Movies to See Right Now

The new PBS documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, The Vietnam War, is one of the best documentaries of the century and a superb history lesson, crucial to understand the America of today. It’s a Must See for Baby Boomers. For different reasons, it’s a Must See for Americans of later generations. The ten episodes of The Vietnam War can be streamed from PBS through October 15.

Your best chance to see an Oscar-winner is at the Mill Valley Film Festival, now underway at several Marin locations. The MVFF always previews many of the most promising prestige films that are scheduled for release during Award Season.

In theaters now, there is the often funny and stealthily profound Lucky. Here’s my remembrance of its star, Harry Dean Stanton.

Sure to be near the end of its theatrical run, you can still catch the contemporary Western thriller Wind River, which has mystery, explosive action, wild scenery and some great acting, especially by Jeremy Renner and Gil Birmingham.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the compelling and affecting Short Term 12, set in a foster care facility and starring Brie Larson as kind of a Troubled Kid Whisperer.  Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Netflix Instant, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video. It was high on my Best Movies of 2013.

On October 15, Turner Classic Movies presents Diabolique. The headmaster of a provincial boarding school is so cruel, even sadistic, that everyone wants him dead, especially his wife and his mistress. When he goes missing, the police drain the murky pool where the killers dumped the body…and the killers get a big surprise. Now the suspense from director Henri-Georges Clouzot (often tagged as the French Hitchcock) really starts.

And TCM offers something completely different on October 16, the delightful Peter Bogdanovich screwball comedy What’s Up, Doc? The nerdy academic Howard (Ryan O’Neal) and his continually aggrieved fiance Eunice (Madeline Kahn) travel to San Francisco to compete for a career-launching grant. The luggage with Howard’s great discovery (musical rocks) is mixed up with two identical suitcases, one containing valuable jewelry, the other with spy secrets, and soon we have juggling MacGuffins.

That’s all funny enough, but Howard bumps into Judy (Barbra Streisand), the kookiest serial college dropout in America, who determines that she must have him and utterly disrupts his life. Our hero’s ruthless rival for the grant is hilariously played by Kenneth Mars (the Nazi playwright in The Producers). Austin Pendleton is wonderful as the would-be benefactor.

The EXTENDED closing chase scene is among the very funniest in movie history – right up there with the best of Buster Keaton; Streisand and O’Neal lead an ever-growing cavalcade of pursuers through the hills of San Francisco, at one point crashing the Chinese New Year’s Day parade. I love What’s Up, Doc? and own the DVD, and I watch every time I stumble across it on TV. Boganovich’s hero Howard Hawkes, the master of the screwball comedy, would have been proud.

WHAT’S UP, DOC?

DVD/Stream of the Week: SHORT TERM 12 – compelling and affecting, in the world of foster kids

SHORT TERM 12

The compelling and affecting Short Term 12 is set in a foster care facility unit named Short Term 12; since the kids can live there for years, it seems pretty long-term to me. These are kids who have suffered abuse and neglect and who act out with disruptive and dangerous behaviors. Runaways, assaults and suicide attempts are commonplace, and some of the kids thrive on creating drama.

The gifted lead counselor on the unit is Grace (Brie Larson), who isn’t much older than the kids. She’s kind of a Troubled Kid Whisperer who, in each impossible situation, knows exactly what to do to defuse or comfort or protect. But while she is in total command of her volatile and fragile charges, she is profoundly troubled herself. She and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), who also works on the unit, are themselves survivors and former foster youth. Mason seems to have resolved his issues, but Grace’s demons lurk just under her skin.

In Short Term 12’s taut 96 minutes, we watch Grace navigate through crisis after crisis until she must face her own. We share many of the most powerful moments in 2013 cinema, particularly one kid’s unexpectedly painful insightful and sensitive rap, another kid’s authoring a wrenching children’s story and Grace’s own outburst of ferocity to protect a kid from a parent.

Brie Larson’s performance as Grace is being widely and justifiably described as star-making, and I think she deserves an Oscar nomination. I noticed her performances in much smaller roles in Rampart and The Spectacular Now , and I’m really looking forward to the launch of a major career. Think Jennifer Lawrence.

