Baby Driver is just an action movie, but the walking, running and driving are brilliantly timed to the beat of music.
I enjoyed Charlize Theron’s rock ’em, sock ’em, espionage thriller Atomic Blonde.
The Trip to Spain, another gourmet romp from Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan is funny for the first 90 minutes or so – just leave when the characters part company in Malaga.
My Stream of the Week is the surprisingly engaging documentary about New York Times obituaries Obit, a superb study writing – we sit on the writers’ shoulders and observe their process in real-time. Obit is now available to stream on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
On September 9, Turner Classic Movies airs Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece of voyeurism, Rear Window. Here we have James Stewart playing a guy frustrated because he is trapped at home by a disability. When he observes some activity by neighbors that he interprets as a possible murder, he becomes more and more obsessed and voyeuristic. When it looks like he has been correct instead of paranoid, that business about being trapped by a disability takes on a whole new meaning. With the cool beauty Grace Kelly and the glowering and menacing Raymond Burr.
La La Land: the extraordinarily vivid romantic musical staring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.
Lion: an emotionally affecting family drama that makes the audience weep (in a good way).
The Founder: the enjoyably addictive story of how a the money-grubbing visionary Ray Kroc built the McDonald’s food service empire.
Hidden Figures: a true life story from the 1960s space program – a triumph of human spirit and brainpower over sexism and racism; the audience applauded.
I Am Not Your Negro, the documentary about the American public intellectual James Baldwin. It’s a searing examination of race in America as analyzed through Baldwin’s eyes and as expressed through his elegant words.
The Salesman is another searing and authentic psychological family thriller from Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi (A Separation, The Past).
My TV/Stream of the Week is Tower, a remarkably original retelling of the 1966 mass shooting at UT Austin. It’s playing on the PBS documentary series Independent Lens, and you can also stream Tower on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
This week Turner Classic Movies will present two of my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock films. First, on February 19, there’s North by Northwest, with perhaps the greatest ever collection of iconic set pieces – especially the cornfield and Mount Rushmore scenes, but also those in the UN Building, hotel, mansion, art auction and the 20th Century Limited train – they’re all great. Back in the days of the Production Code, some filmmakers could deliver sexual and erotic content without actually showing nudity or simulated sexual activity; one of the best examples is the flirtation between Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint on the train (and it even culminates with the notorious allegory of the train penetrating the tunnel).
Then TCM brings us Rear Window in February 21st. Here we have James Stewart playing a guy frustrated because he is trapped at home by a disability. When he observes some activity by neighbors that he interprets as a possible murder, he becomes more and more obsessed and voyeuristic. When it looks like he has been correct instead of paranoid, that business about being trapped by a disability takes on a whole new meaning.
Manchester by the Sea: MUST SEE. Don’t miss Casey Affleck’s career-topping performance in the emotionally authentic drama .
Elle: MUST SEE (but increasingly hard to find in theaters). A perverse wowzer with the year’s top performance by Isabelle Huppert. Manchester by the Sea is #2 and Elle is #4 on my Best Movies of 2016.
Loving: The love story that spawned a historic Supreme Court decision.
Mascots: the latest mockumentary from Christopher Guest (Best in Show) and it’s very funny. Mascots is streaming on Netflix Instant.
The Eagle Huntress: This documentary is a Feel Good movie for the whole family, blending the genres of girl power, sports competition and cultural tourism.
Also in theaters or on video:
Despite a delicious performance by one of my faves, Michael Shannon, I’m not recommending Nocturnal Animals.
Arrival with Amy Adams, is real thinking person’s sci-fi. Every viewer will be transfixed by the first 80% of Arrival. How you feel about the finale depends on whether you buy into the disconnected-from-linear-time aspect or you just get confused, like I did.
The remarkably sensitive and realistic indie drama Moonlightis at once a coming of age tale, an exploration of addicted parenting and a story of gay awakening. It’s almost universally praised, but I thought that the last act petered out.
Skip the dreary and somnolent Jackie – Natalie Portman’s exceptional impersonation isn’t enough.
If you’re interested in the Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune or cinema in general (and can still find the movie in a theater), I recommend the documentary Mifune: The Last Samurai.
My DVD/Stream of the Week picks are, for the rest of 2016, this year’s best films that are already available on video: Hell or High Water, Eye in the Sky, Chevalier, Weiner, Take Me to the River and Green Room.
For New Year’s Week, Turner Classic Movies is bringing us some great choices:
December 31st – Lawrence of Arabia: it’s time to revisit a spectacle. For decades, many of us watched this epic squeezed into tinny-sounding TVs. In 1989, I was fortunate enough to see the director’s cut in an old movie palace. Now technology has caught up, and modern large screen HD televisions can do justice to this wide screen classic. Similarly, modern home sound systems can work with the great Maurice Jarre soundtrack. Nobody has ever created better epics than director David Lean (Bridge Over the River Kwai, Dr. Zhivago). Peter O’Toole stars at the moment of his greatest physical beauty. The rest of the cast is unsurpassed: Omar Sharif, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, thousands of extras and entire herds of camels. The vast and severe Arabian desert is a character unto itself. Settle in and watch the whole thing – and remember what “epic” really means.
December 31st – Some Like It Hot: This Billy Wilder masterpiece is my pick for the best comedy of all time. Seriously – the best comedy ever. And it still works today. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play most of the movie in drag (and Tony is kind of cute). Curtis must continue the ruse although he’s next to Marilyn Monroe at her most delectable. Curtis then dons a yachting cap and does a dead-on Cary Grant impression as the heir to an industrial fortune. Joe E. Brown gets the last word with one of cinema’s best closing lines.
January 3rd – Cool Hand Luke, with Paul Newman as an iconic 1960s anti-hero, a charismatic supporting performance by George Kennedy, the unforgettable boiled egg-eating contest and the great movie line “What we have here is a failure to communicate”.
And on New Years Day, all you non-football fans can tune into TCM to binge-watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, Strangers on a Train, The Birds, Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, Shadow of a Doubt, Torn Curtain, The Man Who Knew Too Much, Family Plot, Marnie and The Trouble with Harry.