Billy Gil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has worked for People and Daily Variety. He is the editor of the Pipeline section and IndieFile, both of which highlight independent films on DVD. For IndieFile tips and inquiries, email firstname.lastname@example.org. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (email@example.com). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.
Sid & Nancy: 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray
BD $24.99 (Amazon)
The legendary story of Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious and his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen, who was found dead in their Chelsea Hotel room, as indelibly played by Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb, is coming Blu-ray with the featurettes “For the Love of Punk” and “Junk Love.”
Ewan McGregor plays a man named Oliver who is having a mid-life crisis when his father, who comes out of the closet shortly after Oliver’s mother dies, begins to die of cancer. Better, funnier and more complex than most any film this year. Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of the father isn’t to be missed.
BD $34.98 (Amazon)
A starless indie sleeper about a student who, after an accident with tragic consequences, finds another Earth in the sky.
People have been talking about this movie all year, and it’s out on disc soon — great, hilarious movie about teens in London defending their housing project from alien invaders.
• Acorn Media Group is expanding Acorn TV to stream more British miniseries, giving subscribers a choice of a full season from 10 series at any given time to stream online. The first episode is free; $24.99 a year grants Acorn Premium subscribers unlimited access to all episodes in each selected season. Shows have included such shows my parents like to watch as “Upstairs Downstairs,” “Doc Martin” and “Midsomer Murders.” It’s at www.AcornOnline.com, and is accessible via the PC, iPhones, iPads, Apple TV and Google TV.
• SnagFilms has announced deals giving it access to narrative films, in addition to the more than 2,300 documentary films it already boasts. In addition to expanding the SnagFilms.com site, the service is soon expanding to Apple iOs, Blackberry and Android systems; to more pay-TV providers such as DirecTV; and other platforms such as Xbox Live — it’s already on Comcast’s Xfinity and Verizon FiOS systems. SnagFilms titles are available as pay streams on demand or pay downloads.
• Woman’s Picture, a 10-year anthology film series by Brian Pera, premieres via VOD Nov. 14 at www.evelynavenue.com. The short films inspired by classic women’s films of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s kicks off with Miriam, starring Ann Magnuson, about a home shopping channel host whose inability to successfully juggle work and family causes her to re-examine her life. Additionally, Pera has partnered with perfume designer Andy Tauer for a new fragrance line, Tableau de Parfums, inspired by some of the themes of the series. The Miriam fragrance will be packaged with a DVD of that film and a novelette related to the character.
• RaroVideo is bowing its first-ever Blu-ray Disc release with Federico Fellini’s The Clowns. The restored version of Fellini’s surreal pseudo-memoir, covering his fascination with clowns and exploring themes of authority, poverty, humility and arrogance, releases Oct. 17 at $39.98. The disc includes a short film by Fellini, Un Agenzia Matrimoniale; a video essay on the formation of the film; and a 50-page booklet with exclusive Fellini drawings.
Independent film distributor Osiris Entertainment will see its content streaming on Netflix starting Oct. 15, according to Osiris.
New titles to stream through a third-party aggregator deal include Solitary, An American in China, Eva, Tricks of a Woman, A Lure, Dumping Lisa and The Fall, with the film Weakness available starting Dec. 6. Library titles in the deal include Amanda, Cayman Went, Road of No Return, Alpha Bots Christmas, Bonanza: Dark Star, Christmas Classics: Vol. 1, Holiday Favorites Volume 1-5, Miracle on 34th Street, Popeye & Friends, Santa and the Three Bears, Santa Claus, Superman Cartoons, The Swiss Family Robinson and Zulu.
“Because Osiris distributes quality entertainment from a variety of genres, our films attract a wide range of viewers, which is crucial in order to stay on top as a supplier within the burgeoning world of digital distribution,” said Osiris CEO Evan Crooke.
Just don't expect to rent them on DVD from Netflix — try Qwikster!
Streaming site FlixFling is starting a channel for independent filmmakers called IndieFling.
The cool thing about IndieFling is that it will be open to ANY film longer than 60 minutes — yes, that means you can submit that live-action role-playing “Lord of the Rings” epic you filmed in your backyard. Once approved, the films will be available to rent or purchase for a one-year period, with proceeds shared with the filmmaker.
FlixFling plans to promote the indie channel to its community. It does not plan to accept short films.
“We're excited to support the independent film community with IndieFling,” says FlixFling CEO, Thomas Ashley. “As it becomes more difficult to independently distribute a film, it's great to provide a venue for filmmakers to showcase their work.”
To submit, filmmakers should send a physical copy of the film and a completed packet (available at blog.flixfling.com) to FlixFling, which will charge a small fee to cover the cost of reviewing and uploading the film and its data. There are no judgments made by FlixFling on the film itself; it just has to follow certain guidelines set on the site.
