Margaret (Fox Searchlight)
Nearly seven years after it finished shooting, Kenneth Lonergan’s infamously snake-bit film about a teenage girl (Anna Paquin) dealing with trauma and truth in post-Sept. 11 New York finally made it past disgruntled studio execs. It earns this spot on its own, but the Blu-ray version includes not only the Martin Scorsese-overseen 150-minute theatrical cut, but Lonergan’s 186-minute “extended cut,” which is more indulgent, more interesting, and not like much else you’ve seen recently. Bundled together they present two distinctive takes on of one of the best films of the young decade and offer a tantalizing study of a film as it represents auteurial intentions, market demands, and the choices filmmakers make.
Heaven’s Gate (The Criterion Collection)
After serving as a synonym for “bloated debacle” for a generation of moviegoers, director Michael Cimino’s 1980 Western-epic Waterloo re-emerges ripe for re-evaluation. It is, after all, a film about rich people (here, Wyoming cattle ranchers) going to war against poor people (immigrant sodbusters), and its jaw-dropping scale is a tonic in these green-screened times.
Beyond the Black Rainbow (Magnolia)
This is worth seeing on Blu-ray, though perhaps its true spiritual format is a big-box VHS tape. Panos Cosmatos’ stoner-tastic throwback/homage to the giallo horror cinema of the early ’80s is a lurid nightmare defined by its retro trappings, visual sumptuousness, and the genuine uncanniness of its irrational dread.
Weekend (The Criterion Collection)
Like Heaven’s Gate, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1968 classic-period coda returns to home video at a moment when its die-yuppie-scum polemics are poised to win over a new audience. Not that Weekend’s rampant revolutionary rhetoric is a crowd-pleaser, but its picaresque careen through a disintegrating French countryside is much more blackly funny than it has a right to be. Also: the eight-minute traffic-jam tracking shot.
Alps (Kino Lorber)
Following up his breakout debut, Dogtooth, Greek director Yorgos Lathimos explores another small group of people with an unusual take on the world: They fill in for deceased loved ones to help survivors weather their grief. Alps is a less neatly worked out film, but in the end that only adds to the unexpected power of its study of naked human need.
Pierre (Isaie Sultan) adores his aunt Nadia (Beatrice Dalle), a forceful mathematician. But as he comes into his own as a young gay man, she is sinking into alcoholism, and the dynamic of their relationship begins to shift. Patric Chiha’s 2009 feature debut, finally making its way to domestic video, proceeds subtly but picks up enough steam that the ending quietly devastates.
Essential Killing (New Video Group)
This spot almost went to new B-action classic The Grey, a TNT staple in the making if there ever was one, but Jerzy Skolimowski’s comeback film provides a more loaded take on fleeing for your life through a frozen wilderness. Vincent Gallo (!) plays a renditioned Taliban fighter (!!!) wordlessly evading loutish American operatives across rural Europe. A surprisingly affecting meditation on the survival drive and a hell of a physical performance, plus you get to watch Gallo get tortured for an hour and a half, if that kind of thing makes you happy.
Last Days Here (MPI)
As this intimate 2011 documentary opens, Bobby Liebling is a degenerate junkie living in his parents’ Germantown, Md., sub-basement and teetering on the brink of death. From there, it recounts his past as an unsung doom-metal pioneer and tracks his uneven, woozy process toward something like recovery. Car-crash viewing at its finest.
When Horror Came to Shochiku (The Criterion Collection)
What a find. Criterion uses its no-frills Eclipse line to roll out a set of four delirious low-budget Japanese late-’60s horror flicks from the ordinarily tony studio Shochiku. Killer insects, atomic paranoia, ghost ships, Vietnam flashbacks, and space vampires with vulvic foreheads—none of these films is quite as brilliantly crazed as House, but they’re from the same general neighborhood.
This profane hockey comedy, starring Seann William Scott and Jay Baruchel (who also co-wrote), can’t live up to its obvious inspiration, Slap Shot, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t try its damnedest. Liev Schreiber = Villain of the Year.
And 10 more: Certified Copy (The Criterion Collection), The Turin Horse (Cinema Guild), The Snowtown Murders (MPI), Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present (Music Box), Weekend (dir. Andrew Haigh) (The Criterion Collection), Purple Noon (The Criterion Collection), Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Cinema Guild), V/H/S (Magnolia), Johnny Guitar (Olive), Blank City (Kino Lorber), House of Pleasures (MPI).