The customary theatrical-to-video release window means we’re seeing late summer stuff on the shelves this week — specifically, two August gems that deserve your home video attention. On top of that, we’ve got a Thanksgiving mainstay, and a pair of certified classics getting the Criterion treatment.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles : Oh, c’mon. It’s Thanksgiving. What do I gotta do, draw you a map?
Ricki and the Flash : Buried at the end of the summer and burdened with a truly miserable advertising campaign, this seriocomic family drama from director Jonathan Demme, writer Diablo Cody, and star Meryl Streep came and went from theaters a bit too quickly. But it’s the kind of rich, chewy, complicated movie for which home media was invented, particularly in its examinations of complex emotional dynamics between Streep’s aging would-be rock star and the daughter (Streep’s real-life offspring Mamie Gummer) and the husband (her long-ago co-star Kevin Kline) she left behind. (Includes featurettes and deleted scenes.)
Shaun the Sheep Movie : The folks at Aardman Animations craft their most delightful big-screen effort since The Curse of the Were-Rabbit — appropriate, as the title character here first appeared in a Wallace and Gromit short. A fish-out-of-water journey/amnesia story, the film (like the TV series) is entirely free of dialogue, resulting in something like a classic silent comedy — all pantomime, physical bits, reaction shots, and intricate choreography (made all the more impressive by their signature stop-motion animation). It’s funny and charming, but with a real melancholy streak as well, starting as a barnyard romp and winding up as a lovely story about family and home. (Includes featurettes.)
Dont Look Back : D.A. Pennebaker’s 1967 Bob Dylan chronicle (debuting this week from the Criterion Collection) features precious little music for a film so often lumped in with concert movies; it’s more accurately described as a tour documentary, and on the road, most of your time is spent backstage, in hotel rooms, and being a dick to reporters. Pennebaker’s vérité approach, eavesdropping over interrogation, was remarkably influential, and that goes double for the opening sequence — the famed lyrics-on-cue-cards “Subterranean Homesick Blues” scene, widely regarded as one of the first music videos. It’s a snapshot and a snowglobe, tedious yet riveting, a puzzle piece in the Dylan enigma we’re all still trying to figure out. (Includes audio commentary, supplementary documentary, new and archival interviews, outtakes, Pennebaker short films and featurette, alternate opening scene, outtake recordings, and trailer.)
Ikiru : One of Akira Kurosawa’s finest films (and yes, that’s saying something) gets the Criterion Blu-ray upgrade, which is a fine excuse to give it a spin. A government bureaucrat, after decades on auto-pilot, finds out he’s dying of stomach cancer, and finds himself asking the essential existential question: “Why have I been living all these years?” Filled with bold narrative leaps, heartbreaking images, and gallows humor (it’s a funnier movie than the logline might suggest), it’s ultimately a film about desperation: to do something with what’s left of his life, and to feel something vital (joy, love, importance) at long last. (Includes audio commentary, documentaries, and trailer.)