John Gallagher Jr. must be a superb actor, because nobody in real life can be as appealing and sympathetic as his characters in Margaret, Newsroom and Short Term 12. I’ll watch any movie with Gallagher in it, and he’s almost good enough to help me stomach Newsroom.

In his debut feature, writer-director Destin Cretton has hit a home run with one of the year’s best dramas. Some might find the hopeful ending too pat, but I say So What – I have met many former foster youth who have transcended horrific childhoods to become exemplary adults.

Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Netflix Instant, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video. It was high on my Best Movies of 2013.

Movies to See Right Now

THE GRAND SEDUCTION
THE GRAND SEDUCTION

There are two MUST SEE movies out now. The first is the Canadian knee-slapper The Grand Seduction – the funniest film of the year so far and a guaranteed audience pleaser. The second is my pick for the year’s best movie so far – the Polish drama Ida, about a novice nun who is stunned to learn that her biological parents were Jewish victims of the Holocaust – watching shot after shot in Ida is like walking through a museum gazing at masterpiece paintings one after the other.

Here are other good movie choices:

  • Words and Pictures is an unusually thoughtful romantic comedy.
  • Fading Gigolo, a wonderfully sweet romantic comedy written, directed and starring John Tuturro is a crowd-pleaser.
  • 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.
  • The raucous comedy Neighbors is a pleasant enough diversion.
  • 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 powerful drama Short Term 12, newly available on Netflix Instant. It’s ranked as number 7 on my Best Movies of 2013. Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Netflix Instant, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.

    This week Turner Classic Movies offers two fine revisionist Westerns from the 1970s.  A Man Called Horse (1970). In the early 19th century, Richard Harris is captured by American Indians and becomes assimilated into their culture.  Modern viewers will recognize most of the plot of Avatar herein.  Harris’ initiation into the tribe is one of cinema’s most cringe-worthy moments.  The film still stands up well  today.  Although why is it that when the white guy encounters a native girl, it’s always the chief’s beautiful, unattached, nubile daughter?

    In Sam Peckinpah’s 1973 Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, the title characters are played by James Coburn and Kris Kristofferson.  The great Katy Jurado and Chill Wills join Peckinpah company players, including Luke Askew, L.Q. Jones, Harry Dean Stanton, Slim Pickins, Jack Elam, R.G. Armstrong, Dub Taylor, Richard Bright (Al Neri in The Godfather) and Richard Jaeckel.  Bob Dylan also holds his own; Dylan wrote the score, including the iconic Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,   featured in a heartbreaking scene with Jurado and Wills.  I maintain that, if you delete the unfortunate scenes with Emilio Fernandez, you have a Western masterpiece.  Still, it’s one of my favorites.

    If you want some nasty film noir, there’s The Hitch-Hiker from 1953, directed by movie star Ida Lupino – one of the very few female directors of the 1950s. The bad guy is played by William Talman, who baby boomers will recognize as the never victorious DA Hamilton Burger in Perry Mason.

    Bob Dylan in PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID
    Bob Dylan in PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID

Short Term 12 Now on Netflix Instant

SHORT TERM 12

The powerful drama Short Term 12 is now available streaming on Netflix Instant. It ranked as number 7 on my Best Movies of 2013. The compelling and affecting Short Term 12 is set in a foster care facility unit named Short Term 12; since the kids can live there for years, it seems pretty long-term to me. These are kids who have suffered abuse and neglect and who act out with disruptive and dangerous behaviors. Runaways, assaults and suicide attempts are commonplace, and some of the kids thrive on creating drama.

The gifted lead counselor on the unit is Grace (Brie Larson), who isn’t much older than the kids. She’s kind of a Troubled Kid Whisperer who, in each impossible situation, knows exactly what to do to defuse or comfort or protect. But while she is in total command of her volatile and fragile charges, she is profoundly troubled herself. She and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), who also works on the unit, are themselves survivors and former foster youth. Mason seems to have resolved his issues, but Grace’s demons lurk just under her skin.

