“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” William Faulkner famously wrote. “The Gift” (2015, Universal, R, $30) illustrates that adage with jaw-dropping intensity.
Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall star as Simon and Robyn, a married couple whose chance encounter with Simon’s high-school acquaintance Gordo (Joel Edgerton) has a big impact on their lives. Edgerton, who also wrote and directed, does a superb job mixing revenge, larceny and envy into a fresh and startling cocktail.
Just when you think you know what’s coming, Edgerton makes sure you don’t. Extras: deleted scenes, featurettes and Edgerton commentary.
Also New This Week
Tangerine: (2015, Magnolia, R, $28) For his follow-up to “Starlet,” Sean Baker unreels this superb look at the friendship between a number of transgender prostitutes in Los Angeles. Baker has such affection for all of his characters, from the working girls to their tricks and pimps, that it’s impossible not to get pulled into the adventures of Alexandra (Mya Taylor), Sin-Dee Rella (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Sin-Dee’s philandering boyfriend Chester (James Ransone.) Shot with an iPhone and set on Christmas Eve, “Tangerine” is funny, sexy, raunchy and warm-hearted. It’s a tiny miracle of movie that deserves to become a holiday perennial. Extras: featurettes.
Captivated – The Trials of Pamela Smart: (2015, Icarus, unrated, $20) This engrossing doc doesn’t so much make the case for Pamela Smart’s innocence as it argues that the barrage of media coverage, as well as the TV shows, books, plays and movies inspired by the case, made it impossible for Smart to get a fair trial. In some ways, Smart’s trial – the first to be televised gavel-to-gavel – was the beginning of the country’s addiction to reality TV. Director Jeremiah Zagar lets Smart tell her story but what really interests him is investigating how the glare of the spotlight effected everyone involved from the judge to potential witnesses to Smart herself. Extras: featurettes.
Self/Less: (2015, Universal, PG-13, $30) Ben Kingsley stars as a wealthy real estate magnate who cheats death by having his consciousness implanted into the body of a healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds). But no sooner does Kingsley make the switch than he discovers that the organization behind his “shedding” will stop at nothing to protect its cause. After a fairly gripping first act, “Self/Less” becomes a standard-issue action movie that squanders its set-up – borrowed from “Seconds” – on endless battles and nondescript chases. Extras: featurettes and commentary by director Tarsem Singh.
Winning – The Racing Life of Paul Newman: (2015, Kino, unrated, $25) If there’s any doubt that Paul Newman loved the internal combustion engine as much, if not more, than movies, this lively documentary by Adam Carolla sets the record straight. Newman was 47 years old when he started racing and he stuck with it, crashing a few times before getting good enough to nab four national championships and take second place at Le Mans. There’s plenty of fascinating info here, including Robert Redford’s admission that Newman was so obsessed with cars that he bored him silly on the subject. Extras: additional interviews.
Before We Go: (2015, Anchor Bay, PG-13, $22) Chris Evans makes his directorial debut with this lovely drama about a trumpet player (Evans) who spends a long winter night strolling through Manhattan with a married woman (Alice Eve) he meets by chance at Grand Central Station. Even though “Before We Go” borrows heavily from “Before Sunrise,” it still manages to feel fresh thanks to the chemistry between Evans and Eve and the suspense generated by a mysterious letter Eve begs a friend to retrieve from her Boston home. Extras: featurette.
Matt Shepard Is A Friend Of Mine: (2015, Virgil, unrated, $15) More than 15 years after his death, Matthew Shepard is remembered as a victim of one of the worse hate crimes in U.S. history. With this touching documentary, Shepard’s friend Michele Josue fills in the blanks of Shepard’s life, outlining his years abroad and focusing on the close relationships he shared with his folks and friends. Best of all, Josue succeeds in making Shepard come alive through interviews, home movies and journal entries. Extras: none.
Best Of Enemies: (2015, Magnolia, R, $25) Long before reality TV contests and news-as-spectacle programs , conservative William F. Buckley and liberal Gore Vidal turned political discourse into a bloodsport. In 1968, when ABC was running last in the ratings, it hired the intellectuals to provide commentary during the Republic and Democratic national conventions. The men delivered huge ratings with sizzling debates that often descended into name-calling. This entertaining, if repetitive, documentary serves up vintage clips of the two adversaries verbally pummeling each other like boxers in the ring . Extras: featurette and additional footage.
