Sunday, June 17, 2012

Best of 2011 Now on DVD

When Summer Blockbusters Don't Do It
by Mark Dispenza

The kids are out of school and the studios want their money... and yours.  It's the season of the summer blockbuster.

Not wanting to leave money on the table, the larger distribution houses have picked up a few eagerly awaited indies for the summer, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Woody Allen's To Rome with Love among them, but we know it's never going to be enough to fill the void and satisfy the longing for good, adult stories.  For those quiet times when the young people are out with their friends and the grand kids are back home from their visit, here are a few recent releases of outstanding indies from the last awards season.

The Artist

Not only is The Artist a good film, but as a silent movie it's absolutely perfect for those who seek serious quiet time.  You'll need to read the subtitles, but it's well worth the effort.  This marvelously entertaining film won five Oscars, including Best Picture, and numerous other awards.

Jeff, Who Lives at Home

Scheduled for DVD release on June 19, this film is the best yet from brothers Jay and Mark Duplass.  Like most of the other Duplass films, this one centers on a dysfunctional family and tells a wonderful story about finding the joys of life right in your own backyard.

We Need to Talk about Kevin 

Tilda Swinton deals with the unthinkable when her son becomes the perpetrator of a ripped-from-the-headlines mass murder at his high school.  This film is particularly noteworthy both for Swinton's performance and its unique style of non-linear storytelling.


Not for the squeamish, this film takes a hard look at the long-term consequences of uncontrolled rage and domestic violence.  Amid the horror there is an unexpected and touching humanity that makes this film both satisfying and watchable.


Made in the Phillipines on a shoestring budget, John Sayles said this may be his last indie film.  Let's hope not.  The story takes place during the mostly unknown events of the Phillippine-American War.  The players may look different, but in every war they're the same.


These are a few titles from last year that have been out on DVD for a while, but you may have missed them. Shame on you.

The Descendants - A terrific cast headlined by George Clooney plays family members who explore themes of life and death, love and loss, and the sacrifice of doing the right thing while their wife and mother lies comatose.

Midnight in Paris - Prepare for the upcoming theatrical release of To Rome with Love via a stopover in Paris for Woody Allen's most entertaining and highest grossing film ever.  It may be a romantically self-indulgent view of Paris, but that's exactly the point in this wonderfully enjoyable film.

Attack the Block - You might be tricked into believing those grand kids are still around while listening to all the teen slang in this wonderful cross-genre mash-up from across the pond.  Its theatrical release in the USA was on the same day as the big budget Cowboys & Aliens.  By the time disappointed audiences turned away from that film, Attack the Block was already gone.

Drive - Last year I recommended that you add this film to your guilty pleasure list.  Now you can watch it in the privacy of your own home... over and over again.  It's a must-see for Ryan Gosling fans.

Submarine - A coming-of-age film for both teens and adults, it tells a wonderful story about sustaining love in a world where the pressures of life are always threatening to drive us apart.


The Double Hour - After plying the film festival circuit last year, this Italian noir thriller has finally been released to DVD in the USA.  Your perception of reality will be challenged in this ground-breaking twist on an old genre.

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