In Short Term 12’s taut 96 minutes, we watch Grace navigate through crisis after crisis until she must face her own. We share many of the most powerful moments in 2013 cinema, particularly one kid’s unexpectedly painful insightful and sensitive rap, another kid’s authoring a wrenching children’s story and Grace’s own outburst of ferocity to protect a kid from a parent.

Brie Larson’s performance as Grace is being widely and justifiably described as star-making, and I think she deserves an Oscar nomination. I noticed her performances in much smaller roles in Rampart and The Spectacular Now , and I’m really looking forward to the launch of a major career. Think Jennifer Lawrence.

John Gallagher Jr. must be a superb actor, because nobody in real life can be as appealing and sympathetic as his characters in Margaret, Newsroom and Short Term 12. I’ll watch any movie with Gallagher in it, and he’s almost good enough to help me stomach Newsroom.

In his debut feature, writer-director Destin Cretton has hit a home run with one of the year’s best dramas. Some might find the hopeful ending too pat, but I say So What – I have met many former foster youth who have transcended horrific childhoods to become exemplary adults.

Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Netflix Instant, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.

DVD/Stream of the Week: Short Term 12

SHORT TERM 12

Here’s number 7 on my Best Movies of 2013. The compelling and affecting Short Term 12 is set in a foster care facility unit named Short Term 12; since the kids can live there for years, it seems pretty long-term to me. These are kids who have suffered abuse and neglect and who act out with disruptive and dangerous behaviors. Runaways, assaults and suicide attempts are commonplace, and some of the kids thrive on creating drama.

The gifted lead counselor on the unit is Grace (Brie Larson), who isn’t much older than the kids. She’s kind of a Troubled Kid Whisperer who, in each impossible situation, knows exactly what to do to defuse or comfort or protect. But while she is in total command of her volatile and fragile charges, she is profoundly troubled herself. She and her boyfriend Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), who also works on the unit, are themselves survivors and former foster youth. Mason seems to have resolved his issues, but Grace’s demons lurk just under her skin.

In Short Term 12’s taut 96 minutes, we watch Grace navigate through crisis after crisis until she must face her own. We share many of the most powerful moments in 2013 cinema, particularly one kid’s unexpectedly painful insightful and sensitive rap, another kid’s authoring a wrenching children’s story and Grace’s own outburst of ferocity to protect a kid from a parent.

Brie Larson’s performance as Grace is being widely and justifiably described as star-making, and I think she deserves an Oscar nomination. I noticed her performances in much smaller roles in Rampart and The Spectacular Now , and I’m really looking forward to the launch of a major career. Think Jennifer Lawrence.

John Gallagher Jr. must be a superb actor, because nobody in real life can be as appealing and sympathetic as his characters in Margaret, Newsroom and Short Term 12. I’ll watch any movie with Gallagher in it, and he’s almost good enough to help me stomach Newsroom.

In his debut feature, writer-director Destin Cretton has hit a home run with one of the year’s best dramas. Some might find the hopeful ending too pat, but I say So What – I have met many former foster youth who have transcended horrific childhoods to become exemplary adults.

Short Term 12 is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Netflix Instant, Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, GooglePlay and Xbox Video.

Best Movies of 2013

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

Visit my Best Movies of 2013 for my list of the year’s best films, complete with images, trailers and my comments on each movies.  My top ten for 2013 is:

  1. Blue Is the Warmest Color
  2. The Hunt
  3. Before Midnight
  4. Stories We Tell
  5. The Spectacular Now
  6. Mud
  7. Short Term 12
  8. Fruitvale Station
  9. The Act of Killing
  10. Captain Phillips.

The other best films of the year are:  The Great Beauty, Nebraska, American Hustle, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Rendez-vous in Kiruna, The Gatekeepers, At Any Price, Undefeated, In a World… and Me And You.

I’m saving space for these promising films that I haven’t seen yet:  Her, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Past (Passe).

Note:  Undefeated is on this year’s list, even though it won an Oscar a year ago, because it only became available for most of us to see in 2013.

