Pick of the week: “Zootopia” (Netflix) — My full review is here. This candy-coated Disney animated film doesn’t sugarcoat the complexities of race relations, as a bunny rookie cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) comes to the big city and learn that all the animals there don’t live in quite the harmonious mosaic that she thought. It’s relentlessly clever, funny and resonant — when a villain who has been pitting one group of animals against another exclaims “Fear always works!,” one can’t help but think of a certain 2016 presidential campaign or two. (Okay, just one.)
“Raiders!” (Netflix) — My full review is here and interview with the filmmakers is here. The story of how teens Eric Zala and Chris Strompoulos made their own shot-for-shot remake of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” over seven summers would have made for a plenty fun documentary. But by weaving the history in with the now middle-aged filmmakers attempts to complete the one scene they couldn’t do as kids, “Raiders!” becomes deeper and more poignant and its look at the possibilities and limitations of teenage fan culture.
“Sunset Song” (Netflix) — My full review is here. You probably missed seeing Terence Davies’ sumptuous latest film on the big screen, but definitely catch it on Netflix. Set in rural Scotland before and during World War I, the film follows the maturing of a teenage girl (Agyness Deyn) as she learns what a hard and unrewarding existence life on the farm can be, especially for a woman with few options surrounded by scared, brutal men. The land is beautiful, but it doesn’t let its people go easily.
“Young Adult” (Amazon Prime and Hulu) — Jason Reitman tested audiences’ willingness to follow an unlikable character in this acerbic comedy, starring Charlize Theron as a former teenage popular girl turned YA novelist who comes back to her hometown and hopes to woo her old high school boyfriend (Patrick Wilson). Except that real life isn’t like a YA novel, and if it was she’d be the villain not the hero. Patton Oswalt also stars as the former high school misfit who, in the end, she has more in common with than anyone else.
“Wiener-Dog” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. An adorable little dachshund falls in and out of the lives of several owners. It sounds like heartwarming family fare, except that the writer-director is Todd Solondz (“Welcome to the Dollhouse”), so you know this will be jet-black comedy about miserable people who sort of deserve their fates. Some of the segments in this anthology film are better than others, especially Danny DeVito as a disgruntled film school professor, but the dog carries itself with dignity throughout.