Movies to See Right Now

Charlie Hunnam in THE LOST CITY OF Z photo courtesy of SFFILM
Charlie Hunnam in THE LOST CITY OF Z
photo courtesy of SFFILM

Recommended movies to see in theaters this week:

      • My top recommendation is 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.
      • Free Fire is a witty and fun shoot ’em up.
      • Their Finest is an appealing, middling period drama set during the London Blitz.
Richard Gere in NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER
Richard Gere in NORMAN: THE MODERATE RISE AND TRAGIC FALL OF A NEW YORK FIXER

And four movies to avoid:

      • Kristen Stewart is excellent in Personal Shopper, a murky mess of a movie; don’t bother.
      • I found the predictable Armenian Genocide drama The Promise to be a colossal waste of Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale.
      • Song to Song is yet another visually brilliant storytelling failure from auteur Terence Malick.
      • Also avoid the horror film The Blackcoat’s Daughter, which is out on video and, UNBELIEVABLY, getting some favorable buzz.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is The Founder starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc, the man who created the global corporate superpower that is McDonald’s. It’s both the vivid portrait of a particular change-maker and a cold-eyed study of exactly what capitalism really rewards. The Founder is available on DVD from both Netflix and Redbox and tp stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

On May 11, Turner Classic Movies will air not one, BUT TWO movies on my list of Least Convincing Movie MonstersThe Giant Claw and The Black Scorpion.

THE GIANT CLAW
THE GIANT CLAW

Movies to See Right Now

FREE FIRE
FREE FIRE

Three movies to see in theaters this week:

  • My top recommendation is The Lost City of Z, a thoughtful and beautifully cinematic revival of the adventure epic genre.
  • Free Fire is a witty and fun shoot ’em up.
  • Their Finest is an appealing, middling period drama set during the London Blitz.

And four to avoid:

  • Kristen Stewart is excellent in Personal Shopper, a murky mess of a movie; don’t bother.
  • I found the predictable Armenian Genocide drama The Promise to be a colossal waste of Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale.
  • Song to Song is yet another visually brilliant storytelling failure from auteur Terence Malick.
  • Also avoid the horror film The Blackcoat’s Daughter, which is out on video and, UNBELIEVABLY, getting some favorable buzz.

My Stream of the Week is the important and absorbing documentary Zero Days, which traces the story of an incredibly successful cyber attack by two nation states upon another – and its implications. It’s that rare documentary which has become even more topical today.  Since Zero Days’ release last June, we have endured the successful Russian cyber attack on the US election process. And we face an unpredictable foe in North Korea, and our only practical protection against North Korea’s nuclear threat may be our own preemptive cyber attacks. Zero Days is available to stream on Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

On May 1, Turner Classic Movies will be broadcasting one of the great movies that you have likely NOT seen, having just been released on DVD in 2009: The Earrings of Madame de… (1953). Max Ophuls directed what is perhaps the most visually evocative romance ever in black and white. It’s worth seeing for the ballroom scene alone. The shallow and privileged wife of a stick-in-the-mud general takes a lover, but the earrings she pawned reveal the affair and consequences ensue. The great Italian director Vittorio De Sica plays the impossibly handsome lover.

The Earrings of Madame de...
The Earrings of Madame de…

Movies to See Right Now

Robert Pattinson and Charlie Hunnam in THE LOST CITY OF Z photo courtesy of SFFILM
Robert Pattinson and Charlie Hunnam in THE LOST CITY OF Z
photo courtesy of SFFILM

My top recommendation is The Lost City of Z, which opens in the Bay Area today.

Also in theaters this week:

  • Their Finest is an appealing, middling period drama set during the London Blitz.
  • I liked the gloriously pulpy revenge thriller The Assignment with Michelle Rodriguez, the toughest of the Tough Chicks, playing both the Before and After roles in a hostile gender re-assignment surgery. The Assignment is out, but in few theaters. It’s available now to stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
  • Kristen Stewart is excellent in Personal Shopper, a murky mess of a movie; don’t bother.
  • I found the predictable Armenian Genocide drama The Promise to be a colossal waste of Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale.
  • Song to Song is yet another visually brilliant storytelling failure from auteur Terence Malick.
  • Also avoid the horror film The Blackcoat’s Daughter, which is out on video and, UNBELIEVABLY, getting some favorable buzz.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the absorbing French drama Augustine, about obsession, passion and the birth of a science. I just saw The Stopover at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and the feral fierceness and simmering intensity of its star Soko reminded me of her earlier work in Augustine. It’s available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

On April 22, Turner Classic Movies airs The Enemy Below (1957), a cleverly plotted and well-acted WW II submarine story, ably directed by Dick Powell. Robert Mitchum is the new captain of a sub-chaser, and Curd Jürgens commands a German sub. Because the Jürgens character has no sympathy for the Nazi regime, which makes him relatable for the audience; in real life, the Bavarian-born Jürgens was imprisoned by the Nazis for his political views and became an Austrian citizen after being liberated. The Enemy Below is a brilliant game of lethal cat-and-mouse between the two skippers.

The Germans are trapped by their mission, which requires them to keep on a certain bearing. The US commander recognizes this and is able to keep catching up to them on this route. Mitchum explains his tactics to his crew, gets the crews trust and helps us follow the chess game. As nerves crack on the sub below, Jurgens takes unusual tactics to maintain morale. Mutual respect is manifested at end, with stirring loyalty demonstrated by the men to their captains.

There’s a lot here that you don’t see in other submarine warfare movies, including a rare ramming collision and aerial views of the depth charge pattern. There’s also a great special effect shot showing sailors on the deck dropping their fishing line down to the U-boat resting on the sea bottom directly below. The author of the source novel was himself a veteran of anti-sub warfare.

Robert Mitchum in THE ENEMY BELOW
Robert Mitchum in THE ENEMY BELOW
Curd Jurgens in THE ENEMY BELOW
Curd Jurgens in THE ENEMY BELOW