Full Moon In Paris: (1984, Film Movement, unrated, $30) Beautifully restored for its Blu-ray bow, Eric Rohmer’s drama centers on a young textile designer (Pascale Ogier) who’s in danger of spreading herself a bit too thin. Feeling trapped by her life in the suburbs with her boyfriend (Tcheky Karyo), she decides to take an apartment in Paris where she enjoys a flirtation with a musician while also considering a romance with a married pal (Fabrice Luchini.) Part cautionary tale and part dissection of troubled relationships, “Full Moon” casts a rather mysterious spell. Not unlike its perplexing heroine, it leaves you with more questions than answers. Extras: featurette.
Hustle: (1975, Warner Archive, R, $20) Back in print for the first time in years, Robert Aldrich’s underrated noir begins with the corpse of a teenager washing ashore in Los Angeles. Burt Reynolds is the cynical cop assigned to the case. His boss (Ernest Borgnine) wants to rule the woman’s death a suicide while the girl’s father (Ben Johnson) keeps pushing for answers. Nearly as compelling as the mystery is Reynold’s complicated relationship with his hooker-girlfriend (Catherine Deneuve), who has ties to the could-be killer (Eddie Albert). “Hustle” might be a tad bit too ambitious for its own good but its seediness and nihilism get under your skin. Extras: none.
White Of The Eye: (1987, Shout Factory, R, $30) One of only four movies directed by cult helmer Donald Cammell (“Demon Seed”), this thriller revolves around a series of grisly, ritualistic murders in Tuscon’s wealthy suburbs. All the evidence points to a local stereo installer (David Keith) but he’s such a popular guy that the police, not to mention his wife (Cathy Moriarty), are reluctant to connect the dots. Thanks to a haunting score by Nick Mason and Rick Fenn as well as Cammell’s jarring use of flashbacks, “White of the Eye” takes a familiar genre and shakes the stuffing out of it. Extras: deleted scenes and commentary track by Cammell biographer Sam Umland.
At Close Range: (1985, Twilight Time, R, $30) Buried during its initial release back in the 1980s, James Foley’s look at a Chester County, Pennsylvania crime family has only gotten better with age. Sean Penn stars as a young man who joins his father’s (Christopher Walken) gang of thieves only to be horrified when Walken’s minions commit murder. By the time the bodies start piling up, you are so riveted by Penn’s plight that the violence feels personal. Rarely has a film about fathers and sons been this bleak or hit this hard. Extras: commentary by Foley and historian Nick Redman.
The End: (1978, Olive, R, $25) For his second film as a director, Burt Reynolds goes the black comedy route with an uneven but occasionally very funny look at a fatally ill real estate agent who tries to beat the Grim Reaper to the punch by killing himself. After he botches his plan, Reynolds winds up in a mental asylum where he’s befriended by a nutcase (Dom DeLuise) who is more than happy to help Reynolds bite the dust. “The End” benefits from a first-rate supporting cast (Joanne Woodward, Sally Field, Myrna Loy, Robby Benson) as well as Reynolds’ willingness to poke fun at his macho image. Extras: none.
Worricker – The Complete Series: (2011-2013, PBS, unrated, $40) Written and directed by David Hare (“Wetherby”), these three feature-length films deliver ripped-from-the-headlines plotlines, literate dialogue and razor-sharp performances. The brilliant Bill Nighy stars as a MI5 officer who, after discovering secrets involving the CIA, is forced into retirement. While in the Caribbean, he winds up in a cat-and-mouse game with an American spy (Christopher Walken) and soon must go on the run with a former flame (Helena Bonham Carter.) Exciting stuff. Extras: featurettes.
The Great American Dream Machine: (1971-1973, S’more, unrated, $40) Before “Saturday Night Live” and “SCTV,” this controversial PBS series mixed and matched skits, short films, political commentary and musical performances. Whether it’s the sketch “Albert Brooks Famous School For Comedians” or Studs Terkel’s everyman and everywoman interviews or Marshall Efron’s comic look at gender roles and food additives, there’s something for everyone. “Dream Machine” is the best kind of flashback. Extras: additional footage.
Story by Amy Longsdorf, Digital First Media