Two fall sorta-indies land on disc this week; both were met with mixed reactions from critics and audiences, but are well worth (at the very least) a rental. A ‘60s classic also lands on Blu this week, via Criterion, as does a first-rate new documentary on a ‘70s icon. And a superhero movie with a welcome bit of wit and style makes its way to Netflix. Take a look:
Ant-Man and the Wasp: The increasingly stifling seriousness of the Marvel movies — which came to a bit of a head with Infinity War — is again charmingly subverted by Peyton Reed’s sequel to his 2015 comic adventure. That film was breezy fun that felt as though it had to switch off to fulfill the obligations of the Marvel house style; this time, it seems like Reed’s been given a longer leash, so even the big set pieces are injected with inventive visual gags, and moments of overwrought backstory are subverted altogether. As before, it mostly works because of Paul Rudd’s formidable charisma (there’s an early montage, set to the Partridge Family’s “C’mon, Get Happy,” that’s like courtroom evidence of his likability), and while Michael Peña again steals the show, Randall Park also lands some very funny moments, and Michelle Pfeiffer, predictably, slays.
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Suspiria: Director Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake is a picture that’s bonkers even by the already nutty standards of the phrase “Suspiria remake,” a blood-spewing fever dream that operates on a trance-like wavelength, more beholden to nightmare logic than conventional storytelling. It runs a good hour longer than Dario Argento’s 1977 original, burrowing deeply, and often unsettlingly, into the tactile elements of dance, the pleasure and the pain; he also spends a fair amount of that time on the new and not altogether successful character of an investigative therapist, a thread that (mostly) pays off, but feels primarily like a vehicle for a cutesy casting gimmick. But whatever it’s flaws, this is a movie you can’t take you eyes off of — even when it doesn’t make a damn lick of sense. (Includes featurettes.)
Boy Erased: It has its problems — a somewhat paint-by-numbers script, a clumsy metaphor or two — but actor/director Joel Edgerton’s adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir is a complicated, difficult story sensitively told of gay “conversion” therapy and, more importantly, the kind of Evangelical guilt that can lead to it. Hedges finds just the right note for the leading role, which is mostly reactionary — but when he has to raise his voice, he rises to the occasion. Russell Crowe deftly underplays the role of Lucas Hedges’ preacher father, and Nicole Kidman is wonderful as the mother who finds herself at a line she will not cross. Edgerton’s own performance as the leader of the conversion group is nuanced, and he fills the film with the kind of small, behavioral touches the keep it from veering too far into the polemic. (Includes deleted/extended scenes and featurettes.)
Studio 54: Ace documentarian Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) tells the coke-dusted rise-and-fall tale of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s tres chic discotheque, which ruled Manhattan’s night life for 33 months in the late 1970s before tumbling down in a spectacular wave of scandals and criminal convictions. Tyrnauer digs deeper and pushes past the usual tsk-tsking and/or hagiography, leaving in the uncomfortable questions and awkward answers. But more importantly, he understands and conveys exactly why the club connected, at that particular moment — how it was fueled by the ying/yang, introvert/extrovert dynamic of its co-owners, and how its potent dance floor cocktail of personalities, classes, and sexualities offered up to its patrons escapism, inclusion, acceptance, and access. A bewitching story, briskly and wittily told.
In The Heat of the Night: The most iconic moments of Norman Jewison’s 1967 race-based drama — Sidney Poitier declaring, “They call me Mister Tibbs”; how he immediately returns a slap across the face — haven’t lost their electricity in the 50-plus years since the picture’s release. What’s striking about it, this far on, is how carefully couched those moments are; Jewison seemed to know that he would have to smuggle those moments into what is, when you get down to it, a fairly straight-forward whodunit, coupled with an early iteration of the soon-to-be-inescapable opposites-attract buddy-cop formula. But it’s an expertly crafted picture any way you slice it, with a deeply embedded sense of place, mood to spare, and ace performances by Poitier and Rod Steiger. (Includes audio commentary, archival featurettes, new interviews, and trailer.)