Our favorite film of the summer makes its way to disc this week, alongside an early-fall cause célèbre and an unjustly forgotten treat from clear back in 1991. And last year’s Best Actress winner (and multiple nominee) hits the streaming services, along with the Prime premiere of another summer fave. It’s just all good stuff this week, folks, not sure how else to put it.
ON AMAZON PRIME
The Big Sick : Stand-up comic/actor Kumail Nanjiani and wife Emily V. Gordon co-wrote this somewhat fictionalized account of how they met, fell in love, broke up, and then went through a terrifying medical ordeal before they could get back together. Director Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris) adroitly juggles the comic and serious tones, and plenty of serious subject matter as well: it’s about people who are struggling not just with health and love, but with family, faith, and tradition. Funny from end to end and frequently heartbreaking as well, this is a rich film, filled with the kind of details and texture most mainstream comedies don’t even bother with.
Fences : Director Denzel Washington transplants the 2010 Broadway revival of August Wilson’s classic to the screen, with himself and most of that cast intact — including a shattering, Oscar-winning turn by Viola Davis — and winds up with a picture that rarely transcends the feeling of filmed theater, but Lord in heaven, what filmed theatre. The beautifully modulated acting (which display the benefits of honing and tuning over all those performances, without feeling stale or over-prepared) captures the American vernacular musicality of Wilson’s dialogue, while the lived-in characterizations put across the feeling of people who have lived and known each other for decades, and learned how to overlook each other’s flaws – and when they can no longer do so. It’s a powerfully rendered piece of work, and surprisingly relevant for a play from the 1980s about the 1950s. (Also on Amazon Prime.)
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Logan Lucky : Steven Soderbergh’s triumphant return to feature filmmaking is a deliriously entertaining and deliciously well-executed return to his specialty, the heist movie, but with a twist: rather than the finely-tailored likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, he focuses on a family of backwoods bad-luck cases, and their plan to rip off a NASCAR speedway. An observer winkingly dubs it “Ocean’s 7-11,” and that’s about right; it’s like a bunch of Coen Brothers characters wandered into a Soderbergh movie, with all the dry verbal wit and visual ingenuity that equation suggests. (Includes deleted scenes.)
Woodshock : The debut feature from filmmakers Kate and Laura Mulleavy, who previously gained fame as the fashion design duo behind the Rodarte brand, is a toked-up exploration of, among other things, life, death, loss, adultery, and the charisma of Kirsten Dunst. The images they create together are stunning, dreamy, stoney; the edits are initially fluid, and become increasingly assaultive. The picture is never less than compelling; it’s often downright captivating. It’s also a bit of a mess – but its flaws are forgivable, when they’re taken at this risk of this kind of experimentation. (Includes featurette.)
Doc Hollywood : This undervalued gem features one of Michael J. Fox’s finest performances, as a hotshot plastic surgeon who finds himself stranded in a South Carolina backwater, filling in as the town doctor and, after some initial resistance, enjoying the charms of small-town life (and a small-town woman, memorably played by Julie Warner). Sure, you’ve heard it before; this plot was moldy when the movie landed back in ’91. But the playing is genuine, from Fox through the supporting ensemble of ace character actors (including David Ogden Steirs, Barnard Hughes, Franes Sternhagen, Bridget Fonda, and, in his first important post-Cheers turn, Woody Harrelson), and director Michael Caton-Jones (Memphis Belle) nicely captures the rhythms of this particular time and place. (Includes trailer.)