After last week’s overload, we’ve got a comparatively light load this Tuesday, particularly for disc buyers. (The big new release is Kong: Skull Island, which, y’know, ugh.) But Netflix streamers are in luck, with three new releases of note, while Blu-ray buyers have two wildly different titles to choose from.
To the Bone: Writer/director Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) brings her wise, witty, insider’s take to this story of a troubled young woman and her eating disorder, elevating the material from its Lifetime movie tendencies into something genuinely heartfelt (and surprisingly funny to boot). She treats the material honestly without condescending to it – or the audience – and coaxes lived-in performances out of her first-rate cast; Lily Collins is superb as the complicated heroine, telling us everything and nothing all at once, while Keanu Reeves makes another welcome move in his second-act evolution into character actor. But most importantly, it feels like eavesdropping, a peek into a dangerous disorder (complete with knowing jargon and inside details) that too many of us dismiss outright.
My Scientology Movie: When satirist and documentarian Louis Theroux announces on Twitter that his new documentary will tackle the Church of Scientology, he gets one particularly prescient @-reply: “They’re probably filming you already.” When Theroux is unsurprisingly unable to get bigwigs like David Miscavige to sit for interviews, he arrives on an ingenious workaround: creating a Miscavige of his own. And thus, with departed CoS members acting as advisors, he sets about making a dramatization, with actors playing key figures like Miscavige and celebrity spokesman Tom Cruise – and sure enough, as predicted, his shoots and sessions are soon disrupted by camera-wielding Scientologists, determined to make a counter-documentary. It’s a funhouse arrangement of mirrors and cameras, yet between the oddball set pieces and documentary muckraking, Theroux is slyly exploring the psychopathy at the heart of this organization, and wondering if it still lurks even in those who’ve left it.
Lion: If you can make it through the opening scenes of Garth Davis’s Best Picture nominee, in which young Saroo (Sunny Pawar) ends up lost and seemingly separated from his family, without your heart breaking, well, I’m sorry, you’ve got no soul. This true story is split fairly evenly between its two halves: that separation and Saroo’s life away from his family (circa 1988), and his attempt, 20 years later, to finally find them – a search that becomes an obsession. Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, and Rooney Mara fill out the rock-solid ensemble, while Davis adroitly orchestrates the elements, visualizing the hypotheticals, memories, and possibilities that drive this story to its emotionally overwhelming resolution.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Free Fire: To his credit, director Ben Wheatley (High Rise) goes to the trouble of constructing a plot and characters and even a conflict for this ‘70s-era crime picture, but who’re we kidding: it’s all basically an excuse to stage a movie-long shoot-out. And he doesn’t cheat with flashbacks or cutaways – Free Fire confines itself to the dynamics and rhythms of that extended exchange of gunfire, and finds clever ways to change the tempo, reconfigure the relationships, and shed a variety of blood. Some will surely find it monotonous, in spite of Mr. Wheatley’s efforts. But the target audience for this one will eat it up with a spoon. (Includes audio commentary and featurette.)
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / FILMSTRUCK
Stalker: Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1979 art-house fave (then and now) somehow wasn’t a part of the Criterion Collection, but now it is, and thank goodness – this transfer is to die for, magnificently capturing the filmmaker’s gorgeous, textured imagery, from the sepia-toned bookends to the picturesque midsection to the gloomy climax. It’s usually classified as science fiction, but (like Tarkovsky’s Solaris) it’s more of a physical and philosophical journey, less a narrative than a sight-and-soundscape, deliberate and daring, full of breathtaking tableaux, held to their limit – and then beyond. But it’s not just a parade of pictures, either; the dialogue is wonderfully elliptical, and Tarkovsky is constantly veering off in unexpected directions, including a concluding monologue that’s just plain shattering. It is, to put it mildly, not for impatient viewers. But if you can lock into its frequency, the rewards are endless. (Includes new and archival interviews.) (Also streaming on FilmStruck.)