Two very, very, very different trilogies hit Blu-ray and 4K this week, and that’s not all; we’ve got a new Netflix rom-com, a domestic take on a foreign hit, and a chance to stream one of the best horror flicks of the 1970s. Let’s take a gander:
Always Be My Maybe: Netflix’s latest hit original feels, to be frank, like it was created by the platform’s famous algorithms: it’s a frothy romantic comedy, starring Ali Wong as a celebrity chef. (I count three Netflix standbys there.) And the script – co-written by Wong, co-star Randall Park, and Michael Golamco – feels like a first draft, full of soft jokes and prescribed beats and conflicts, carried out like a homework assignment. The leads are left to carry a lot of weight – but fortunately, they do, as Wong and Park are naturally funny performers with chemistry and charisma to spare. And most of its sins are forgivable in the face of an uproariously funny detour with a delightfully game Keanu Reeves, playing himself as a bastion of positivity, light, intensity, and strangeness (ordering at an upscale restaurant, he asks, “Do you have any dishes that play with time?”). It’s not a great rom-com, but it’s a pleasant enough diversion.
ON AMAZON PRIME
Carrie: Stephen King’s first bestseller has been filmed and filmed and filmed: a TV movie adaptation, a 1999 sequel/remake, the wholly inexplicable 2013 version. But the first take is still the best, finding director Brian De Palma at the height of his Gothic, split-screening powers, Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie perfectly matched as the title character and her Bible-thumping mom, and a flawless cast of sympathetic and/or sneering supporting players (particularly Amy Irving, William Katt, an impossibly young John Travolta, and the great Nancy Allen). Though endlessly quoted and imitated, its barn-burner finale still packs a wallop, and that last scare never loses its ability to jolt. (Also streaming on Netflix.)
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Gloria Bell: Sebastián Lelio’s English-language remake of his 2013 Chilean film hews very closely to the source material, but it does offer one significant virtue: the presence of Julianne Moorein the leading role of a divorcée who’s just out there doing her best, a woman so unassuming, she ends her voicemail messages to her kids with “It’s your mother.” Lelio tells her story via a series of abrupt but accumulating scenes, little sketches of the moments in her day, and some of his dialogue is a tad strained (the language barrier, perhaps). But he feels at home in her world of yoga classes and semi-depressing older singles disco nights, and the performances are marvels — not just Moore (who’s terrific, as ever), but a low-key Michael Cera as her son and the undervalued natural resource of John Turturro, who makes you see why she’d fall for him, and what she’d miss until it was too late. (Includes audio commentary and featurette.)
Batman / Batman Returns / Batman Forever: Warner Brothers is giving the pre-Nolan Bat-features the 4K boost, selling them individually now and then bundling the bunch into a “Four Film Collection” come September; I don’t know anyone but diehards who legitimately likes all four of them, so a la carte is probably the way to go. Tim Burton’s original Batman (1989) is, and always was, a mess – less a movie than a filmed deal, as evidenced by the two (two!) full sequences of Jack Nicholson just dancin’ to a new Prince song – but remains a triumph of design, properly set the darker mood for the series, and is certainly noteworthy in modern film history. (Includes audio commentary, featurettes, storyboards, trailer, and music videos.) Batman Returns (1992) is miles better; Burton is at full capacity, the performances (particularly by Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, and Danny DeVito) are appropriately insane, and the dual relationships between Michael Keaton’s Batman (and Bruce Wayne) and Pfeiffer’s Catwoman (and Selina Kyle) are laudably complex. (Includes audio commentary, featurettes, trailer, and music videos.) And while Batman Forever (1995) gets a bit of a bad rap these days (not all of it unearned), this viewer enjoys its trashy pleasures: Nicole Kidman vamping, Jim Carrey bouncing off the walls, the quintessential mid-‘90s soundtrack, and Drew Barrymore and Debi Mazar as Sugar and Spice. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video, and trailer.) They are also releasing Batman and Robin (1997) and, well, if you can’t say something nice, am I right?
A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman:Viewers looking for a representative introduction to the great Swedish filmmaker – but not quite ready to spring for that mammoth box set– will find it in this set, originally issued on DVD by Criterion in 2003. Shot in succession in the early 1960, they find the filmmaker setting aside the period trappings of his recent successes for decidedly contemporary examinations of questions no smaller than sanity, faith, and death. Through a Glass Darkly (1961) is a stunningly sensitive portrayal of mental illness, placing a troubled young women and the three key men in her life into a vice grip of resentment and discord, and squeezing. Winter Light (1963) is an austere, Diary of a Country Priest-style portrait of a man of the cloth grappling with his own weakness and despair. And The Silence (1963) is one of his fascinating explorations of the sister dynamic, with occasional diversions into raw sensuality that stirred audiences but good upon its original release. Some contemporary audiences are afraid of Bergman, swayed by an unearned reputation as the maker of bleak, unapproachable pastiches of symbolism and pretension, but these films are most striking for their approachability: they are works of brevity (often running 90 minutes or less) and emotional immediacy, dealing in themes that have lost none of their resonance or poignancy. (All titles also streaming on The Criterion Channel.) (Includes Bergman introductions, documentary, archival interviews, poster gallery, and trailers.)