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Why ‘Monsieur Lazhar’ Tops Indiewire’s 5 DVD/Blu-ray Picks This Week

Why 'Monsieur Lazhar' Tops Indiewire's 5 DVD/Blu-ray Picks This Week

This week on DVD/Blu-ray: Canada’s moving Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film; a horror flick from the guy that brought you “The Blair Witch Project”; The Who’s classic rock opera; a cool and brutal Scandinavian thriller; and the latest comedy from the director of “The Big Chill.”

#1. “Monsieur Lazhar

For better or worse, the teacher/classroom genre is a Hollywood staple. From “Dangerous Minds” and “Freedom Writers” to “Mr. Holland’s Opus” and “Dead Poets Society,” these films tend to follow a standard plot formula (and often reap considerable box office and Oscar nominations anyway). Quebecois import “Monsieur Lazhar” — fresh off an Academy Award nomination for foreign language film — manages to transcend the genre with a moving, realistic take on student-teacher relations.

Directed by Philippe Falardeau, the film follows Bachir Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag), an Algerian immigrant who is hired to replace a teacher at a Montreal elementary school who kills herself. Honest and sincere in a manner rare to its Hollywood counterparts, “Lazhar” is a powerful little film that effectively takes on a multitude of issues permeating today’s society.

READ MORE: Here’s 8 Great Teacher/Student Films, In Honor of ‘Monsieur Lazhar’

Extras: A half-hour sitdown (in French) between Falardeau and writer Evelyne de la Cheneliere (who wrote the one-man play on which Falardeau based his screenplay); a 20-minute Q&A with Falardeau; audition tapes from the young actors who play Alice and Simon; and the theatrical trailer.

#2. “Lovely Molly

Director Eduardo Sanchez helped begin the found footage genre when he co-directed “The Blair Witch Project” 13 years ago. Plenty of other directors have since added their own takes, with diminishing results (“The Devil Inside,” anyone?), but Sanchez revisits the style again in his latest horror film “Lovely Molly” with some terrifying results. Using a standard narrative with intermittent first-person POV footage, the film finds a newlywed woman moving into her abandoned childhood home. She starts experiencing strange, terrifying events and believes a malevolent force is out to get her and her family.

Extras: Three featurettes, each around seven minutes in length; the theatrical trailer; and trailers for “The Double,” “Beneath the Darkness” and “Monster Brawl.”

#3. “Quadrophenia” (Criterion Collection)

With The Who all the rage again thanks to the London Olympics closing night ceremony, the Criterion Collection has released the groups’ classic rock opera “Quadrophenia” on their label. Directed by Franc Roddam, “Quadrophenia” is one of the quintessential chronicles of youthful rebellion and turmoil, with Pete Townshend’s roaring songs (including “I’ve Had Enough” and “Love Reign O’er Me”) leading the fray. The film centers on Jimmy (Phil Daniels), a teenager who spends his time scooter-driving and pill-popping with his fellow mods. Tension ensues when his group decides to act on their contempt for the motorcycle-riding rockers in town.

Extras: New audio commentary featuring Roddam and Tufano; a new interview with Bill Curbishley, the film’s coproducer and The Who’s comanager; a new interview with The Who’s sound engineer, Bob Pridden, featuring a discussion of the new mix as well as a restoration demonstration; a segment on the film from a 1979 episode of the BBC series “Talking Pictures” featuring interviews and on-set footage; a segment from a 1964 episode of the French news program “Sept jours du monde,” about mods and rockers; a 1965 episode of a French youth-culture program, featuring early footage of The Who; plus a booklet featuring an essay by critic Howard Hampton, a 1985 personal history by original mod Irish Jack, and Pete Townshend’s liner notes from the 1973 album.

#4. “Headhunters

Hollywood could learn a thing or two from “Headhunters,” a Norweigan thriller puts the majority of its American counterparts to shame with top knotch storytelling that thrills while not leaving your brain out to dry. Askel Hennie stars as Roger Brown, an accomplished headhunter who leads as double-life as an art thief to pay for his lavish lifestyle. When his wife introduces him to a former mercenary (played by “Game of Thrones” hunk Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Brown learns that said man is in possession of a valuable painting by Rubens. Intent to get rid of all his financial problems for good, Brown sets out to steal the art piece, but things get complicated when he learns the ex-mercenary has some tricks of his own up his sleeve.

Extras: A making-of featurette.

#5. “Darling Companion

Actor Kevin Kline has had a long career in Hollywood, but some of his greatest collaborations have been with director/writer Lawrence Kasdan. Together, the two have worked on six films including “The Big Chill,” “Silverado,” “I Love You to Death,” “Grand Canyon,” “French Kiss” and their latest effort, “Darling Companion.” The film marks Kasdan’s first independent feature, but is just the latest in a line of many charting back to “The Ice Storm” for Kline. In the comedy, Kline plays a self-absorbed surgeon whose wife (Diane Keaton) rescues a dog from the side of the road. When he loses said animal, a shaggy-dog search adventure plays out, drawing together friends and family. Richard Jenkins, Dianne Weist, Elizabeth Moss, Mark Duplass and Sam Shepard round out the stellar ensemble.

READ MORE: Kevin Kline on Shooting Independent Films, His Mumblecore Resentment and Making ‘Darling Companion’

Extras: Audio commentary with Kasdan, Meg Kasdan and Kevin Kline, and four making-of featurettes (“Darling Companion: Behind the Scenes,” “Finding Freeway: Dog People,” “On the Carpet: New York Premiere” and “Behind the Scenes: Lawrence Kasdan”).

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