Lola Montès (Criterion Collection DVD and Blu-ray)
Max Ophuls' 1955 Lola Montès endured many of the same heartbreaks and indignities as its title character: It was misunderstood, manipulated, abused, and abandoned. Now Criterion has righted the old wrongs by issuing a gorgeous transfer of a recent restoration. Martine Carol plays the titular real-life heroine, a dancer in 19th-century Europe who, in this telling, loved whom she wanted (including Franz Liszt and King Ludwig I of Bavaria) how she wanted, and, of course, publicly paid the proto-feminist price. Lola's lush art direction and Technicolor opulence astonish, as does Ophuls' deft emotional touch. Suggested double feature: Jane Campion's exquisite John Keats/Fanny Brawne biopic Bright Star.
America Lost and Found: The BBS Story (Criterion Collection DVD and Blu-ray box sets)
The youthquake in American film in the late '60s and early '70s still shapes the movies we watch today, and maverick production shingle BBS was ground zero. Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, and The Last Picture Show are as seminal and iconic as any American films of any era, but relative obscurities such as Head (the Monkees' psychedelic A Hard Day's Night) and The King of Marvin Gardens give this box-set snapshot of a moment even more depth and nuance. SDF: This should keep you busy.
The Elia Kazan Collection (20th Century Fox DVD box set)
A Streetcar Named Desire. On the Waterfront. East of Eden. A Face in the Crowd. Director Elia Kazan's filmography is lousy with classic titles, most of them available on DVD before. This 18-disc set collects the expected peaks, as well as the more unusual contours (e.g. the salacious Baby Doll), plus five films never before on DVD, from the highly personal America, America to the East Tennessee-set Wild River, plus a career-spanning doc. SDF: With 16 films, there isn't much need.
Red Riding (IFC DVD and Blu-ray)
This British trilogy touches down in the grim north of England in 1974, 1980, and 1983, shadowing the cops and reporters who puzzle over a series of grievous murders. Of course, in the England of Red Riding, the police are as likely to murder as any local deviant and the get-along go-along nature of local power is perhaps the greatest evil. Fans of HBO-style long-arc storytelling must not miss this. SDF: Hong Kong director Johnnie To's hard-boiled Vengeance, as terse as Red Riding is expansive.
Restrepo (Virgil DVD and Blu-ray)
The nearly decade-old war in Afghanistan as seen from the perspective of a U.S. Army infantry company under fire and taking casualties in the Korengal Valley. As insulated from the realities of daily combat to an uncertain end as most of us remain, it's hard not to be haunted by this gripping documentary. And maybe that's a good thing. SDF: The Oath's fascinating, slippery portrait of two members of Al-Qaeda.
House (Criterion Collection DVD and Blu-ray)
Nobuhiko Ôbayashi's 1977 cult obscurity takes the usual horror-flick tropes—a small group of mismatched teens, the secretly sinister host, the isolated manse, the rising tide of evil—and shoots them through an absolutely loony, borderline psychotropic mix of crazed camerawork, frenzied editing, and surreal imaginings (a disembodied ass-biting head, a carnivorous piano, a hapless older man turned into a man-shaped heap of bananas for no apparent reason). Good-bad at its best. SDF: Surreal Communist-bloc fantasia Taxidermia.
The Complete Metropolis (Kino Lorber DVD and Blu-ray)
One of the cornerstones of silent cinema/historic sci-fi returns with 25 additional minutes of footage assumed to be lost forever until a print of the film's 1927 original cut turned up in Argentina. The new stuff mostly adds nuance and shading to Fritz Lang's indelible vision of a stratified future society, but the restored transfer helps make it an essential issue. SDF: The Criterion Collection's new edition of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times.
Valhalla Rising (IFC DVD)
Dutch director Nicolas Winding Refn's brooding, violent tale of a mute one-eyed warrior (Mads Mikkelsen) tagging along on the Vikings' accidental discovery of America is a midnight movie of the old school: inscrutable, indulgent, and tapped into the ineffable. SDF: The zippy Romans-on-the-run Centurion, total B-movie gold.
I Am Love (Magnolia DVD and Blu-ray)
Another year, another fabulous Tilda Swinton performance that never got near a theater screen in most U.S. markets. Here she's a well-to-do Italian wife and mother who stumbles across a most unexpected chance at soul-shaking romance with a younger man. A brave gamble of a film in every respect. SDF: Service, a slice-of-life family drama set in a porn theater in the Philippines.
The Thin Red Line (Criterion Collection DVD and Blu-ray)
Terrence's Malick's profound and poetic account of the battle for Guadalcanal during World War II from 1999 gets a well-deserved Criterion issue. SDF: Ang Lee's Civil War epic Ride With the Devil, another undersung recent classic given the Criterion stamp.