Movie News & Reviews

DVD Picks: ‘Amy’ documentary tops list of Dec. 1 releases

‘Amy’

(R, 128 minutes): Asif Kapadia’s sensitive, superbly constructed, ultimately shattering documentary about singer Amy Winehouse’s life and career doesn’t traffic in the cliches of demons and trainwrecks. Rather, it interrogates them, allowing Winehouse to come into her own as a gifted, conflicted, self-destructive but deeply resilient young woman who died far too soon. Meticulously composed of present-day interviews and splendidly curated archival footage, “Amy” rescues Winehouse’s reputation, restoring her to her rightful place as a jazz interpreter on par with Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett, whom she idolized. But it transcends the usual rise-and-fall structure of conventional nonfiction biopics. In Kapadia’s careful hands, the film becomes less a portrait of a tragic artist, whose downward spiral was exacerbated by opportunistic family members and colleagues, than a discomfiting mirror held up to her audience. In the immortal words of Bennett, with whom Winehouse recorded her last song before she died, “Life teaches you how to live it, if you live long enough.” Even if it’s too late for Winehouse, Kapadia asks in “Amy,” are the rest of us learning anything at all? Contains strong language, drugs.

‘Mistress America’

(R, 86 minutes): A giddy, heedless zaniness propels the New York comedy “Mistress America,” Noah Baumbach’s of-the-moment homage to the screwball comedies of yore. Yore, in the case of Baumbach and his co-writer and leading lady, Greta Gerwig, means Ye Olde 1980s, when such wacky bagatelles as Jonathan Demme’s “Something Wild” and Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” took audiences on unpredictable rides through quirkily eventful nightscapes. The chatterer who keeps “Mistress America” going is Gerwig’s Brooke, a fey, funny, somewhat feckless young woman who captures the heart and imagination of Tracy (Lola Kirke), a naive college freshman whose mother is about to marry Brooke’s dad. Contains strong language including some sexual references.

‘Mississippi Grind’

(R, 108 minutes): Ryan Reynolds and Ben Mendelsohn play a couple of lovable losers in “Mississippi Grind,” but in the eyes of the film’s directing team, these compulsive gamblers are born winners. Anna Boden and her fellow writer- director Ryan Fleck bring their signature brand of humanism and compassion to the project, and “Mississippi Grind” winds up being an improbably satisfying, even heartwarming character study. Neither morality tale nor decadent road picture, it’s an unlikely bromance between two Peter Pans who, when faced with the choice of whether to stay safely on terra firma, can’t help but take flight – even if it means they’ll crash and burn. Contains strong language.

‘Goodnight Mommy’

(R, 100 minutes): An impeccably creepy Austrian thriller in the artfully unsettling mold of “The Babadook” and “It Follows.” Almost from the start, there’s an ominous foreboding in the innocent games and shared meals taken up by its young protagonists, twins Lukas and Elias (played by real-life brothers Lukas and Elias Schwarz). Never mind that their mother (Susanne Wuest) wanders around their sterile, modernist country home with her face entirely obscured by bandages or that the blinds are drawn, day and night. The boys seem preternaturally in tune with one another, and they don’t believe that the woman under the bandages is their mother. Just what the heck is going on here takes time to discover, as the boys’ behavior and Mommy’s identity grow more and more uncertain. When the film’s secrets finally come into focus, with all the jolt of “The Sixth Sense,” everything that came before will be re-evaluated. It’s one of the best and most haunting movie twists in years. Contains disturbing violent content and some nudity.

Also out Dec. 1

  • “90 Minutes in Heaven”
  • “Desert Dancer”
  • “Cooties”
  • “Grace of Monoco”
  • “Lost in the Sun”
  • “Momentum”
  • “Some Kind of Beautiful”
  • “Yakuza Apocalypse”
  • “Fear the Walking Dead”
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