Movies to See Right Now

Jeremy Renner in WIND RIVER
We’re in the dog days of summer movies, waiting for the Prestige Movies starting in late October, and hoping that some gems sneak into theaters now. For the time being, just make sure that you’ve seen these three:

  • The contemporary Western thriller Wind River, which has mystery, explosive action, wild scenery and some great acting, especially by Jeremy Renner and Gil Birmingham.
  • The delightful romantic comedy The Big Sick.
  • The historical thriller Dunkirk.

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.

My DID/Stream of the Week is Stories We Tell from brilliant Canadian director Sarah Polley (Away From Her, Take This Waltz), a documentary in which she interviews members of her own family about her mother, who died when Sarah was 11. It doesn’t take long before Sarah uncovers a major surprise about her own life. And then she steps into an even bigger surprise about the first surprise.  You can rent Stories We Tell on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and stream it from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

On September 17, Turner Classic Movies airs In a Lonely Place (1950). The most unsettlingly sexy film noiress Gloria Grahame falls for the troubled screenwriter Humphrey Bogart, a guy with a MAJOR anger management issue; once she’s hooked, she realizes that he might be a murderer after all…Nicholas Ray directs. In a Lonely Place justifiably made the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest American Films. The Czar of Noir Eddie Muller has named it as his #1 noir.

Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart in IN A LONELY PLACE

DVD/Stream of the Week: STORIES WE TELL – when life surprises…and how we explain it

Michael Polley in STORIES WE TELL

Stories We Tell is the third film from brilliant Canadian director Sarah Polley (Away From Her, Take This Waltz), a documentary in which she interviews members of her own family about her mother, who died when Sarah was 11. It doesn’t take long before Sarah uncovers a major surprise about her own life. And then she steps into an even bigger surprise about the first surprise. And then there’s a completely unexpected reaction by Polley’s father Michael.

There are surprises aplenty in the Polley family saga, but how folks react to the discoveries is just as interesting. It helps that everyone in the Polley family has a deliciously wicked sense of humor.

The family story is compelling enough, but Polley also explores story telling itself. Everyone who knew Polley’s mother tells her story from a different perspective. But we can weave together the often conflicting versions into what seems like a pretty complete portrait of a complicated person.

Polley adds more layers of meaning and ties the material together by filming herself recording her father reading his version of the story – his memoir serves as the unifying narration.

To take us back to the 1960s, Polley uses one-third actual home movies and two-thirds re-creations (with actors) shot on Super 8 film. Polley hired cinematographer Iris Ng after seeing Ng’s 5 minute Super 8 short. The most haunting clip is a real one, a video of the actress Mom’s audition for a 60s Canadian TV show.

Make sure that you watch all of the end credits – there’s one more surprise, and it’s hilarious.

You can rent Stories We Tell on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and stream it from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.

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….

Movies to See Right Now

Brit Marling in THE EAST

Best bets in theaters this weekend:

  • Before Midnight, the year’s best romance continuing the story of Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
  • Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley’s brilliant documentary about discovering her family’s secrets; unfortunately, Stories We Tell is going to be hard to find in theaters this week, but well worth the trouble.
  • The absorbing and thought-provoking eco-terrorism thriller The East.
  • The Iceman is a solid true-life crime movie with an outstanding performance by Michael Shannon.
  • Mud, the gripping and thoughtful story of two Arkansas boys embarking on a secret adventure with a man hiding from the authorities – learning more than they expected about love and loyalty. Mud is also one of the best movies of 2013.
  • The documentary We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks is Alex Gibney’s inside look at an improbable scandal.  It’s also available streaming from Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and other VOD outlets.

Before Midnight, Stories We Tell and Mud are on my Best Movies of 2013 – So Far .

I like the unsentimental Western Dead Man’s Burden, available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon, Vudu and other VOD outlets.  Other good choices on VOD: 

PBS’ American Masters series is showing an endearing and insightful documentary Mel Brooks: Make a Noise.  PBS is also broadcasting the unexpectedly beautiful documentary Detropia, about the city of Detroit’s collapse and decay.

Also out right now in theaters:

    • Fast & Furious 6 has exciting chases, a silly story, a smoldering Michelle Rodriguez and a hard ass Gina Carano.
    • HBO’s Behind the Candelabra is familiar territory but entertaining, with Michael Douglas’ all-out re-creation of Liberace.
    • Kon-Tiki is a faithful, but underwhelming account of a true life 5,000 mile raft trip across the Pacific.
    • Don’t bother with Baz Luhrman’s flashy, hollow and lame The Great Gatsby. Re-read the Fitzgerald novel instead – it’s only 192 pages.

I haven’t yet seen the contemporary Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing, which opens this weekend.  You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the zombie romantic comedy Warm BodiesWarm Bodies is available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and other VOD outlets.

