Recommended movies to see in theaters this week:
- The gentle and insightful end-of-life drama Truman. Often funny, it’s a weeper that is never maudlin. One of the best movies of the year. Hard to find, but worth it.
- The droll dark comedy Radio Dreams explores the ambivalence of the immigrant experience through the portrait of a flamboyant misfit, a man who rides the roller coaster of megalomania and despair. Radio Dreams opens today for a one-week-only run at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco.
- The Lost City of Z, a thoughtful and beautifully cinematic revival of the adventure epic genre.
- In Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer, writer-director Joseph Cedar and his star Richard Gere combine to create the unforgettable character of Norman Oppenheimer, a Jewish Willy Loman who finally gets his chance to sits with the Movers and Shakers. This may be Gere’s best movie performance ever.
- The Dinner is an emotional potboiler that showcases Richard Gere, Laura Linney Steve Coogan and Rebecca Hall.
- Free Fire is a witty and fun shoot ’em up.
- Their Finest is an appealing, middling period drama set during the London Blitz.
And movies to avoid:
- A Quiet Passion, a miserably evocative portrait of a miserable Emily Dickinson.
- I found the predictable Armenian Genocide drama The Promise to be a colossal waste of Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale.
My DVD/Stream of the week is the historical Feel Good Hidden Figures, which tells the hitherto generally unknown story of some African-American women whose math wizardry was key to the success of the US space program in the early 1960s. The audience at my screening burst into applause, which doesn’t happen that often. Hidden Figures is available on DVD from Netflix and to stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
On May 23, Turner Classic Movies will air two great, great, great Westerns: John Ford’s classic The Searchers with John Wayne and a much less famous film, Sydney Pollack’s under recognized 1972 masterpiece Jeremiah Johnson, which features a brilliantly understated but compelling performance by Robert Redford. If you want to understand why Redford is a movie star, watch this movie. Give lots of credit to Pollack – it’s only 108 minutes long, and today’s filmmakers would bloat this epic tale by 40 minutes longer.
Then on May 25, there is a real curiosity on TCM, the 1933 anti-war movie Men Must Fight, which predicts many aspects World War II with unsettling accuracy. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a trip.
Also on May 25, TCM brings us another two movies from my list of Least Convincing Movie Monsters – The Killer Shrews and The Wasp Woman.