly find their sperm donor father (Mark Ruffalo), the film, which may look like a tough sell, had little trouble finding an audience. The family dramedy makes its way into living rooms this week via DVD.
2. “Best Worst Movie” (criticWIRE rating: B)
Legions of spoken of it. Watching it is something of a rite of passage or, alternatively, a really great bonding activity for a group of friends. “Troll 2” has been called by many the “best worst movie.” Michael Paul Stephenson’s “Best Worst Movie” goes behind the scenes of the 1989 film, showing what exactly went in to the film that became the “Cruising” or “Showgirls” for a certain generation or genre of film fans. It comes out on DVD today.
3. Chaplin & Laughton on Criterion
The famed actor Charles Laughton (“Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Witness for the Prosecution”) directed a film, “Night of the Hunter,” in his illustrious career. And in his one magnum opus, he snagged Robert Mitchum to play Harry Powell, a traveling preacher who takes the hand of a widow played by Shelley Winters, for what turns out to be all the wrong reasons. Silent film megastar Lillian Gish also stars; James Agee (“The African Queen”) wrote the screenplay. In addition to a new digital transfer of the film, the Blu-Ray and DVD Criterion Collection releases of the film, the packages also include a making-of feature with two-and-a-half hours of footage, a performance of a deleted scene acted out on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” and more. The Criterion Collection is not afraid to memorialize the works of our most prolific filmmakers, and they do just that with a new release of Chaplin’s classic “Modern Times.” In the film, Chaplin’s last role as the Little Tramp, he stars as a factory employee that falls in love and falls into a worker’s consciousness. In addition to a flurry of video essays and footage of experts talking about the craft of the film, the Criterion discs also include Chalplin’s “The Rink,” a film about first time filmgoers seeing “Modern Times,” called “For the First Time,” and various other treats.
4. “Public Speaking” and “Dark Light” on HBO
This Wednesday, HBO’s documentary division shows a film that puts the spotlight on a little known artistic community that earns the oxymoronic title of its film tribute. Neil Leifer’s “Dark Light” features the work and lives of blind photographers. When the Gotham nominations were released, many wondered what “Public Speaking” was. It had limited exposure at documentary festivals, but the film, which was directed by someone that goes by the name of Martin Scorsese is a film that got quickly acquired by the documentary branch of HBO, a home one may presume it had staked out for some time. The film, Scorsese’s Gotham-nominated portrayal of the writer Fran Liebowitz, comes to HBO next Monday, November 22.
In a unique release strategy that had a number of its films available on VOD in the weeks after this year’s festival, Tribeca is also making its entrance into the DVD distribution biz with some of the same films. One of the standouts from this year’s festival, which was a part of the VOD plan, is Tarik Saleh’s “Metropia,” a wildly animated look at a dystopic world where the oil reserves are depleted and a grungy Europe is connected with a network of underground tubes. The film features the voices of Vincent Gallo, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Alexander Skarsgård, and Juliette Lewis. In the GreenCine Daily review, Aaron Hillis noted, “If Egyptian-Swedish filmmaker and animator Tarik Saleh’s noirishly stylized ‘Metropia’ feels a bit slack in dramatic originality (the hierarchy is Orwellian, the paranoia Kafka-esque—but hey, it’s co-written by ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”s posthumously popular Stig Larsson!), its ambitious vision certainly carries a wow factor.”
Bonus! A film from our parent company, SnagFilms, the ever-important account of the Japanese invasion of Nanking, Bill Guttentag & Dan Sturman’s Sundance ’07 title “Nanking”: