We’ve got a nice spread of options in this week’s home viewing guide: two of our favorite early-summer indies on disc, a new restoration of an ’80s fave, a popcorn Western from last year on Hulu, one of our favorite ‘90s comedies on Netflix, and a fancy new Criterion release for one of the best (and most important) of all concert documentaries. In other words, a little something for everyone.
Kicking and Screaming : Your film editor is thrilled enough that Netflix picked up Noah Baumbach’s latest, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) – but if that acquisition and distribution also gave them a reason to return Baumbach’s debut feature to their streaming library, then God bless the whole deal all over again. This chatty, wise, and uproariously funny 1995 comedy/drama concerns a group of four college friends and the straight-up emotional paralysis they experience in the year following graduation. It’s sharp-witted and endlessly quotable (“What I used to be able to pass off as a bad summer could now potentially turn into a bad life”), and its cast can’t be beat: Parker Posey, Josh Hamilton, Eric Stoltz, Elliot Gould, Olivia d’Abo, Chris Eigeman, Cara Buono, Carlos Jacott, Jason Wiles, and Jessica Hecht.
The Magnificent Seven: You’re just asking for trouble when you remake a Western as iconic as The Magnificent Seven, but hell, that’s probably what they told John Sturges when he proposed remaking The Seven Samurai. And no, Antoine Fuqua’s take doesn’t match its predecessors – but it’s an excellent showcase for star Denzel Washington, whose sturdy honor and quiet determination are such a cornerstone of his onscreen persona, it’s sort of shocking that it took him this long to do a Western. Fuqua surrounds him with an ace ensemble (including Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’onofrio, Peter Sarsgaard, and Byung-Hun Lee), and the story’s turns and payoffs make it, as ever, quite the crowd-pleaser.
ON DVD / VOD
Beatriz at Dinner : This uneasy comedy of manners became surprisingly (and unfortunately) timely on November 9, telling as it does the story of a fabulously wealthy, unapologetically racist blowhard real estate developer (John Lithgow) who finds himself locking horns with an immigrant humanitarian (Salma Hayek) at an intimate dinner party. I know, I know, it sounds like the worst kind of allegorical pap, but in all fairness, screenwriter Mike White and director Miguel Arteta (who previously collaborated on Chuck & Buck and The Good Girl) didn’t realize they were crafting a trenchant political statement. What they presumably set out to make, they did: a keenly observed and frequently upsetting portrayal of the rules of polite society, and of a woman who decides not to play by them. (No bonus features.)
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
It Comes at Night : Trey Edward Shults made a splashy debut with last year’s micro-budget psychological drama Krisha; here, armed with a bigger budget and a few recognizable faces, he confirms his place among our most exciting young filmmakers. As with Krisha, the story itself isn’t particularly earth-shattering – a post-apocalyptic tale of friendly and familial bonds sorely tested by paranoia and fear – but Shults’ rattling, raw style lodges itself under your skin, and in your head. A lean, mean, frightening piece of work; give it a watch, and then come back for our thoughts on its ending. (Includes audio commentary and featurette.)
Festival : For three years, from 1963 to 1965, director/cinematographer Murray Lerner headed up to Rhode Island for the Newport Folk Festival, and ended up capturing music history in the making. Aside from stirring performances by the likes of Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Odetta, Howlin’ Wolf, Pete Seeger, Misssissippi John Hurt, Sun House, and Peter, Paul, & Mary, his camera caught the transformation of Bob Dylan: rising star in ’63, folk hero in ’64, and (most memorably) heretic in ’65. Lerner went back and put together a release of all his Dylan footage a few years ago, and that disc is worth having – but Festival is even better, a contemporaneous document that not only showcases the lightning in a bottle that was Mr. Zimmerman, but the scene he first embraced, and then, in many ways, left behind. (Includes featuerettes and outtake performances.)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: Yeah, I know, we probably don’t need another Blu-ray release of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 mega-hit, “35th anniversary limited edition” and “4K Ultra-HD Experience” or not. (Hell, this is my third copy of the movie on Blu-ray alone.) But all the bells and whistles, and the anniversary reminders of its cultural ubiquity, stand in striking contrast to the movie itself; it’s such an intimate movie, much more than any blockbuster since, focused primarily on the members of the family, the world they inhabit in their little suburban home, and how that world is disrupted by a being from another world entirely. It was only Spielberg’s sixth theatrical feature, but the confidence on display is astonishing – he veers from warmth to humor to suspense to action, and never steps wrong. (Includes 4K version, deleted scenes, featurettes, and trailer.)