Movies to See Right Now


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 MonstersThe Killer Shrews and The Wasp Woman.

Robert Redford in JEREMIAH JOHNSON
Robert Redford in JEREMIAH JOHNSON

Movies to See Right Now

Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in CREED
Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone in CREED

I really like Bay Area filmmaker Ryan Coogler’s Creed – the newest and entirely fresh chapter in the Rocky franchise.  I’ll write about it soon, but don’t wait for my post.

Also in theaters now:

  • The Irish romantic drama Brooklyn is an audience-pleaser with a superb performance by Saoirse Ronan.
  • Spotlight – a riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama with some especially compelling performances;
  • The Martian – an entertaining Must See space adventure – even for folks who usually don’t enjoy science fiction;
  • Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg’s Cold War espionage thriller with Tom Hanks, featuring a fantastic performance by Mark Rylance.
  • Sicario – a dark and paranoid crime thriller about the drug wars.
  • 3 Left Standing – the wistful stand-up comedy documentary.
  • Trumbo – the historical drama that reflects on the personal cost of princliples.
  • Spectre – action and vengeance from a determined James Bond.

My Stream of the Week is the raucous and raunchy high energy comedy Tangerine (which you can’t tell was shot on an iPhone). You can stream Tangerine on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and some cable/satellite PPV.  (Or you can buy the DVD from a retailer.)

On December 12, there is a real curiosity on Turner Classic Movies, the 1933 anti-war movie Men Must Fight, which predicts World War II with unsettling accuracy.  Then, on December 14, TCM will screen Anatomy of a Murder, with its great courtroom scene, great performances by James Stewart, George C. Scott, Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick and for its superb jazz soundtrack.


Movies to See Right Now


There’s a good movie choice for everyone:

  • If you haven’t seen it yet, run out and watch the hilariously dark Argentine comedy Wild Tales, a series of individual stories about revenge fantasies becoming actualized.
  • The harrowing thriller ’71 is exhilarating.
  • Going Clear: The Prison of Belief, documentarian Alex Gibney’s devastating expose of Scientology is playing on HBO;
  • I also really like the Belgian romance Three Hearts – the leading man has a weak heart in more ways than one.
  • If you’re looking for a scare, try the inventive and non-gory horror gem It Follows.
  • The music doc The Wrecking Crew is for those with an interest in music of the 1960s. It’s both in theaters and streaming on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.

Insurgent, from the Divergent franchise is what it is – young adult sci-fi with some cool f/x. The romance 5 to 7 did NOT work for me, but I know smart women who enjoyed it.  I found Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter to be droll but tiresome.  The biting Hollywood satire of Maps to the Stars wasn’t worth the disturbing story of a cursed family.

My Stream of the Week is Inherent Vice, a funny and confused amble through pot-besotted 1970 Los Angeles. It’s available on DirecTV PPV, Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Xbox Video and Flixster.

On April 13, Turner Classic Movies has something for everyone:

    • The screwball comedy What’s Up Doc?, with my all-time favorite chase scene;
    • Hitchcock’s unsettling The Birds;
    • And if you like your film noir tawdry, then Gun Crazy (1950) is for you. Peggy Cummins plays a prototypical Bad Girl who takes her newlywed hubby on a crime spree.

On April 15, there is a real curiosity on TCM, the 1933 anti-war movie Men Must Fight, which predicts World War II with unsettling accuracy.

Movies to See Right Now


The enthralling Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of the frustrating, wearying and dangerous ten-year man hunt for Bin Laden – it’s a Must See.  The intelligent drama Rust and Bone is the singular tale of a complicated woman and an uncomplicated man.  Matt Damon’s stellar performance leads a fine cast in Promised Land, an engaging (until the corny ending) drama about exploitation of natural gas in rural America.  Not Fade Away is a pleasant enough, but unremarkable 60s coming of age story by The Sopranos creator David Chase and rocker Steven Van Zandt.

Like Zero Dark Thirty, Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook are on my list of Best Movies of 2012. In Lincoln, Steven Spielberg and Daniel Day-Lewis push aside the marble statue and bring to life Abraham Lincoln the man. Argo is Ben Affleck’s brilliant thriller based on a true story from the Iran Hostage Crisis. The rewarding dramedy Silver Linings Playbook has a strong story, topicality and humor, but it’s worth seeing just for Jennifer Lawrence’s performance.

If, like me, you worship the spaghetti Western, the Quentin Tarantino blockbuster Django Unchained is gloriously pedal-to-the-metal, splattering exploitation. Also don’t overlook the solid thriller Deadfall that is flying under the radar this holiday season.

Ang Lee’s visually stunning fable Life of Pi is an enthralling commentary on story-telling. Denzel Washington stars in Flight, a thriller about the miraculous crash landing of an airliner and the even more dangerous battle against alcoholism. Skyfall updates the James Bond franchise with thrilling action and a more shopworn 007 from Daniel Craig.

Pass on the lavish but stupefying all star Les Miserables, with its multiple endings, each more miserable than the last. The FDR movie Hyde Park on Hudson is a bore. The disaster movie The Impossible is only for audiences that enjoy watching suffering adults and children in peril.

You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My pick for the best movie of 2012, The Kid with a Bike, is playing on the Sundance Channel three times on January 16-17. And next week Turner Classic Movies will be broadcasting the classic Western A Man Called Horse, Jack Nicholson’s most copmplex performance in Five Easy Pieces and a real curiosity, the 1933 anti-war movie Men Must Fight which predicts World War II with unsettling accuracy.