Tonight Turner Classic Movies brings on Czar of Noir Eddie Muller to present films from the novels of David Goodis: The Burglar, The Burglars, The Unfaithful, Shoot the Piano Player and Nightfall.  (You may have seen Goodis’ Dark Passage with Bogie and Bacall.)

June movie doldrums

FAST & FURIOUS 6

Yeeesh.  The pickings are slim in theaters.  For example, take this one local multiplex that usually offers some appealing films for adults.  This week, it is devoting all sixteen of its screens to the 2D and 3D versions of After Earth, Epic, The Hangover: Part III, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek Into Darkness, Fast & Furious 6, Now You See Me and Iron Man 3.  I’ve seen the flashy, hollow and lame Gatsby.

I don’t want to see any of the others.  Fast and Furious 6 is supposed to be pretty entertaining, but it’s just not my kind of movie.  Same with the fantasy EpicNow You See Me is getting critically trashed, but nothing like After Earth and The Hangover: Part III, which are battling for recognition as the year’s very worst film.

The indie that is opening widely this weekend is Frances Ha, but after Greenberg and Damsels in Distress, I am never sitting through another annoying Greta Gerwig movie.

Alas, Sarah Polley’s superb documentary Stories We Tell is gone after a mere two week run in local theaters. Thank God for The East.

So, what is a movie junkie to do?  Fortunately, there are some fine choices on TV, especially with TCM’s June noir festival and HBO’s upcoming summer documentary series (including Casting By), plus some promising films coming out on VOD.

And we can wait for some good stuff later this summer, among them the indie heartbreaker Fruitvale Station, the Brie Larson star-maker Short Term 12, Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited, and Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine.  I’ve already seen the brilliant teen coming of age film The Spectacular Now, which is on my Best Movies of 2013 – So Far.  You can read descriptions and watch trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

Movies to See Right Now

Elisha Cook Jr. finds out that Humphrey Bogart is on to him in the 1941 version of THE MALTESE FALCON

There are two Must See movies in theaters this weekend:

  • Before Midnight, the year’s best romance continuing the story of Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
  • Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley’s brilliant documentary about discovering her family’s secrets; unfortunately, Stories We Tell is going to be hard to find in theaters this week, but well worth the trouble.

Both films are on my Best Movies of 2013 – So Far .

The absorbing and thought-provoking eco-terrorism thriller The East is also opening today.

The other best bets in theaters include:

  • The Iceman is a solid true-life crime movie with an outstanding performance by Michael Shannon.
  • Mud, the gripping and thoughtful story of two Arkansas boys embarking on a secret adventure with a man hiding from the authorities – learning more than they expected about love and loyalty. Mud is also one of the best movies of 2013.

Also out right now:

  • HBO’s Behind the Candelabra is familar territory but entertaining, with Michael Douglas’ all-out re-creation of Liberace.
  • Kon-Tiki is a faithful, but underwhelming account of a true life 5,000 mile raft trip across the Pacific.
  • Don’t bother with Baz Luhrman’s flashy, hollow and lame The Great Gatsby.  Re-read the Fitzgerald novel instead – it’s only 192 pages.

The compelling documentary The Central Park Five from Ken Burns, et al, is available streaming from Amazon Instant and other VOD providers. Also available on VOD, Greetings from Tim Buckley is a film for those who want to see an actor depict interior conflict with very little external action. PBS is broadcasting the unexpectedly beautiful documentary Detropia, about the city of Detroit’s collapse and decay.

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

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the mobster showcase for Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, Stand Up GuysStand Up Guys is available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Vudu, Amazon and several other VOD outlets.

Tonight Turner Classic Movies kicks off its June film noir festival with guest host Eddie Muller (the Czar of Noir) presenting films from the novels of Dashiell Hammett: the 1931 and more famous 1941 versions of The Maltese Falcon, plus the 1936 version (Satan Met a Lady) and The Glass Key.

On June 11, TCM features two of the nastiest noirs:  Detour and The Hitchhiker.

Also, on June 9, TCM is broadcasting the award winning Crumb, the 1994 documentary about counterculture cartoonist Robert Crumb and his bizarrely dysfunctional family.

Movies to See Right Now

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

There are two Must See movies this weekend:

  • Before Midnight, the year’s best romance continuing the story of Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Celine from Before Sunrise and Before Sunset.
  • Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley’s brilliant documentary about discovering her family’s secrets.

Both films are on my Best Movies of 2013 – So Far .

The absorbing and thought-provoking eco-terrorism thriller The East is also supposed to be opening today (but I can’t find a theater playing locally).