2013 at the Movies: most overlooked

Michael Polley in STORIES WE TELL

Evangelizing for wonderful movies that are overlooked is the primary mission of The Movie Gourmet.  These four movies made my Best Movies of 2013. They are brilliant and everyone should see them.

Also on my list of the year’s best, it’s easy to say that Me and You is overlooked because it hasn’t even gotten a US release in theaters , DVD or VOD.

Also flying under the radar were the fine thrillers Prisoners and Shadow Dancer, along with the year’s best comedy, In a World….

2013 at the Movies: breakthroughs

Adèle Exarchopoulos in BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR

The year’s biggest breakthrough has to be 19-year-old actress Adèle Exarchopoulos, who delivered the year’s best cinematic performance in the year’s best movie, Blue is the Warmest Color.

American actress Brie Larson‘s star-making performance Short Term 12 showed her to be a big-time talent, possibly another Jennifer Lawrence.

Other remarkable breakthrough acting performances:

  • Elle Fanning in Ginger & Rosa (in which she, at her actual age of 14, played a 17-year-old).
  • Michael B. Jordan, thoughtful and charismatic in Fruitvale Station.

And here are the filmmakers whose work showed special promise:

Movies to See Right Now

SHORT TERM 12

This week’s MUST SEE is the affecting foster facility drama Short Term 12, with its powerful performance by performance by Brie Larson (Rampart, The Spectacular Now). Another good choice is You Will Be My Son, a good French movie with a great ending (and it will likely be in theaters for only another week or so).

Other recommendations from the most current movies:

  • I really liked the absorbing drama Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
  • In A World… is the year’s best comedy so far – it’s a Hollywood satire, an insider’s glimpse into the voice-over industry, a family dramedy and a romantic comedy all in one.
  • The Family, Luc Besson’s tongue-in-cheek Mafioso-moves-to-France comedy has its moments.

I haven’t yet seen the Joseph Gordon Levitt comedy Don Jon, which opens today. You can read descriptions and view trailers of it and other upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My other top recommendations:

My other recommendations:

Check out my new feature VOD Roundup, where you can find my comments on over twenty current movies available on Video on Demand. There are some good ones, some bad ones and some really, really good ones (including Letters from the Big Man).

My DVD/Stream of the Week is The Sapphires, a Feel Good triumph from Australia. The Sapphires is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay and other VOD outlets.

On September 28, you can watch Trouble Along the Way,
featuring John Wayne as a crooked college football coach who says “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing” (years before Vince Lombardi).

Movies to See Right Now

 

SHORT TERM 12

This week’s MUST SEE is the affecting foster facility drama Short Term 12, with its powerful performance by performance by Brie Larson (Rampart, The Spectacular Now).  Another good choice is You Will Be My Son, a good French movie with a great ending (and it will likely be in theaters for only two weeks).

Other recommendations from the most current movies:

  • I really liked the absorbing drama Ain’t Them Bodies Saints.
  • In A Word… is the year’s best comedy so far – it’s a Hollywood satire, an insider’s glimpse into the voice-over industry, a family dramedy and a romantic comedy all in one.
  • The Family, Luc Besson’s tongue-in-cheek Mafioso-moves-to-France comedy has its moments.

I haven’t yet seen Prisoners, which opens today.  It’s a thriller from Denis Villenueve, the director of Incendies  (my top movie of 2011).  Other promising movies opening today include the festival hit Museum Hours and the literary bio-documentary Salinger.  You can read descriptions and view trailers of it and other upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My other top recommendations:

My other recommendations:

Check out my new feature VOD Roundup, where you can find my comments on over twenty current movies available on Video on Demand. There are some good ones, some bad ones and some really, really good ones (including Letters from the Big Man).

My DVD/Stream is the brilliant drama Mud, with Michael McConaughey. It’s a great choice to watch and then discuss with your pre-teens and young teens.  Mud, one of my Best Movies of 2013 – So Far, is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, GooglePlay, YouTube and other VOD outlets.

Turner Classic Movies will broadcast the riotously funny screwball comedy Twentieth Century on September 23.

TWENTIETH CENTURY