DVD/Stream of the Week: WILD TALES

WILD TALES
WILD TALES

Okay, here’s the hilariously dark Argentine comedy Wild Tales. Writer-director Damián Szifron presents a series of individual stories about revenge. It’s still high my list of Best Movies of 2015 – So Far.

We all feel aggrieved, and Wild Tales explores what happens when rage overcomes the restraints of social order. Think about how instantly angry you can become when some driver cuts you off on the highway – and then how you might fantasize avenging the slight. Indeed, there is a story in Wild Tales that has the most severe case road rage since Spielberg’s Duel in 1971. Now Wild Tales is dark, and you gotta go with it. The humor comes from the EXTREMES that someone’s resentment can lead to.

One key to the success of Wild Tales is that it is an anthology. In a very wise move, Szifron resisted any impulse to stretch one of the stories into a feature-length movie. Each of the stories is just the right length to extract every laugh and pack a punch. The funniest stories are the opening one set on an airplane and the final one about a wedding.

The acting is uniformly superb. In one story, Oscar Martínez plays a wealthy man in a desperate jam, who buys the help of his shady lawyer fixer (Osmar Núñez) and his longtime household retainer (Germán de Silva) – until their prices get just a little too high. The three actors take what looks like it’s going to a thriller and morph into a (very funny) psychological comedy with a very cynical view of human nature.

One of the middle episodes stars one of my favorite film actors, Ricardo Darín, who I see as the Argentine Joe Mantegna. I suggest that you watch Darín in the brilliant police procedural The Secrets in Their Eyes (on my top ten for 2010), the steamy and seamy Carancho and the wonderful con artist movie Nine Queens.

Wild Tales was a festival hit (Cannes, Telluride, Toronto and Sundance) around the world and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Picture Oscar. I saw Wild Tales at Cinequest 2015. It’s now available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu and Xbox Video.

Best Movies of 2015

Domhnall Gleeson in EX MACHINA
Domhnall Gleeson in EX MACHINA

Visit my Best Movies of 2015 for my list of the year’s best films, complete with images, trailers and my comments on each movie – as well as their availability to rent on DVD and to stream. My top ten movies for 2015 are:

  1. Ex Machina
  2. Wild Tales 
  3. Leviathan
  4. Brooklyn
  5. Youth
  6. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 
  7. Creed
  8. Spotlight
  9. Phoenix
  10. The Martian

The other best films of the year are: The End of the Tour, Love & Mercy,  The Big Short, Corn Island, Mustang, I’ll See You in My Dreams,  ’71, The Look of Silence and  The Grief of Others.

I’m saving space for these promising 2015 films that I haven’t seen yet: The Revenant, Joy, The Hateful Eight and 45 Years.

2015 at the Movies: most overlooked

MEET THE PATELS
MEET THE PATELS

This blog exists because I’m an evangelist for outstanding films that may be overlooked by people who will appreciate them.  You don’t need ME to tell you that The Big Short, Creed, Spotlight and The Martian are good movies.  What’s important to me is that you don’t miss the less well-known gems:

  • The unforgettable coming of age dramedy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It’s available streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play and now available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox.
  • The extraordinary Russian drama Leviathan, a searing indictment of society in post-Soviet Russia. Leviathan is available streaming on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.
  • The hilariously dark Argentine comedy Wild Tales. It’s available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu and Xbox Video.
  • The gentle, thoughtful and altogether fresh dramedy I’ll See You In My Dreams with Blythe Danner, available to stream from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
  • Phoenix from Germany – a riveting psychodrama with a wowzer ending.  It is available to stream from Netflix Instant, Amazon Video, YouTube and Google Play.
  • The brilliant psychological drama 99 Homes, available on DVD early in 2016.
  • The delightful family centric Meet the Patels – a documentary funnier than most comedies.
  • The character-driven  suspense thriller The Gift.
Rebecca Hall, Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton in THE GIFT
Rebecca Hall, Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton in THE GIFT

 

Talk about overlooked – one of the year’s very best films, the exquisite and lyrical Georgian drama Corn Island, didn’t even get a US release. Neither did some other wonderful films that I saw at Cinequest: the narrative feature The Hamsters and the documentaries Aspie Seeks Love, Meet the Hitlers and Sweden’s Coolest National Team. Here’s hoping that I can tell you where to see them soon.

