New on Blu-ray
"Pete's Dragon" (Disney/Buena Vista DVD/Blu-ray combo, $39.99; also available on VOD)
Disney's 1977 live-action/animation hybrid "Pete's Dragon" is a fairly bland family film, which may be why expectations were low for this year's CGI-heavy remake. But writer-director David Lowery (in collaboration with co-screenwriter Toby Halbrooks) applies the same sense of wonder and artistry to this kid-flick that he brought to his acclaimed indie drama "Ain't Them Bodies Saints," reshaping the original's leaden musical comedy into a tender environmentalist drama. Oakes Fegley plays an orphan boy who comes out of hiding with his dragon pal and turns a small Pacific Northwestern logging community upside down. The story is simplistic but affecting, helped along by strong performances by Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, and Robert Redford. Plus, this new "Pete's Dragon" looks absolutely gorgeous, turning real American landscapes into places of mystical enchantment.
[Special features: Deleted scenes, a commentary track and a behind-the-scenes video diary.]
"The Eyes of My Mother" (available Dec. 2)
Writer-director Nicolas Pesce makes a striking feature debut with "The Eyes of My Mother," an art-horror exercise that's like a thoughtful reimagining of one of those old pulp comic books that fretful parents used to toss out. Kika Magalhaes plays a reclusive farmer's daughter named Francisca whose entire life has been warped by growing up with a surgeon for a mother and by witnessing a horrific tragedy involving mom, dad and a psychotic drifter. A repellent act of violence fills the first 15 minutes of the movie, then Pesce spends the next hour with Francisca as she makes her first awkward attempts as an adult to meet other people. Shot in stark black and white with clinical framing and minimal sound, "The Eyes of My Mother" doesn't have much point beyond discomfiting and terrifying audiences. But it excels at that, with a study of alienation that gets sicker with every plot twist.
TV set of the week
"Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music" (Acorn DVD, $49.99; Blu-ray, $49.99)
A true gift for music lovers, the PBS docuseries "Soundbreaking" takes a closer look at the hidden art of record-producing, showing how it's evolved over the years from trying to capture live performances cleanly to using studios and mixing boards to paint with sound. The eight episodes are divided by themes — from the power of the human voice to hip-hop's sampling revolution — and they move chronologically within each hour to tell the story of popular music from the mid-20th century to now. Filled with tuneful clips and insightful interviews, "Soundbreaking" is educational and entertaining from start to finish.
[Special features: Bonus interviews.]
From the archives
"The Driller Killer" (Arrow DVD/Blu-ray combo, $44.95)
Back in 1979, few would've guessed that the director of a movie with a title as lurid as "The Driller Killer" would turn out to be one of America's most accomplished filmmakers. Anyone who actually saw the film back then, though — or on a cheap VHS in the '80s —should have been able to recognize Abel Ferrara's unique vision. As much a document of New York's scuzzy late '70s art and punk scenes as it is a slasher picture, "The Driller Killer" stirred up controversy overseas when it first came out on home video, though its intent is obviously satirical, not exploitative. With Ferrara himself playing a stressed-out painter pushed to homicide by the chaos of the city, the movie develops a darkly funny portrait of a time and place that could drive anyone crazy.
[Special features: A Ferrara commentary track, plus interviews and featurettes that delve further into his career.]
Three more to see