Movies to See Right Now

IDA
IDA

My pick for the best movie of the year so far is openly more widely this week – the Polish drama Ida, about a novice nun who is stunned to learn that her biological parents were Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Superbly photographed in black and white, each shot is exquisitely composed. Watching shot after shot in Ida is like walking through a museum gazing at masterpiece paintings one after the other.

IDA
IDA

Fading Gigolo, a wonderfully sweet romantic comedy written, directed and starring John Tuturro is a crowd-pleaser. The raucous comedy Neighbors is a pleasant enough diversion. Locke is a drama with a gimmick that works. In the documentary Finding Vivian Maier, we go on journey to discover why one of the great 20th Century photographers kept her own work a secret. Like all Wes Anderson movies, The Grand Budapest Hotel is wry and imaginative, but it’s not one of his most engaging.

My DVD Stream of the Week is the highly original Her, one of my Best Movies of 2013.

It’s Memorial Day Weekend, which means it’s time for Turner Classic Movies to unleash a war movie marathon.  On May 24, you can see two classic Korean War films: The Steel Helmet (1951) and The Men of the Fighting Lady (1954).

Gene Evans in The Steel Helmet

DVD/Stream of the Week: Her

her1Her, the latest from writer-director Spike Jonze is about as inventive at his Being John Malkovitch – and that’s really saying something. Joaquin Phoenix stars as a lonely guy fascinated by his breathtakingly intuitive new computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johannson). This new operating system is SO intuitive that it molds itself to please him, constantly fine tuning itself into the image of his ideal companion – and he falls in love.

It’s set in a technologically not-so-distant future (but far enough in the future that everyone in LA lives and works in highrises and takes transit, even to the beach). Along with the absurd premise, Jonze sprinkles in some brilliantly funny touches. There’s a blind date with a knockout (Olivia Wilde) that spirals out of control with stunning suddenness. There’s an inspired bit with a waitperson interrupting the diners with “How’s everything?” (one of my personal pet peeves) at precisely the most awkward moment possible. A video game figure is cuddly looking but shockingly abusive. Here’s one more sly touch – a future male fashion of awkwardly high-waisted pants. Lots of smart laughs.

Her is one of the more thought-provoking films of the year – why did the main character’s most recent relationship fail? Does he really know what he wants and needs? Can he give enough to make a reciprocal relationship work?

Joaquin Phoenix is very good, as are Wilde, Kirsten Wiig, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara and Amy Adams. Scarlett Johannson, however, is a revelation; equipped only with her husky voice, she dominates the film. It’s an extraordinary performance.

All this being said, Her is not a perfect film – it drags in places. But between Johannson’s performance and Jonze’s wacky but thought-provoking story, Her is a winner – and on my Best Movies of 2013Her is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.

Movies to See Right Now

GLORIA
GLORIA

The Chilean drama Gloria is about an especially resilient 58-year-old woman.  The Palestinian Omar is a heartbreaking romance inside a tense thriller; Omar is nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the flawless true story thriller Captain Phillips, my choice as the best Hollywood movie of the year. It’s now available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.

In theaters, you can still find Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her, which all made my Best Movies of 2013. I also strongly recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and PhilomenaDallas Buyers Club, with its splendid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, is formulaic but still a pretty good watch.

I saw this year’s Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts and was disappointed.  There was nothing to match recent gems like The God of Love or Curfew.  I liked the British short about a particularly bored and malevolent God masquerading as a convict, but that 13 minutes didn’t justify the two hours that I had invested.  A 30-minute Spanish film about child soldiers in Africa was to excruciatingly brutal to justify the trite attempt at a redemptive payoff.  (I haven’t seen the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, but I have heard good things about that program.)

Check out my first post on Cinequest – and follow me on Twitter for my Cinequest coverage.

I love 31 Days of Oscar, Turner Classic Movies magical month of Oscar-nominated films. On March 1, TCM is showing all five Best Picture nominees from 1967: The winner was In the Heat of the Night, which I can’t imagine holds up as well today as The Graduate or the groundbreaking Bonnie and Clyde. The other nominees were Doctor Doolittle and the now embarrassingly dated Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Movies to See Right Now

SHORT TERM 12
SHORT TERM 12

This week, I’m featuring three movies that are flying under the radar. The Chilean drama Gloria is about an especially resilient 58-year-old woman.  Harder to find, Stranger by the Lake is an effective French thriller with LOTS of explicit gay sex.

And my DVD/Stream of the Week is the compelling and affecting foster care drama Short Term 12. This movie made both my Best Movies of 2013 and my Most Overlooked Movies of 2013, with its star making performance by Brie Larson.   Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.

In theaters, you can still find Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her, which all made my Best Movies of 2013.  I also strongly recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and PhilomenaDallas Buyers Club, with its splendid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, is formulaic but still a pretty good watch.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.

I saw this year’s Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts and was disappointed.  There was nothing to match recent gems like The God of Love or Curfew.  I liked the British short about a particularly bored and malevolent God masquerading as a convict, but that 13 minutes didn’t justify the two hours that I had invested.  A 30-minute Spanish film about child soldiers in Africa was to excruciatingly brutal to justify the trite attempt at a redemptive payoff.  (I haven’t seen the Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts, but I have heard good things about that program.)

