One of the year’s biggest hits is out on disc and demand this week, and you may need to sit down for this: it’s undeniably great. Joining it on the new release shelf are two charming and energetic late-summer indie sleepers, while the streaming services offer up stoner pics old(ish) and new.
The Big Lebowski: After the Coen Brothers found both commercial and critical success with Fargo, it seemed safe to bet that they’d leverage their newfound prestige into some kind of serious message movie, or at least an ambitious period piece along the lines of Miller’s Crossing or Barton Fink. Instead, they made one of their goofiest and most endearing pictures to date, a pot-hazed riff on classic California detective yarns, where the perpetually altered state of protagonist “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges, never better) seemed as much an explanation for the convoluted storytelling as the Raymond Chandler influence. Or, as he puts it, there’s “a lotta ins, a lotta outs, a lotta what-have-yous, and, uh, a lotta strands to keep in my head, man.” Lebowski knocks around the streaming services a fair amount, but its arrival on Netflix this month should help take the edge off the holidays.
Mandy: This hybrid of trippy experimental movie and lurid revenge thriller from director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) is one of the more experiential of this year’s releases, one that fully benefited from not only the size and scope of the big screen and theater sound, but the immersion of the theatrical experience. This isn’t just a tribute to the picture’s craft (though it’s first rate); Cosmatos and co-writer Aaron Stewart-Ahn create such a specific world, moving to its own rhythm and operating according to its own nightmare logic, that it does the film a disservice not to enter into it. So the best I can advise is to queue it up on Shudder, put your phone in the other room, turn off the lights, and give yourself over to this wild ride.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Mission: Impossible – Fallout: Tom Cruise may neither look like, nor be willing to admit that he is, a 56-year-old man, but in the sixth installment of his venerable and thrilling spy franchise, he is at least allowing writer/director Christopher McQuarrie to ding his armor of vulnerability. He is no longer the agent who only needs to grit his teeth as he shimmies down a high-speed train or leaps from a flying motorcycle; more and more, he addresses his desperate situations not with confidence, but with a barely convincing “I’ll make it work!” That’s one of the many pleasurable elements of this ace installment, and indicative of its evolution: from essentially an anthology series with a new director and cast of characters each time around to a franchise with a sense of history — and, thus, of genuine stakes. And, of course, the set pieces don’t disappoint. (Includes audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, storyboards, isolated score track, and theatrical trailer.)
Support the Girls: Andrew Bujalski’s movies always operate on their own wavelength, and when he’s cooking, it’s an ideal place to be. But when he’s off, it can be a bumpy ride, and that happens through a fair amount of this loose-limbed, workplace-hangout comedy, which spends a day in the doors of Double Whammies, an Austin “sports-themed bar and grill.” But there’s a lot here to like, particularly from a performance perspective: Haley Lu Richardson is just delightful as the cheeriest waitress in the place (or any place, frankly), and last week’s NYFCC pick for Best Actress, Regina Hall, conveys the put-upon manager’s personal and professional ennui without turning into a big drag. It’s so energetically acted and casually funny, you might not even notice that it never quite comes together.
The Miseducation of Cameron Post: Desiree Akhavan follows up her achingly insightful and wickedly funny 2014 feature Appropriate Behavior with this marvelous adaptation of Emily M. Danforth’s novel, in which a young lesbian (Chloë Grace Moretz, in a warm and wonderfully open performance) is shipped off to the “God’s Promise” gay conversion camp after she’s caught making out with her best girl friend at the school prom. The portrait of evangelical therapy is eerily convincing (without veering into lazy caricature), as is the dramatization of the guilt, pain, and self-loathing that is such a key component of these programs. The tonal shifts in the third act are a touch over-telegraphed, but that minor complaint aside, this is an engaging comedy/drama, full of rich characters and witty dialogue.