If you need a last minute Mother’s Day present, why not give the gift that keeps on giving and pick up a DVD or Blu-ray she can watch over and over again?
Should your mom be a movie or TV fanatic, you’re in luck this year because there’s a handful of exciting new releases which run the gamut from cutting-edge TV series to extras-laden Blu-ray special editions to fresh remakes of time-honored classics.
Here’s a look at a dozen entries that would make great gifts for Mom:
SERIAL MOM - COLLECTOR’S EDITION (1994, Shout Factory, unrated, $30): John Waters’ black comedy has good fun with the premise of a homicidal homemaker (Kathleen Turner) who takes revenge on anyone who slights her spouse (Sam Waterston) and kids (Ricki Lake, Matthew Lillard). She begins by offing her daughter’s unfaithful boyfriend and moves on to a woman (Patricia Hearst) with the audacity to wear white after labor day. More like a series of sketches than a movie, “Serial Mom” grows redundant as it goes along. Still, Turner is terrific as a woman whose weapon of choice is a leg of lamb. Great special features with Waters and Turner too.
DIVORCE - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (2016, HBO, unrated, $20): For her return to HBO, Sarah Jessica Parker stars in an offbeat, and occasionally very dark, series about a splintering marriage. After an affair with a local professor (Jemaine Clement), Parker works up the courage to tell her husband (Thomas Haden Church) that she wants out, or as she says, “I want to save my life while I still care about it.” Parker and Church occasionally seem like they’re in different shows but, to its credit, “Divorce” doesn’t pull any punches. It also gets better as it goes along, finding bitter laughs in the saga of fiftysomethings coming apart at the seams.
TAMPOPO (1985, Criterion, unrated, $30): Here’s a flick which deserves a spot on the list of the world’s most mouth-watering food movies. Japanese filmmaker Juzo Itami follows the efforts of a band of culinary ronin to help transform a noodle-shop-running widow (Nobuko Miyamoto) into a gastronomical goddess. One of the most charming aspects of the movie is the attention Itami pays to a bevy of unrelated subplots, including ones about a suave, food-obsessed gangster and an elderly pick-pocket who wants to savor one more dumpling before being carted off to prison.
PEYTON PLACE 1957, Twilight Time, unrated, $30): It’s got a lot of terrific twists and turns but it is a soap opera, after all. So, will your mom respond to this glossy adaption of Grace Metalious’ scandalous bestseller about the sordid private lives of small-town New Englanders? You bet she will! Now on Blu-ray, the splendid-looking sudser revolves around the secret and lies of two families: an uptight but well-to-do widow (Lana Turner) and her high-school senior daughter (Diana Varsi), and Turner’s maid (Betty Field), husband (Arthur Kennedy) and daughter (Hope Lange). “Peyton Place” is heaps of guilty-pleasure fun but it also manages to impart a message about the dangers of being bigoted and judgmental.
WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (2016, Acorn, unrated, $35): Long before M. Night Shyamalan perfected the art of the twist ending, Agatha Christie was dishing out beautifully crafted mysteries which frequently pulled the rug out from under viewers. Such is the case with this resonant mystery starring Toby Jones as a defense attorney who agrees to represent a former solider (Billy Howle) accused of murdering a wealthy heiress (Kim Cattrall.) Andrea Riseborough digs into the role of Howle’s actress-girlfriend with such relish that she almost makes you forget how good Marlene Dietrich was in the Billy Wilder adaptation. “Witness” remains a thriller capable of delivering gasp-inducing surprises.
TWO FOR THE ROAD (1964, Twilight Time, unrated, $30): Stanley Donen’s dramedy might examine a marriage under siege but thanks to the charming turns by Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn as well as the sparkling Henry Mancini score, the end result is a picture of undeniable charm. Bickering couple Hepburn and Finney take a vacation to try and work things out. In the process, they flashback to other trips, including the one on which they first met and fell in love. The new-to-Blu-ray “Two For The Road” covers familiar ground yet it bristles with charged emotion. You can’t take your eyes off of it.
A MATTER OF TIME (2016, First Run, unrated, $25): A few years ago, singer/songwriter Kathryn Calder passed up the chance to tour with the New Pornographers so she could go home and care for her mother who was in the final stages of her battle with ALS. While serving as a care-giver, Calder wrote and recorded her first solo album. A benefit concert for ALS research bookends the doc, which includes candid chats with Calder and her New Pornographer bandmates. In the end, “A Matter of Time” is a moving portrait of the bond between a mother and a daughter.
WOMAN IN WHITE (1948, Warner Archive, unrated, $20): If your mom is a fan of mysteries, she’ll love this adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ melodrama about betrayal, murder and inheritance windfalls. Eleanor Parker, in dual roles, anchors the fun. In the end, “Woman in White” is a grabber blessed with a rogue’s gallery of wicked figures including Sydney Greenstreet as a sinister bon vivant, Agnes Moorehead as his long-suffering wife, and John Abbott as the hypochondriac heir to a family fortune.
BEACHES (2016, Lionsgate, unrated, $15): Available exclusively at Walmart, this Lifetime TV remake of the classic Bette Midler/Barbara Hershey flick from 1988 is better than it has any right to be. It helps that director Allison Anders’ keeps the action moving along at a good clip; accentuates the bond between life-long pals CC (Idina Menzel) and Hillary (Nia Long); and gives Menzel the chance to belt out some tunes, including “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Glory of Love.” Was a “Beaches” update really necessary? Probably not. But movies about the friendship between women are so rare these days, that this entry winds up feeling like a sweat treat.
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE: RACHEL CARSON (2016, PBS, unrated, $14): In an era when scientists are under siege, this riveting doc about the groundbreaking environmentalist scores extra credit points for being so timely. Carson, a Pennsylvania native whose book “Silent Spring” exposed the long-term damage of pesticides like DDT, is almost single-handedly responsible for inspiring the modern environmental movement. The film explores Carson’s formative years and details how, through her work as a marine biologist, she came to understand just how fragile life on planet earth could be. If your mom has gone green, she’ll find much to enjoy about this engrossing documentary.
FLAMINGO ROAD (1947, Warner Archive, unrated, $20): Two years after winning an Oscar for “Mildred Pierce,” Joan Crawford reteamed with director Michael Curtiz and leading man Zachary Scott for another potboiler bubbling over with betrayal, corruption and murder. This time around, Crawford plays a carnival dancer who decides to go respectable with help from a weak-willed lawman (Scott). But her presence in town raises the hackles of a sleazy sheriff (Sydney Greenstreet) grooming Scott for a career in politics. There’s never a dull moment as Crawford and Greenstreet face-off. The big surprise is how beautifully Curtiz photographs the action, draping the drama in smoke and shadows.
BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB (1999, Criterion, unrated, $30): Some of Cuba’s best – and most forgotten – talents tell their stories in this lovely documentary from Wim Wenders. Shot on the eve of the band’s Carnegie Call concert and in the wake of their album’s surprise success, project coordinator Ry Cooder and key members of the Buena Vista Social Club, including golden-voiced Ibrahim Ferrer and piano player Ruben Gonzalez, discuss the music of Cuba while demonstrating how effortlessly they blend together cha-cha, mambo, bolero and other traditional Latin American styles. Just try sitting still for this delightful documentary.