The other best bets in theaters include:

  • The Iceman is a solid true-life crime movie with an outstanding performance by Michael Shannon.
  • Mud, the gripping and thoughtful story of two Arkansas boys embarking on a secret adventure with a man hiding from the authorities – learning more than they expected about love and loyalty. Mud is also one of the best movies of 2013.

Also out right now:

  • HBO’s Behind the Candelabra is familar territory but entertaining, with Michael Douglas’ all-out re-creation of Liberace.
  • Kon-Tiki is a faithful, but underwhelming account of a true life 5,000 mile raft trip across the Pacific.

The compelling documentary The Central Park Five from Ken Burns, et al, is available streaming from Amazon Instant and other VOD providers. Also available on VOD, Greetings from Tim Buckley is a film for those who want to see an actor depict interior conflict with very little external action.  PBS is broadcasting the unexpectedly beautiful documentary Detropia, about the city of Detroit’s collapse and decay.

I haven’t yet seen the indie Kings of Summer, reputed to be this year’s Moonrise Kingdom, which opens this weekend.  You can read descriptions and view trailers of upcoming films at Movies I’m Looking Forward To.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the psychological thriller Side EffectsSide Effects is available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Vudu,YouTube and GooglePlay.

Movies to See Right Now

STORIES WE TELL

Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley’s brilliant documentary about discovering her family’s secrets, is an absolute Must See. It’s one of my Best Movies of 2013 – So Far .

The other best bets in theaters include:

  • Mud, the gripping and thoughtful story of two Arkansas boys embarking on a secret adventure with a man hiding from the authorities – learning more than they expected about love and loyalty. Mud is also one of the best movies of 2013.
  • The Iceman is a solid true-life crime movie with an outstanding performance by Michael Shannon.

Also out right now:

  • Kon-Tiki is a faithful, but underwhelming account of a true life 5,000 mile raft trip across the Pacific.
  • The Great Gatsby is flashy but hollow.  Re-read the novel instead.

The compelling documentary The Central Park Five from Ken Burns, et al, is available streaming from Amazon Instant and other VOD providers.  Available on VOD, Greetings from Tim Buckley is a film for those who want to see an actor depict interior conflict with very little external action.

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

You’ve got to get ready for next weekend’s release of the year’s best romance, Before Midnight. Therefore my DVD/Stream of the Week are its prequels, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset – director Richard Linklater’s two uncommonly authentic and intelligent romances with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.  Both Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are available on DVD from Netflix and streaming on VOD from Amazon , iTunes, Vudu and other VOD outlets.  Before Sunrise is free with Amazon Prime.

As usual for the Memorial Day weekend, Turner Classic Movies will be broadcasting a solid menu of war movies (almost all about WW II).  On May 25, the lineup centers around submarine movies:  Run Silent Run Deep, Torpedo Run, Thunder Afloat (which I haven’t seen) and Up Periscope. The most curious is 1933’s Hell Below, a rare WW I sub movie starring Walter Huston, in which Jimmy Durante boxes a kangeroo.  The best is Operation Pacific, with the great pairing of John Wayne and Patricia Neal.

The WW II classic that I can’t keep from watching is The Best Years of Our Lives.  A war ends, and it’s time to total up the sacrifices made by both those who fought and their loved ones, and to recognize how they have been changed by their experiences.  It’s on my list of Best Patriotic Movies.  TCM will broadcast The Best Years of Our Lives on Memorial Day, May 27.

Stories We Tell: when life surprises…and how we explain it

Michael Polley in STORIES WE TELL

Stories We Tell is the third film from brilliant young Canadian director Sarah Polley (Away From Her, Take This Waltz), a documentary in which she interviews members of her own family about her mother, who died when Sarah was 11.  It doesn’t take long before Sarah uncovers a major surprise about her own life.  And then she steps into an even bigger surprise about the first surprise.  And then there’s a completely unexpected reaction by Polley’s father Michael. 

There are surprises aplenty in the Polley family saga, but how folks react to the discoveries is just as interesting.  It helps that everyone in the Polley family has a deliciously wicked sense of humor.

The family story is compelling enough, but Polley also explores story telling itself.  Everyone who knew Polley’s mother tells her story from a different perspective.  But we can weave together the often conflicting versions into what seems like a pretty complete portrait of a complicated person.

Polley adds more layers of meaning and ties the material together by filming herself recording her father reading his version of the story – his memoir serves as the unifying narration. 

To take us back to the 1960s, Polley uses one-third actual home movies and two-thirds re-creations (with actors) shot on Super 8 film.  Polley hired cinematographer Iris Ng after seeing Ng’s 5 minute Super 8 short.  The most haunting clip is a real one, a video of  the actress Mom’s audition for a 60s Canadian TV show.

Make sure that you stay for the end credits – there’s one more surprise, and it’s hilarious.