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April 2014 Home Video Picks

A look forward at the month's most interesting home video titles, from banner local releases and Criterion Collection special editions to international exclusives.

Breaking the Waves (dir. Lars von Trier, 1996)

Criterion’s April slate of releases is potentially one of its least impressive in quite some time, and even then, most of the releases are at least intriguing. Sitting atop the bunch is Danish provocateur Lars von Trier’s breakout film Breaking the Waves, the first of his “Golden Heart” trilogy (which also includes The Idiots and Dancer in the Dark). With Lars’ latest Nymphomaniac dominating the discussions of many a cinephile, it is timely that von Trier’s tale of sex and transcendence is released in high definition. The presentation was supervised by von Trier himself, the disc is packed with bonus features and the package includes a booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt. It will be quite the talking point post-viewing if nothing else. Released in the United States on April 15, 2014 — Dual Format DVD/Blu-ray.

Double Indemnity (dir. Billy Wilder, 1944) & Touch of Evil (dir. Orson Welles, 1958)

Basically a re-packaging of the fantastic Masters of Cinema discs released a few years back, it’s hard to look past these two classic American film noir releases. Marketed as “Limited Edition” (let’s see how long for), these discs will surely bring joy to any purveyor of dark and mysterious cinema. Despite being released in other regions, it’s pretty much impossible not to mention these two towering achievements of nihilistic, noir cinema. Released in the United States on April 15, 2014 — Blu-ray.

Five Films from Satyajit Ray

It’s pretty difficult to get Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray’s films on DVD, let alone Blu-ray, and thanks to the fantastic folks over at UK distribution company Artificial Eye you get not one but five of this master filmmaker’s works in one box set. Comprised of The Big City (1963), The Lonely Wife (1964), The Hero (1966), The Coward (1965) and The Holy Man (1965), this box set displays the crystallisation of Ray’s form, with some of these films being considered the best the filmmaker ever made. Although it’s thin on the extras, the fact that these social dramas are even available in the high-definition format is something to be thankful for and should be very much considered for any cinephile’s collection. Released in the United Kingdom on April 14, 2014 — Blu-ray.

Pom Poko (dir. Isao Takahata, 1994)

Hayao Miyazaki might be the flagship director of Japan’s infamous Studio Ghibli, but his partner in crime, Isao Takahata, is perhaps the most intriguing. While his filmic output is lacking in volume he certainly makes up for it in variation, with each of his films being stylistically different and more experimental than the last. While Pom Poko is one of his more mainstream efforts, that doesn’t mean it is any less charming or insightful. Based on Japanese folklore, the film follows a group of tanuki (Japanese raccoon dogs) and their efforts in combating the suburban development that is encroaching upon and threatening their environment. Previous high definition Studio Ghibli releases have been consistently impressive, and surely this one will continue the tradition of stunning image and sound and bonus features. Released in the United Kingdom and Australia on April 15, 2014 — Blu-ray.

Sisters (dir. Brian De Palma, 1973)

Brian De Palma’s Hitchcockian exercises are an acquired taste, as sometimes his wild and uncanny appropriations of the horror master’s work can be off-putting. If you fall into the camp of loving De Palma’s idiosyncratic tributes (and frankly, you probably should), then this release of his 1973 film Sisters will have you more than excited. Especially considering that it’s being released through Arrow, a British company that excels at putting out quality horror and exploitation discs. If a horror/thriller about a murder plot involving twin sisters doesn’t excite you, then perhaps you should look elsewhere. But for anyone else, the special features contained here (as well as the film of course), will leave you giddy in anticipation. Released in the United Kingdom on April 28, 2014 — Dual Format DVD/Blu-ray.

Sorcerer (dir. William Friedkin, 1977)

Warner Bros. love to package their best and most famous films in a lovely digibook style (at least for a limited time), and the fact that they have decided to put William Friedkin’s crazy 1977 thriller Sorcerer in with the digibook crowd is exciting to say the least. While Sorcerer was initially a flop and poorly received critically, it has since become somewhat of a cult classic, with more and more people finding out about and subsequently loving the odd, existential thriller. An overlooked masterpiece or a cutting room mishap? There’s only one way to find out. Released in the United States on April 22nd — Blu-ray.

The Foul King (dir. Kim Jee-Woon, 2000)

South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon is now famous for a number of films, most notably 2005’s A Bittersweet Life, 2008’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird and 2013’s English language, Arnold Schwarzenegger-driven action film The Last Stand. Coming out of the early 2000s Korean New Wave (of sorts), Jee-Woon is a filmmaker of significant style and energy who has made some of the most exciting action/thriller films of the last ten years. Therefore, it’s quite exciting to note that one of his very early films, 2000’s The Foul King is getting released in an incredibly impressive looking Limited Edition in his native Korea. An offbeat comedy, The Foul King follows Kang Ho-Song (Memories of Murder, The Host) as he transforms from office clerk to masked wrestler. Always interesting to see the early works of a director, with this new Blu-ray you can see just how sophisticated Kim Jee-Woon was, even at this early stage. Released in South Korea on April 28th — Blu-ray.

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