Awkwafina stars in ‘The Farewell,’ a funny, moving look at family life
New on Blu-ray
“The Farewell” (Lionsgate DVD, $13.99; Blu-ray, $19.99; also available on VOD)
One of 2019’s most moving, entertaining American independent films, “The Farewell” stars Awkwafina as Billi, a New York writer who travels to China to say goodbye to her grandmother (called “Nai Nai”), who’s dying of lung cancer but hasn’t been told about the terminal diagnosis by her doctors or her family. Written and directed by Lulu Wang — and based on a personal anecdote she’d previously recounted on an episode of “This American Life” — “The Farewell” has the narrative structure of a farce, as Billi and her folks scramble to throw one last big party for Nai Nai while keeping her in the dark about the real reason why all her loved ones are suddenly at her doorstep. Wang presents this plot in a way that’s funny and crowd-pleasing, but also thoughtful and well-observed, with something meaningful to say about how families sometimes go to great lengths to avoid telling each other the truth.
[Special features: A commentary track, deleted scenes and interviews]
“Klaus” (available Tuesday on Netflix)
In the animated feature “Klaus,” Jason Schwartzman provides the voice for a bumbling novice postman, who gets assigned to a remote Arctic village, where he befriends a progressive schoolteacher (voiced by Rashida Jones) and a reclusive toymaker (J.K. Simmons). The trio works together on some novel ways to make their icy neighbors a lot nicer. Ostensibly a Santa Claus origin story, the handsomely illustrated “Klaus” could become a holiday perennial — sort of like the old Rankin/Bass TV specials, which are similarly concerned with how our Christmas traditions began.
TV set of the week
“Star Trek: Discovery - Season Two” (Paramount DVD, $49.99; Blu-ray, $55.98; also available on VOD)
The CBS All Access series “Star Trek: Discovery” started to hit its stride in the second half of its first season and keeps that momentum rolling in its outstanding second season, which has the epic sweep and eye-popping production values of a blockbuster summer action movie. Star Sonequa Martin-Green continues to do fine work as Michael Burnham, a diligent Star Fleet officer raised by Vulcans. Season 2 picks up some pop thanks to the addition of two recurring guest stars: Anson Mount as the affable, wizened Capt. Christopher Pike, and Ethan Peck as Spock (yes, Spock), Burnham’s brother from her adoptive family. Add in a thrilling season-long plot about an insidious, life-extinguishing artificial intelligence network, and this is one thrilling run of television.
[Special features: Commentary tracks, deleted scenes, bonus shorts and featurettes]
From the archives
“Spirited Away: Collector’s Edition” (Shout! Factory Blu-ray, $49.97)
Hayao Miyazaki’s peerless animated masterpiece “Spirited Away” tells the story of 10-year-old Chihiro, who sees her parents get turned into pigs by a mysterious spell, which also confines her to a curious bathhouse catering to ghosts and demons. The heroine has to puzzle out where she actually is, and what she has to do to escape, in a story that shifts easily between supernatural adventure and outright surrealism, teeming with astonishing images of magical creatures and fluid buildings. “Spirited Away” is absorbing and poignant, depicting a brave youngster’s accidental exploration of a complex adult world, where everything always seems to be in flux.
[Special features: Storyboards, the original soundtrack and a 40-page booklet of art and essays]
Three more to see
“Aquarela” (Sony Blu-ray, $24.49); “The Daytrippers” (Criterion DVD, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95); “Good Boys” (Universal DVD, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98; also available on VOD)
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