What to Watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Blu-ray This Week


Two early summer hits land on disc and demand, offering immense pleasures for adults and reasonable diversions for families. Plus we’ve got a new zombie comedy, an underrated Spaghetti Western, an expansive Bengali melodrama, and an atmospheric New York thriller. Let’s get to it:


A Fistful of Dynamite: Sergio Leone’s 1971 farewell to the Western has always been considered a lesser work, and frankly, that’s not hard for a movie to be when it follows the Dollars trilogy and Once Upon a Time in the West. But there’s a lot to recommend in this one, where the warfare is as much class-based as artillery-centered, as a Mexican bandit (played by Rod Steiger, which is … a choice) teams up with an Irish terrorist (James Coburn) to blow a lot of stuff up real good in the name of the revolution. (It’s presumably the only Western that opens with a Mao quote.) Leone uses the expansive running time of its two predecessors without managing their depth, but there are plenty of memorable moments and ace set pieces, as well as extended, lyrical flashbacks that provide valuable context for Coburn’s complex motivations. It’s a good time, yet one its creator isn’t afraid to turn on you.


Niko Tavernise/Lionsgate

John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum: As with the earlier chapters of this unexpectedly durable action franchise, John Wick 3 is a blast not only in the customary boom-smash, bang-bang, run-and-gun way of most good action movies (though it certainly is that), but because of the style and wit of the execution. That style extends to the world that surrounds its action beats, by now as intricate and ornate as any of its concurrent “cinematic universes” (but a helluva lot more fun), overloaded with sly details about this world of paid assassins, the societies into which they’re organized, the establishments in which they dwell, and, most of all, the rules which they must obey. This third installment falters occasionally, mostly in a sagging middle section that sends our hero to Casablanca and back, but even in those sections the grace, athleticism, and charisma of star Keanu Reeves keeps us locked in. (Includes featurettes and trailers.)


Frederick Elmes / Focus/© 2019 Image Eleven Productions, Inc.

The Dead Don’t Die: So here’s a real head-fake, assembling a loaded cast around the delicious notion of a Jim Jarmusch zombie movie, and giving us the expected deadpan humor and hipster gore – but within his most overtly political movie to date, a picture that harnesses the desperation of the current social moment and takes the baby step into outright nihilism. The pacing is a little punchy (even by Jarmusch’s standards), and the in-jokes get a touch precious. But there’s a lot to root through here, big laughs and odd moments and copious blood and guts, brought to a conclusion that feels, in a way it might not have before, both inevitable and honest. (Includes featurettes.)

Aladdin (1992) / Aladdin (2019): Your correspondent saw Disney’s new remake of their ’92 classic after suffering through their new remake of The Lion King, and this benefitted Aladdin immensely; here, at least, is a film that has some personality, energy, and/or visual flair. The director is Guy Ritchie, and he seems to have taken the job for the opportunity to make something akin to a Guy Ritchie musical (and, of course, make some loot). He succeeds; the numbers are frequently inventive and inspired, with “Friend Like Me” especially engaging. And Will Smith is terrific as the Genie; he’s just playing Will Smith, sure, but Robin Williams was just playing Robin Williams (and this is a Will Smith we don’t get too much anymore). There are huge flaws, make no mistake, mostly in the additions: unnecessary song extensions, dumb new subplots, and clumsily grafted feminist not-quite-sub-text. To be free of those, you can always just enjoy the original, newly reissued on disc, which maintains its freshness nicely withinventive animation, toe-tapping production numbers, and a welcome message to be oneself. (1992 version includes outtakes, featurettes, alternate ending, and sing-along option; 2019 version includes deleted scenes, bloopers, music videos, and featurettes.)


The Criterion Collection

The Cloud-Capped Star: This deeply felt portrait of village life from director Ritwik Ghatak (new to the Criterion Collection) is a vibrant mosaic of music and emotion, in which the eldest daughter of a struggling family continuously sacrifices her own happiness and opportunities. The music is gorgeous and the filmmaking is strikingly intimate; there’s a moment in which this put-upon young woman, suddenly overcome with emotion, disappears into the carefully placed darkness, hiding from the camera and the audience but no longer able to hide from herself. Ghatak’s film is full of moments like that, in which these all-but-forgotten people feel, and convey, emotions that are downright operatic. (Includes new conversation and still gallery.)

Mirage: Director Edward Dmytryk marshals a marked sense of gloom, doom, and paranoia in this story of an Everyman (Gregory Peck) whose sense of displacement and confusion reveals a bizarre case of amnesia. Dmytryk shot the film in New York, in an era where most filmmakers faked it, but it’s worth the trouble; this man feels unknown and alone in this giant, anonymous city, and the authenticity of the photography is palpable. And, bonus, the director is able to fill the cast with a terrific ensemble of New York character actors, including Walter Matthau, Jack Weson, George Kennedy, and Diane Baker. (Includes audio commentary, interview, and trailer.)