This week on DVD/Blu-ray: One of the biggest breakouts of last year’s Sundance Film Festival; Ti West’s creepy follow-up to “The House of the Devil”; a heart-wrenching documentary, approved by Oprah; the TV mini-series that came before the Oscar-nominated “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy;” and an account of what went on behind-the-scenes of the groundbreaking 1973 reality show, “An American Family.”
Writer/director Dee Rees came into last year’s Sundance Film Festival as a relative unknown and emerged as a filmmaker to contend with. Her feature directorial debut, the moving coming-of-age drama “Pariah,” screened on the opening night of the event, garnering a wealth of critical praise upon its unveiling and a rich distribution deal with Focus Features a few days later.
In the Brooklyn-set drama, touted newcomer Adepero Oduye stars as Alike, a 17-year-old girl grappling with the challenge of coming out to her strict parents.
The film hits all the notes the genre demands, but it does so with a rawness that sets it apart from the pack. And Oduye is a complete revelation. Rees deservingly won the Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Director.
Go HERE for out chat with Rees following her win.
Extras: Sadly there’s not much here, but the film more than makes up for it. What you’ll find are three short featurettes that offer a brief behind-the scenes look at Rees’ debut.
Fans of Ti West’s “The House of the Devil,” will no doubt appreaciate the slow build of his creepy follow-up, “The Innkeepers.” In the supernatural thriller, Sara Paxton (“Shark Night 3D”) stars as an employee of The Yankee Pedlar Inn, believed to be one of New England’s most haunted hotels. Before it closes its doors for good, Paxton’s character sets out to prove that the haunting is for real. Cue the screams.
Here’s what Eric Kohn had to say about the film: “The stakes never go that high in ‘The Innkeepers.’ West, who demonstrated a penchant for extensive build-ups in ‘The House of the Devil’ and ‘Trigger Man,’ continually makes it unclear if the inn actually harbors a ghost or if his heroine (Sara Paxton) has simply imagines it. Both she and her hilariously frazzled co-worker (Pat Healy of ‘Great World of Sound’) want to believe in supernatural affairs for the thrill factor alone.”
Extras: In addition to short behind-the scenes look, there are two great commentaries to keep you busy. West is joined by his producers and 2nd unit director in the first; the second features West with his stars Paxton and Healy.
In Yoav Potash’s first full-length feature documentary, “Crime After Crime,” the filmmaker went to great lengths to follow the epic legal battle to free Deborah Peagler. To gain access to the maximum-security prison in Chowchilla, California where Peagler was incarcerated, he used a two-pronged approach; first he embedded himself with Peagler’s pro-bono attorneys as her official legal videographer, and second, he made an entirely separate documentary about the rehabilitative programs at the prison – a project that acted as a sort of Trojan horse to surreptitiously transport Potash and his crew inside the prison gates. The plan payed off. Following its world premiere at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Crime After Crime” got picked up by Oprah’s OWN Documentary network.
HERE the director shares a scene with Indiewire.
Extras: A lot of good stuff here. You’ll find a featurette on Peagler’s story, a Sundance Q&A, deleted scenes, film crew bios and info about Debbie’s campaign, a nonprofit project to help prevent domestic violence and wrongful incarceration.
#4. “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” (The TV Miniseries)
Before Gary Oldman came along to net his first Academy Award nomination for his brilliant turn as George Smiley, an espionage veteran who comes out of retirement to help uncover a Soviet mole in MI6’s ranks in “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”; Alec Guiness won a BAFTA TV Award for playing the same role in the acclaimed 1980 BBC miniseries adaptation of John le Carre’s spy novel. If you’re a fan of Tomas Alfredson’s film, you’ll no doubt want to see this sterling take that provides a easier-to-follow narrative, thanks to its expanded running time.
Extras: Fans of the show will be delighted. Included are some deleted scenes; an interview with John le Carre; production notes; a most helpful glossary of main characters and terms; and an interview with director John Irvin (“The Dogs of War”).
#5. “Cinema Verite”
If you think our culture’s fixation with reality TV is a relatively new fad, the HBO film “Cinema Verite” will change your tune. The film, starring James Gandolfini, Diane Lane and Tim Robbins, offers a fictionalized behind-the-scenes look at the making of “An American Family,” the groundbreaking 1973 PBS documentary series that documented the inner-workings of the middle-class Loud family, warts and all.
Extras: Included is the making-of featurette “The Making of Cinema Verite,” along with an informative audio commentary from directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (“American Splendor”) and Lane.