Often documentary films made about or in Mexico focus on the immigrant experience. The desire to do something different — to make a film about everyday people struggling to make it in Mexico — is what drove Aaron Schock to make his first film, first envisioned as a documentary about corn farmers in Mexico.
But, by happenstance, he watched a traveling circus come into town while filming in Mexico. He became intrigued by the family behind the traveling circus and after hitting it off with them, ended up filming them on-and-off for 21 months.
The resulting film is the lively Circo, which First Run Features will release on DVD Sept. 20 at $27.95. The film follows the Ponce family as they take their family-owned and -operated circus around rural towns in Mexico.
“I was fortunate to find folks who were open to outsiders and having someone enter their unique world,” Schock explained. “They’re also people who are used to being seen, in some ways. They’re performers; they’re used to being on the stage and having an audience. I think for them, from the beginning, for me to go in and film them doing their show — even filming them in their daily lives, setting up and taking down the circus — seemed normal to them.”
The result is quite candid, as we see the struggles the Ponce family deals with. Tino keeps the show together, with his wife, Ivonne, and their children, who perform in the show as contortionists and tightrope walkers. But Ivonne wants her children to have a more normal life — and for the family to make their own money, instead of handing over the lion’s share to Tino’s father, who runs the show, causing marital tension.
“The themes that kind of became of interest to me [while filming] were this question of filial responsibility — what it is we owe to parents and what they owe to us — and how complicated that can be,” Schock said. “Different times, different cultures and so on have different ways of dealing with that, and I felt I was [filming during] a time in which that was changing from one generation to the next.
“I think that’s what you’re seeing in Mexico now,” he added. “People are coming to the U.S. for their kids, not for themselves.”
But the film is not necessarily political in nature, Schock said.
“It’s about how tradition can be a gift, as well as a burden,” he said. “I think more simply it’s really about a family that is just struggling to make a living in rural Mexico. If I have any real agenda with the film, other than exploring universal themes and entertaining audiences … it’s to have some sense of sympathy for how hard people really do work in that part of the world, and have some kind of sympathy for people who eventually do have to flee that to come to the U.S.”
The Circo DVD comes with three featurettes: a making-of featurette with Schock, a follow-up with Ponces and a featurette with the band Calexico, who scored the film and released a soundtrack separately on CD via their own Casa de Calexico label. And for those who fall in love with the Ponces, as Schock did, donations can be made to the family at www.circomexico.com.
David Lynch, auteur behind some of our generation’s best films (Mulholland Dr., The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet) and one awesomely weird, massively influential TV show (“Twin Peaks”) has slated his first album.
Crazy Clown Time (LOL) will be released Nov. 8 by British label Sunday Best Recordings/PIAS in America. He’s already released two tracks, the noirish “Good Day Today” and “I Know,” and his new album will feature guest spots from the likes of Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
Music always has figured in greatly to Lynch’s films, and he’s no stranger to musical composition — Eraserhead had “In Heaven,” which he wrote with Peter Ivers, and Inland Empire had several songs written by Lynch. Thus far, the new songs have a tone similar to his films … so fans have a lot to look forward to.
Just for fun, I thought I’d name the top Lynch discs out there — and if you don’t have money to shell out for the “Twin Peaks” set, catch it on Netflix streaming!
Top 10 David Lynch Discs
• Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box Edition (Paramount)
• David Lynch The Lime Green Set (with Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Wild At Heart, The Short Films of David Lynch and more) (Absurda)
• Blue Velvet (Special Edition) (MGM)
• Mulholland Dr. (Universal)
• Inland Empire (Limited Edition Two-Disc Set) (Absurda/Rhino)
• Eraserhead (Absurda/Ryko)
• Lost Highway (Universal)
• The Elephant Man (Paramount)
• Lynch: One (Absurda)
• Dune (Blu-ray) (Universal)
P.S. Write to Lynch to demand more of his films be made available on Blu-ray Disc.
Robin Wright and James McAvoy in 'The Conspirator'
Perhaps with the notion that a movie can be the best way to get across a complicated historical event such as the assassination of President Lincoln — high-school teachers must play movies in class for a reason — the American Film Company has dedicated itself to providing filmed versions of history and adaptations of iconic literature.
Its first release was The Conspirator, about the trials and aftermath of the Lincoln assassination, which made more than $10 million at the U.S. box office. Lionsgate will release the film, directed by film icon Robert Redford, in a two-DVD set ($29.95) and on Blu-ray Disc ($39.99) Aug. 16.
