Aside from the superhero movie of the week (and a must-have Blu-ray set of His Royal Purpleness’s cinematic endeavors), it’s a relatively low-key Tuesday on the new release shelf and Netflix: a true crime documentary, one of the year’s weirdest movies, a Palme d’Or winner, and a Sundance fave. Let’s take a peek.
Amanda Knox: The trial(s) of Ms. Knox, an American exchange student accused – along with her boyfriend and another man – of murdering her roommate while studying abroad in Italy was such an around-the-world media sensation that it’s hard to imagine what a new documentary could bring to it. So directors Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn wisely adopt take a two-pronged approach: they burrow into the enigma of Knox, presenting the evidence and their interviews with her in ways that keep reversing and inverting our perceptions; and they focus on the media coverage, particularly its seaminess. Snappily edited and consistently engaging, it should help tide over Netflix true-crimers until that new season of Making a Murderer comes along.
Dheepan: This Palme d’or winner from director Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone) tells the timely story of a group of refugees trying to make their way in a new life. Meeting for the first time before leaving Sri Lanka yet masquerading as a family, this “family” is ill-equipped to either relate with each other or fit into their new homeland of France — there’s an anxiety-inducing scene where Dheepan is being shown around the apartment complex where he’ll work as a caretaker, understanding not one word of his instructions — but they slowly begin to connect, only to have their tentative bonds tested. A tough, uncompromising picture, with a climax that really goes to work on you.
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Swiss Army Man: When this comedy/drama from writer/directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert debuted at Sundance in January, it was immediately dubbed “the farting corpse movie,” and sure enough, in its first scene, Hank (Paul Dano) discovers a corpse (Daniel Radcliffe) who periodically expels leftover gas. But once you get past its gloriously oddball opening, that’s not what the movie’s about at all – this is a poignant and intelligent two-hander (of sorts) about friendship, obsession, and the limitations of reality. It’s a stylish, often dreamlike picture, filled with quietly poetic images and witty edits, and the Dnaiels play its central conceit refreshingly on-the-square; they take these characters seriously, even when they’re doing the most absurd things. (Includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and Q&A with the filmmakers.)
Joshy: There’s something sort of invigorating about a filmmaker willing to risk their entire film on their ability to pull off one key moment, and that’s what happens in Jeff Baena’s comedy/drama, set during what was intended to be the title character’s bachelor party weekend, until his fiancé offed herself a few months earlier. Thanks to the cast (including Thomas Middleditch, Adam Pally, Jenny Slate, Nick Kroll, and especially Alex Ross Perry) and Baena’s witty screenplay, it offers up funny characters, dialogue, and situations, but with an undeniable (and understandable) sense of melancholy vibrating underneath; they’re having a “wild time,” but they’re also playing roles and going through paces, until Josh has a moment of such raw vulnerability and genuine humanity that it exposes the artifice of their earlier transactions, and cracks them. Sharp and funny, with top-notch performances across the board. (Including audio commentary.)
X-Men Apocalypse: Bryan Singer’s latest entry in the X-Men franchise is full of problems: The storytelling is goofy, the pacing is punchy, the dialogue is often insipid, and it casts Oscar Isaac, one of the more likable rogues of our time, as its villain, and then hides his features behind what looks like a third-rate Halloween mask. And y’know what? It’s just messy enough to check out anyway, and that element is key – as opposed to the painstaking world-setting and careful calculations of most superhero pictures, this one has at least a dash of spontaneity to it. Say what you will about Apocalypse, it’s hard to know what damn fool thing Singer’s gonna do next. (Includes audio commentary, deleted/extended scenes, gag reel, and featurettes.)