A weekly guide to what’s new on DVD and Blu-ray
Pick of the Week: Trainwreck (Universal)
Though Inside Amy Schumer had already been earning good reviews and an appreciative audience for a couple of seasons, 2015 still felt like a breakthrough year for Amy Schumer. Season three sketches like “Last F*ckable Day” and “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” — the latter an episode-long 12 Angry Men parody featuring Paul Giamatti, John Hawkes, Jeff Goldblum and others — became essential parts of the cultural conversation. Ditto Trainwreck, Schumer’s first starring feature. Written by Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, it plays as very much a product of both sensibilities, with Schumer’s boundary-pushing humor channeled into an Apatowian story of an arrested-development case who’s forced to grow up. The pairing works, mostly, though it has some of the unevenness and loose ends found in every Apatow film and some touches that feel a little too conventional for Schumer. But the film’s tremendously entertaining — and moving, too — thanks to Schumer’s engaging presence, some fine romantic support from Bill Hader and a bunch of contributions from some ringers (Colin Quinn, Vanessa Bayer) and some unexpected players (John Cena, LeBron James).
Apatow’s also a filmmaker who consistently turns out essential DVD/Blu-ray versions of his films, in part because it takes a lot of cutting to get his improv-heavy approach down to feature length. This edition contains both the theatrical cut and an unrated version and deleted scenes. Best bonus of all: “Secrets of the Wu,” in which Method Man explains Wu-Tang Clan to his 101-year-old co-star Norman Lloyd. (You can also watch a bonus clip from the DVD here.)
One of the best films of the year was shot entirely on iPhones in parts of Los Angeles in which you’ve probably never set foot. Tangerine observes a day in the life — Christmas Eve, specifically — of two transgender sex workers named Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) and Alexandra (Mya Taylor), the cab driver who carts them around and occasionally enjoys their services (Karren Karagulian), and the pimp/boyfriend (The Wire‘s James Ransone) Sin-Dee hasn’t seen while she served a jail sentence and can’t seem to find now that she’s free. Directed by Sean Baker, Tangerine pops with a rare sense of on-the-street energy. Chaos follows Sin-Dee as she pursues her manhunt, with Alexandra just barely picking up the pieces behind her. But the film’s the furthest thing from voyeuristic, focusing on the relationship between the women and capturing the way all relationships are at least partly defined by the things we choose to ignore. It’s a vital, affecting piece of filmmaking– one made all the more remarkable given its leads’ lack of experience in front of the camera.
Code Unknown (Criterion)
Michael Haneke has a reputation for dourness, earned by films that keep viewers’ gaze fixed on images from which they’d ordinarily want to look away. Yet, behind the chilliness, there’s a real sense of concern. As uncomfortable as Amor gets, for instance, there’s no irony in the title: It’s a depiction of a love story at its very end, well past the point where “they lived happily ever after” usually leaves off. Consisting mostly of unbroken takes — including an early scene that’s one of the most impressive tracking shots ever filmed — Haneke’s 2000 film Code Unknown follows four characters tied to a bit of drama on the streets of Paris. Anne (Juliette Binoche) is an actress whose boyfriend’s younger brother (Alexandre Hamidi) harasses Maria (Luminita Gheorgiu), a homeless woman, then scuffles with Amadou (Ona Lu Yenke), an immigrant from Mali. The film then offers snippets of their lives after that moment, fragments that double as a mosaic of Western Europe as it population changes reshape it at the turn of the 21st century. It’s an unnerving achievement, one rounded here by interviews with the cast and crew, including Haneke, who comes off as a much cheerier fellow than his movies suggest (if not quite as cheery as the guy on this Twitter feed.)
Better Call Saul (Sony): Saul Goodman didn’t seem like the most obvious Breaking Bad character to get his own show, but this widely acclaimed prequel/spin-off hasn’t had trouble escaping the shadow of its predecessor — and even earned star Bob Odenkirk an Emmy nomination.
Terminator Genisys (Paramount): The best parts of this new Terminator film come early — and they work mostly because they hearken back to earlier, better entries in the series. There’s kind of a neat idea at the heart of the film, with time travel having screwed up the series’ continuity so much that it’s not clear what’s happened and what’s yet to happen. It’s fun to see Schwarzenegger back in his signature role too, especially in a few nice moments with new Sarah Connor Emilia Clarke. But after a while it becomes a loud bore.
Mr. Holmes (Lionsgate): As a different sort of aging action hero, Ian McKellan is outstanding in this late-in-life Sherlock Holmes adventure that finds the detective doing battle with his own failing memory. Bill Condon directs, working from a 2005 novel by Mitch Cullin.
Dick Van Dyke Show: The Complete Remastered Series (RLJ): As its title suggests, this set collects the entirety of the well-loved ’60s series starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. Van Dyke plays a writer for the TV show The Alan Brady Show and show creator Carl Reiner (who plays Brady) drew on his own experiences working for Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows.
Nathan For You: Seasons One and Two (Shout! Factory): In Nathan Fielder’s Comedy Central series the comedian, and graduate of “one of Canada’s top business schools,” helps out small businesses via bizarre, and not-particularly-successful schemes. But that bare description makes the show sound far wackier, and less inventive than it really is. Fielder’s deadpan is unbreakable and his business plans are Rube Goldbergian in their brilliant convolutions. Dumb Starbucks got all the headlines in season two, but the series’ high point is the East Los Angeles International Film Festival, which begins simply enough but then spirals out of control to include celebrity impressionists and an truly awkward bit of romance.