The company spent a couple of years digging through scripts before finding The Conspirator, which tells the story of Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), a woman charged as a co-conspirator in the assassination, and the young attorney (James McAvoy) who reluctantly defends her as the nation (and he) scorns her.
“We said ‘wow,’ this is one of the best unproduced scripts each of us had ever read,” explains producer Rob Stone, of The American Film Company. “Redford had always been in our top choices, but I don’t think any of us believed we could get the Sundance kid to direct our maiden film.”
But Robert Redford “apparently found it utterly mesmerizing,” according to Stone, and did agree to direct.
“Redford liked that it was a human story and background to a story a lot of people already knew,” Stone said.
Stone said the film and its portrayal of a rush to judgment and justice is relevant now, but perhaps not in the way in which some may think.
“Frankly I think the irony is, most people may think this is an allegory of how bad things are,” Stone said. “Interestingly, for me, it’s just the opposite. It is the rules of evidence, the rules of testimony, of how everything is run — even for Guantanamo detainees — is extraordinary compared to this trial, which was an utter kangaroo court. There was no due process of justice.”
The Blu-ray includes a video commentary with Redford, the feature-length documentary “The Conspirator: The Plot to Kill Lincoln,” an introduction to the American Film Company, a making-of featurette, a featurette introducing the history behind the film, nine more featurettes exploring the production and background of the film, and photo galleries. The DVD version includes the same featurettes, only with an audio commentary with Redford instead of a video one.
Stone says the film has been and will be pushed to such niche markets as museums and Civil War re-enactment groups, as well as schools. Teachers can find free supplemental material at www.theamericanfilmcompany.com.
The film also stars Alexis Bledel, Justin Long, Evan Rachel Wood, Kevin Kline and Tom Wilkinson.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on Sept. 27th will launch its new Fox World Cinema line of global, festival-favorite films on disc and VOD.
First up are China’s The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman; India’s Dum Maaro Dum; and Italy’s Angel of Evil. DVDs cost $29.98; prebook is Aug. 17.
Additionally, the label will rebrand Slumdog Millionaire, La Misma Luna; Night Watch, Day Watch; and My Name Is Khan, under the new label.
“Filmmakers around the world are creating provocative and entertaining films, many of which are rarely seen outside their native countries,” said Mary Daily, EVP of marketing with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. “With Fox World Cinema, we are committed to introducing these films to passionate audiences in America that are eager to embrace a range of cultures and experiences.”
Marital arts film The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman, about the journey of a mystical blade passing through the hands of three men, previously was released through VOD July 12.
Dum Maaro Dum, starring Bollywood superstars Abhishek Bachchan and Bipasha Basu, follows a cop trying to take on the mafia and a college student who turns to crime when his scholarship falls through. The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Angel of Evil received eight David di Donatello nominations from the Italian Academy and is based on the memoirs of gang leader Renato Vallanzasca. The DVD includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, and deleted and extended scenes.
Image Entertainment has debuted the Image Midnight Madness series, featuring vintage ’80s horror films from Lakeshore Entertainment.
Due Sept. 6 are Children of the Corn (DVD and BD) Hellraiser (DVD and BD), Hellbound: Hellraiser II (DVD and BD), Creepshow 2 (from Stephen King and George Romero; DVD), Elvira: Mistress of the Dark (DVD), Return of the Killer Tomatoes (DVD), Vamp (starring Grace Jones; DVD and Blu-ray), House (DVD), House II (DVD), Return to Horror High (DVD) and Transylvania 6-5000 (DVD).
Streeting on DVD Sept. 20 are Dead End Drive-In, Flowers in the Attic, Slugs, The Stuff and Chud.
All DVDs are listed at $9.98 and Blu-rays at $17.97.
The Independent Film & Television Alliance and a coalition of its member companies join the chorus announcing “copyright alerts.”
The system is set to educate and notify Internet users when their accounts are identified as being misused for online content theft.
“It’s extremely gratifying to see the music and film industry — independents and majors alike — and ISPs unite in a time of crisis and work tirelessly together for a common goal,” said Jean Prewitt, IFTA president and CEO. “The only way to temper the spread of online content theft is by educating consumers about the problem and about the available legitimate sources of content. This voluntary program is unprecedented, and we are eager to see the positive effects for independent companies and the industry overall.”
Rob Friedman, co-chairman and CEO of Summit Entertainment, an IFTA-member company, echoed the statement.
“Content theft continues to be a threat to our business both here and abroad,” he said. “Initiatives such as a common framework for ‘copyright alerts’ are a positive step toward both curbing the efforts of online content theft and educating consumers as to how their online accounts can be used by thieves to further their illegal activities.”
It remains to be seen how these alerts actually work — which peer-to-peer operators they target — and if they'll eventually go after illegal streaming, which they currently won't.