Nicole Kidman’s big holiday play for another “look, a transformation” Oscar lands on disc and Hulu this week, along with a ‘70s fave on 4K and a pair of recent (and recommended) documentaries on DVD. And the Criterion Collection adds the story of a soulless monster who amasses a faithful, cult-like following by simply “saying what everyone is thinking.” Imagine that!
ON HULU / BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Destroyer: Nicole Kidman first appears in Karyn Kusama’s crime drama clunking down the road to a crime scene, winded and dragging; she’s bruised and battered, and sports a low, quiet voice with a hard, brittle edge. She is at the center, if memory serves, of every single scene of the movie, and up to the task; this is a taut, muscular performance, playing a cop who, perhaps unwisely, goes rooting through the skeletons in her closet. Kusama moves her star, and her camera, through these silky L.A. nightscapes in a style reminiscent of Michael Mann; between the visual aesthetics and the dazzling bank robberies and shoot-outs, Kusama basically remade Heat, but with Kidman in both roles. If that doesn’t sell you, I don’t know what will. (Also streaming on Hulu.) (Includes audio commentaries and featurette.)
Alien: Ridley Scott’s groundbreaking 1979 fusion of sci-fi and horror hits 4K, an ideal home; Scott’s attentiveness to detail is a good fit, as is his dedication to the lived-in, working-class aesthetic of the picture, a sharp contrast to the clean, glistening, and seemingly uninhabited interiors typical of space operas. But it’s a film that’s always worked, on everything from glistening HD to shabby VHS, because that lived-in quality extends to the characters and performers; unlike contemporary counterparts (including Scott’s own Prometheus and Covenent), Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett’s screenplay has the patience to wait for the thrills while establishing the situation. And thus, these people aren’t just randomly ordered victims – we have a genuine stake in their survival, particularly that of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, who remains one of the great genre characters of all time.
A Face in the Crowd: “I’ll say one thing for him,” says Mel Miller (Walter Matthau) of his boss, Lonesome Rhodes (Andy Griffith). “He’s got the courage of his ignorance.” Lonesome is, he insists, “just a country boy,” discovered distributing cornpone wisdom and cowboy songs on a backwoods radio station who becomes, thanks to his man-of-the-people aw-shucks style, one of the most influential voices in mid-‘50s mass media. Budd Schulberg’s tack-sharp screenplay has lost none of its resonance or doom in the half-plus century since its inception – if anything, it’s becomes less a polemic than a prophecy. And director Elia Kazan (in the midst of a legendary run of pictures that included On the Waterfront, East of Eden, and Baby Doll) conducts a symphony of brilliant performances, none more shocking than Griffith, who reveals the bite behind his good ol’ boy grin. (Includes new interviews, archival documentary, and trailer.)
ON DVD / VOD
The Gospel According to André: Fashion editor, commentator, and general icon André Leon Talley is a big man, in big clothes, with a big personality. Tamron Hall calls him “a black superhero,” and she’s not wrong; he’s been working “the chiffon trenches” since the ‘70s, and in that time, he’s accumulated a lot of stories, and a lot of opinions. Kate Novack’s affectionate bio-documentary digs up plenty of wonderful old footage and photos (some of the Vogue layouts he worked on are still staggering), but the most moving material is the most personal, as Novack traces all the way back to his humble Southern beginnings, and crisply conveys how those days of church clothes and social awkwardness affected the person he was, and the legend he’d become.
Tickled: David Farrier is a New Zealand pop culture broadcaster whose innocent inquiry into the bizarre sport of “Competitive Endurance Tickling” takes one bizarre turn after another in this utterly strange and endlessly fascinating first-person documentary. Farrier goes looking for answers and stumbles into a mystery so complex, and so full odd turns, you wouldn’t believe it in a narrative film: a “tickling empire,” in which monied “fetish queens” create bizarre (and, they strenuously insist, “exclusively heterosexual”) videos that turn into fodder for blackmail, threats, and generally inexplicable behavior. Just when you think you’ve predicted a big reveal, another whammo socks you in the jaw; it’s got the complexity, twists, and tension of a good thriller, yet sounds notes of humanity when you least expect them.