The highest-grossing movie in many a moon hits DVD and Blu-ray today; too bad it’s not very good. And there’s not much competition for it on the new release shelf, aside from a would-be YA blockbuster that’s also, coincidentally enough, not very good. But two of the summer’s most intriguing indie flicks are now available on disc and demand, Netflix has a couple new streamers well worth your time, and Amazon can help you on with a certain meme-friendly anniversary.
Beasts of No Nation: It didn’t exactly set the box office on fire last weekend, so hopefully everyone was just taking in Cary Fukunaga’s challenging child soldier drama in their living room (or desktop or iPhone or whatever). Your film editor still hasn’t pinpointed exactly why it’s not quite a great movie — but it is a very, very good one, harrowing and powerful, with a tremendous leading performance by young Abraham Attah and a character turn by Idris Elba that’s as complicated, tricky, charismatic, and scary as we’ve come to expect.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: Writer/director David Lowery’s 2013 drama, new to Netflix, found itself compared to the works of Terrence Malick in nearly every review — often negatively. And while the stylistic debt is clear (particularly in the gorgeously sun-kissed, magic-hour cinematography), Bodies has its own pulse; it’s a film as interested in the intense emotions and shifting priorities of its characters (beautifully realized by Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, and Ben Foster) as it is in carving out a distinctive look or creating a Malick-esque mood.
ON AMAZON PRIME
Back to the Future: The movie itself celebrated its 30th anniversary last summer, but Wednesday marks a far more important milestone on the Internets: it’s the date that Marty, Doc, and Jennifer travel forward to at the beginning of BTTF Part II, which means, if nothing else, maybe people will finally stop posting Internet memes with other random dates. (Here’s a handy countdown clock, if you want to double check.) Anyway, Amazon Prime is streaming all three of the films, and that’s a good an excuse as any for a triple-feature; neither Part II nor Part III come close to matching Part I in laughs or heart, but they’ve got their own virtues and charms, and the original remains, quite simply, the best time travel movie of all time.
Z for Zachariah: Provocative director Craig Zobel (Compliance) loosely adapts the 1975 post-apocalyptic YA novel into a thoughtful morality play about religion, science, love, and trust. Two survivors in an abandoned America stumble upon each other, join forces, and begin to fall into something resembling love, in spite of their philosophical divergences — which is all well and good until another survivor shows up, with murkier motives. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Chris Pine turn in first-rate performances, but this is Margot Robbie’s show, transcending the eye-candy inclinations of her film showcases to date and creating a character simultaneously tender and fierce. (Includes featurette, deleted scenes, interviews, and trailer.)
The Wolfpack: In many ways, the Angulo family are ideal documentary subjects: their father keeps them shut in and homeschooled in their Lower East Side public housing unit, aware of the world around them only via the movies that they vociferously consume. So they’re open to her camera; they only know the world through its lens, and since they spend all of their time escaping their reality by recreating those movies, there’s no worry of them falsely “performing” for the camera, since they’re always performing. Their lo-fi, Be Kind Rewind-style reenactments of Reservoir Dogs and The Dark Knight are charming, sure, but director Crystal Moselle treats them as the respites that they are. Around them, she uses unsettling music, home movies, and interview snippets to create a sense of unease — appropriately, as this is, for all intents and purposes, a hostage situation. Impressively assembled and ultimately empowering, Moselle’s film is both a tribute to the power of the movies and a reminder that a fictional escape is no substitute for the real thing.