Turner Classic Movies has launched its wonderful annual 31 Days of Oscar – filling the entire month with Oscar-nominated movies. This week I recommend the romantic French musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) which is notable for three things: 1) the actors sing all of the dialogue; 2) the breakout performance by then 20-year-old Catherine Deneuve; and 3) an epilogue scene at a gas station – one of the great weepers in cinema history.  I also recommend two great performances by Peter O’Toole screening on February 20, as a lethally driven movie director in The Stunt Man (1980) and as a gloriously dipsomaniacal screen icon in the comedy My Favorite Year (1982).

Movies to See Right Now

Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey (both Oscar-nominated) in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB.
Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey (both Oscar-nominated) in DALLAS BUYERS CLUB.

Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013.  I also strongly recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and PhilomenaDallas Buyers Club, with its splendid performances by Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto, is formulaic but still a pretty good watch.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past. And I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.

I haven’t yet seen the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts, but I’m gonna because they’re always good.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

My DVD/Stream of the Week features Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Hulu.

Turner Classic Movies has launched its wonderful annual 31 Days of Oscar – filling the entire month with Oscar-nominated movies. This week I recommend two wickedly funny Preston Sturges films – The Great McGinty (inside workings of a corrupt political machine) on February 10 and The Lady Eve (con artist Barbara Stanwyck tries to land the clueless but wealthy Henry Fonda) on February 11. TCM is also cablecasting the Howard Hawkes screwball comedy Ball of Fire, with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, on February 11.

Movies to See Right Now

Jonah Hill in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET
Jonah Hill in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

I’m planning to see the Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts, which opens today – it’s always worthwhile ( plus it helps me win the Oscar pool). You can also find the Oscar Nominated Short Animated a Films and Short Documentaries. The great thing about sampling the shorts is that, even if one short film isn’t your cup of tea, another one is coming along in 15 minutes and  you might like it a lot more.  I’ve never forgotten the touching and funny God of Love, which earned the 2011 Oscar for Best Live Action Short Film.  God of Love won that year’s Oscar over Na Wewe, one of the best films about violence in Africa that I’ve seen.  Similar discoveries could be waiting for you this week.

Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013. I also really recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena. And Gravity has been re-released in 3D.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past.  And I also like the Mumblecore romance Drinking Buddies, now available on VOD.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

The great Noir City film festival is still running for the next three days, this year with an international flavor. Check it out.

My DVD/Stream of the week is Prisoners. Prisoners is available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox video.

Movies to See Right Now

her1
Joaquin Phoenix in HER

Oscar nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013. I also really recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

My DVD/Stream of the Week is number 5 on my Best Movies of 2013The Spectacular Now is a spectacularly authentic and insightful character-driven story of teen self-discovery. It’s the best teen coming of age story since…I can’t remember.  The Spectacular Now is now available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.

Movies to See Right Now – with some Oscar nominees

Bruce Dern and Will Forte in NEBRASKA
Bruce Dern and Will Forte in NEBRASKA

The Oscar nominations are out, and Best Picture nominees Nebraska, American Hustle and Her all made my Best Movies of 2013.  I also really recommend Best Picture nominees The Wolf of Wall Street and Philomena.

Not nominated, but pretty damn good, is The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, another fine thriller from that franchise, with another amazing performance by Jennifer Lawrence. I also admire the compelling French drama The Past.

I’m not a fan of Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks  (sentimental and predictable) or the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis  (about an unlovable loser – and I didn’t love the movie, either).

My DVD/Stream of the Week is Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Sundance Now and Xbox Video.

Her: boy meets operating system

her1Her, the latest from writer-director Spike Jonze is about as inventive at his Being John Malkovitch – and that’s really saying something Joaquin Phoenix stars as a lonely guy fascinated by his breathtakingly intuitive new computer operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johannson).  This new operating system is SO intuitive that it molds itself to please him, constantly fine tuning itself into the image of his ideal companion – and he falls in love.

It’s set in a technologically not-so-distant future (but far enough in the future that everyone in LA lives and works in highrises and takes transit, even to the beach).  Along with the absurd premise, Jonze sprinkles in some brilliantly funny touches.  There’s a blind date with a knockout (Olivia Wilde) that spirals out of control with stunning suddenness.  There’s an inspired bit with a waitperson interrupting the diners with “How’s everything?” (one of my personal pet peeves) at precisely the most awkward moment possible.  A video game figure is cuddly looking but shockingly abusive.  Here’s one more sly touch – a future male fashion of awkwardly high-waisted pants.  Lots of smart laughs.

Her is one of the more thought-provoking films of the year – why did the main character’s most recent relationship fail?  Does he really know what he wants and needs? Can he give enough to make a reciprocal relationship work?

Joaquin Phoenix is very good, as are Wilde, Kirsten Wiig, Chris Pratt, Rooney Mara and Amy Adams.  Scarlett Johannson, however, is a revelation; equipped only with her husky voice, she dominates the film.  It’s an extraordinary performance.

All this being said, Her is not a perfect film – it drags in places.   But between Johannson’s performance and Jonze’s wacky but thought-provoking story, Her is a winner – and on my Best Movies of 2013.