Grandma. Is it cool if we just let Lily Tomlin play every spunky lesbian grandma? Yeah? Thought so. The iconic comedian-actress is such a fire hose of sass and bottled-up sadness in the little godsend that it’s a travesty she hasn’t had a film role this meaty since 1988’s Big Business (your loss, ageist, sexist Hollywood). In the road-trip flick Tomlin plays Elle, a writer who’s just out of a four-month relationship with her “footnote” of a girlfriend (Judy Greer) when her teenage granddaughter (Julia Garner) shows up to drop the preggers bomb. Grandma dusts off the ol’ cruiser and the two of them wheel around on an abortion fundraiser, collecting a few bucks here and there from old flames and friends, including a tattoo artist (Laverne Cox). Directed by Paul Weitz, who also collaborated with Tomlin on 2013’s Admission, the great Grandma is a feminist vehicle that lets Tomlin run wild with an outrageous blaze of bon mots — at one point she sasses a barista about the redundancy of “drip coffee” — while also plunging deep into the character’s rough-around-the-edges complexities. Tomlin talks about the role during a behind-the-scenes feature and a film commentary.
The Wiz Live! was a disappointment for all the right reasons: It was actually good. If you were looking forward to another spectacularly bad Carrie Underwood-in-The Sound of Music affair, then the surprisingly great and powerful Craig Zadan and Neil Meron production was a big bummer. No tweet-hating this one, guys. In fact, the all-black stage take on The Wizard of Oz kept any and all abominations at bay. Audra McDonald didn’t even need to step in like the Goddess of Musicals that she is, at least not with Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba, Queen Latifah, Amber Riley, Shanice Williams and Stephanie Mills raising their voices up somewhere over the rainbow and into the far-off galaxies of greatness… and gayness. That’s right: In addition to Ne-Yo’s super innuendo-laden “Slide Some Oil to Me” number, Oz, in 2016, is a Latifah-run gay discotheque. Follow, follow? Glad to! Just don’t get your hopes up too high — there’s one measly extra.
Freeheld. In Freeheld, Julianne Moore and Ellen Page unify their queerness to portray a powerful true-life story. They play lesbian lovers — a dream team that was bound for big things. But then it came out, and there were no Oscars, and few critics loved it. No wonder: It’s a glorified Lifetime movie. Freeheld earnestly tells the story of police officer Laurel Hester as she fights to transfer pension benefits to her partner, Stacie, after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. It’s heavy stuff that’s heavy handed. The characters are mere shells, and Steve Carell is embarrassingly miscast as a self-proclaimed “big, loud, gay Jew.” As it trudges toward an end, and then another end, and then finally another end, piling on the bawl bait, it’s impossible to feel things if you don’t know who those feels are for. Luckily the more-captivating 40-minute Freeheld doc, released in 2007, is among the disc’s extras.
The Danish Girl. The crying in The Danish Girl is forever, it seems. Tears of joy, of sadness. Of “I want the Oscar.” Throughout, director Tom Hooper works overtime for all that Academy Award consideration: hot-button topic (trans issues) meets Eddie Redmayne (beloved Oscar winner) meets melodrama (#tears). Loosely playing the first woman to undergo gender-reassignment surgery, Danish painter Lili Elbe, Redmayne carefully navigates womanhood at its most womanly. He’s good. Sometimes even better than that. But, because of the script’s relatively one-note characterization of Lili, it’s Redmayne’s co-star, Alicia Vikander, who projects true greatness, exploring the nuances and complicated reality of a patient and loyal lover. Regarding extras: Just one, which features the crew discussing the film’s journey to the screen.
The Intern. The devil wears… not Prada. As the CEO of her own booming fashion startup, Anne Hathaway, as Jules Ostin, is a rigid boss who’s so self-involved she can’t be bothered with remembering names. She’s also not the nicest. She gets it from her mom. In comes her right-hand man, and his name is Ben (Robert De Niro, who, notably, does yoga in the movie) and he’s widowed and 70 and basically a live-action version of the old man in Up. As it turns out, Ben needs Jules as much as she needs him. Like watching a millennial reluctantly help a tech-challenged elder figure out an iPad, the Hathaway-De Niro dynamic in Nancy Meyers’ odd-couple delight is a sweet thing to behold. Special features are nearly nil. Just a few short bits on set decorations and the other interns.
Bridge of Spies. Leave it to the ever-sublime pairing of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg to put a fresh spin on the well-worn espionage subgenre. Together they tell the true story of New York lawyer James B. Donovan (Hanks), who, against America’s wishes, defends a suspected Soviet spy during the Cold War. But when Russians capture a U.S. pilot, Donovan demonstrates to both his country and family that heroic deeds don’t always happen overnight. Graceful, sophisticated, atmospherical — aesthetically, its Spielberg at his most Spielberg-y. A fraught, beautifully shot spy drama that builds to a surprisingly emotional closing, Bridge of Spies delivers in all respects, with Spielberg and Hanks turning in some of the best work of their respective careers, though it’s Mark Rylance as the pawn in the game who was the upset winner at this year’s Oscars. The supplements include four featurettes.
Girls: Season 4. We briefly interrupt your Broad City binging to let you know that, yes, Girls is still on and that, yaaaaaas, it’s so good lately. Four seasons in and finally Lena Dunham’s cast of post-collegiate dawdlers are starting to figure it out. Maturity! Jobs! Rimming….? Why of course. Becoming a healthy, successful adult isn’t just moving to Iowa for your art a la Dunham’s Hannah — it’s getting your butt licked (a la Marnie, who’s still delusional and thinks she has a future as a musician). Revelations are constant. And queer. Zachary Quinto stars as a total schmuck. Plus, Andrew Rannells is still stealing scenes and Adam Driver is still taking his shirt off. The two-disc set includes Dunham’s commentary and gag reels.
— Chris Azzopardi