Movies to See Right Now

Gil Birmingham in WIND RIVER

With the contemporary Western thriller Wind River, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan has delivered another masterpiece, this time in his first effort as director. It’s got mystery, explosive action, wild scenery and some great acting, especially by Jeremy Renner and Gil Birmingham.

Other movies that are among the best of the year are the historical thriller Dunkirk and the delightful romantic comedy The Big Sick.

The best of the rest:

  • 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.

Given that Netflix will release Top of the Lake: China Girl in September, my DVD/Stream of the Week is the original Top of the Lake from 2013. It’s the perfect choice to binge watch on Labor Day weekend.

Turner Classic Movies spotlights the director Werner Herzog on September 7 with Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, Stroszek, Aguirre the Wrath of God and Cobra Libre and the Les Blank documentaries Burden of Dreams (about the making of Fitzcarraldo) and Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe.

On September 4, TCM brings us an evening of boxing films, including Requiem for a Heavyweight, The Harder They Fall, Somebody Up There Likes Me and The Golden Boy.  I am recommending the 1972 Fat City from the great director John Huston. Huston shot the film in Stockton, and Fat City is a time capsule for the Central Valley in the early 70s. Stacy Keach plays a boxer on the slide, his skills unraveled by his alcoholism. He inspires a kid (a very young Jeff Bridges), who becomes a boxer on the rise.

Keach and Susan Tyrrell give dead-on performances as pathetic sad sack barflies. Tyrrell was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. In this wonderful 2000 profile in LA Weekly, Tyrrell said, “The last thing my mother said to me was, ‘SuSu, your life is a celebration of everything that is cheap and tawdry.’ I’ve always liked that, and I’ve always tried to live up to it.”

Susan Tyrrell in FAT CITY

Movies to See Right Now

Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

It’s the Holidays, and theaters are featuring movies from my Best Movies of 2014 list:

  • The cinematically important and very funny Birdman.
  • The best Hollywood movie of 2014, the thriller Gone Girl, with a career-topping performance by Rosamund Pike.
  • I liked the droll Swedish dramedy Force Majeure, which won an award at Cannes and is Sweden’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar.

And here are some other hearty recommendations:

  • Reese Witherspoon is superb in the Fight Your Demons drama Wild, and Laura Dern may be even better.
  • The Theory of Everything is a successful, audience-friendly biopic of both Mr. AND Mrs. Genius.
  • The Imitation Game – the riveting true story about the guy who invented the computer and defeated the Nazis and was then hounded for his homosexuality.
  • Set in the macho world of Olympic wrestling, Foxcatcher is really a relationship movie with a stunning dramatic performance by Steve Carell.
  • Big Eyes is a lite audience pleaser.
  • J.K. Simmons is brilliant in the intense indie drama Whiplash, a study of motivation and abuse, ambition and obsession.

My DVD/Stream of the week is the smart and hilarious The Trip to Italy, which showcases the improvisational wit of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, along with some serious tourism/foodie porn. The Trip to Italy is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from iTunes, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.

On January 6, Turner Classic Movies brings us War Hunt, a 1962 film about Robert Redford joining a Korean War unit as a new replacement, with John Saxon as the platoon’s psycho killer. Along with Redford, Sidney Pollack and Francis Ford Coppola are in the cast, making War Hunt the only film with three Oscar-winning directors as actors. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss for Coppola as an uncredited convoy truck driver.

Tomorrow night, TCM is airing Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). Anthony Quinn is Mountain Rivera, a fighter whose career is ended by a ring injury by Cassius Clay (played by the real Muhammed Ali). His manager, Jackie Gleason, continues to exploit him in this heartbreaking drama. There’s no boxing in this clip, but it illustrates the quality of the writing and the acting.

Movies to See Right Now – Updated

The Fighter: For better or worse, Mark Wahlberg has Christian Bale in his corner

This is the time of year that I live for –  lots of great choices in the theaters.  I strongly recommend Rabbit Hole, an exquisite exploration of the grieving process with great performances by Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhardt, Diane Wiest, Sandra Oh and Miles Tenner.  Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a rip roaring thriller and a showcase for Natalie Portman and Barbara Hershey. The Fighter is an excellent drama, starring Mark Wahlberg as a boxer trying to succeed despite his crack addict brother (Christian Bale) and trashy mom (Melissa Leo).  Fair Game, the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson story with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, is also excellent.  I Love You, Phillip Morris is an entertaining offbeat combo of the con man, prison and romantic comedy genres.  For some delectable food porn, see Kings of Pastry.

Morning Glory is a passable comedy, as is Love and Other Drugs.

There are some Must See films still kicking around in theaters this week: Inside Job and The Social Network. Both are on my list of Best Movies of 2010 – So Far.

For trailers and other choices, see Movies to See Right Now.

I have not yet seen Somewhere, True Grit or The King’s Speech, opening this weekend.  You can see the trailers at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My DVD of the Week is the surprising Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. For my recent DVD choices (including trailers), see DVDs of the Week.

Movies on TV include Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Anatomy of a Murder, Requiem for a Heavyweight and Arsenic and Old Lace on TCM.

Best Sports Movies

Both of my recommended  surfing films are mentioned in my Best Sports Movies.   I have a list of 10 Best Sports Movies and also a top movie for each sport.  What’s my top pick for a basketball movie?  Or football? Or wrestling?  Or skateboarding?  Or rowing?  Or shuffleboard?  Is shuffleboard a sport?

Here’s a clip from my pick for best bodybuilding movie.  You will probably recognize this guy.