CORN ISLAND
CORN ISLAND

2015 at the Movies: I hadn’t seen this before

TANGERINE
TANGERINE

I love original approaches to cinema, and here are some from 2015 that work especially well:

Tangerine:  This raucous and raunchy high energy comedy was shot on an iPhone. This is not a gimmick. The intimacy and urgency of this character-driven movie is a good fit with the iPhone. There really isn’t any call for helicopter shots or the like. The richness of the colors has been enhanced in post-production, so the iPhone cinematography isn’t any distraction at all. (See the shot above.)

Unfriended: This low-budget, high quality horror flick is about teenagers convening over social media.  The ENTIRE MOVIE is comprised of their web cam screen shots.  It works.

The Tribe: Although the The Tribe comes from Ukraine, we’re not going to hear any Ukrainian. Nor will we see any English subtitles. It’s set in a residential high school for the deaf, and the entire movie is in sign language. It’s novel for the hearing to experience an entire movie in which we hear only the sound of ambient noises – footsteps, creaking doors and the like – and we know that these sounds are NOT heard by the movie characters.

Wild Tales: This Argentine dark, dark comedy is one of my favorite movies of 2015.  One key to its success is that it is an anthology. In a very wise move, writer-director Damián Szifron resisted any impulse to stretch one of the stories into a feature-length movie. Each of the stories is just the right length to extract every laugh and pack a punch.

Creed: Director Ryan Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti have combined for the most impressive boxing scene since Raging Bull. The three-minute rounds are photographed as uninterrupted action (no cuts are apparent) from WITHIN the ring. We feel like we’re in the ring with the fighters – right at shoulder-level.

Victoria: The German indie thriller is filmed in one shot. One 138 minute shot. And this is reputedly a barn-burner of a thriller, not My Dinner With Andre. Victoria was in theaters for about a minute this year, and I haven’t seen it yet, which really annoys me. It’s available to stream on Amazon and iTunes, so I’ve downloaded it and hope to catch up to it over the Holidays.

WILD TALES
WILD TALES

2015 at the movies: most fun at the movies

Deenis O'Keefe and Ann Sheridan in WOMAN ON THE RUN
Deenis O’Keefe and Ann Sheridan in WOMAN ON THE RUN

My favorite movie-going experiences in 2015:

  • San Francisco’s Noir City film fest, with the double feature Woman on the Run and Born to Be Bad.
  • Cinequest, especially seeing the raucously funny Wild Tales with The Wife and friends Cinequest at a packed California Theatre and seeing the exquisite and lyrical Georgian drama Corn Island on the recommendation of international film programmer Charlie Cockey.
  • Turner Classic Movies’ Summer of Darkness, program of film noir, which allowed me to discover two new noir favorites: 99 River Street and Witness to Murder.
  • Discovering the wretchedly bad and unintentionally hilarious An American Hippie in Israel on TCM – a new addition to my Bad Movie Festival.
  • The wonderful surprise of the very funny and family centric documentary Meet the Patels at a Camera Cinema Club, complete with a Skype interview with the Patel family itself.
  • A particularly strong program at the San Francisco International Film Festival, where I saw The End of the Tour, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Look of Silence, Listen to Me Marlon, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead and Very Semi-serious.
  • The Wife taking me to a luxurious screening of Spectre at the Los Gatos Theater with its black leather sofas and ottomans.
  • Happening to be in Spain during the first weekend of the Sevilla European Film Festival, and getting to catch Mustang with The Wife and my niece Maeve.
MEET THE PATELS
MEET THE PATELS

Movies to See on Thanksgiving Weekend

Saoirse Ronan in BROOKLYN
Saoirse Ronan in BROOKLYN

It’s that glorious four-day weekend with the earliest of the fall’s Prestige Movies – and a chance to catch up on the great movies from earlier this year that are now on video.

In theaters now:

  • The Irish romantic drama Brooklyn is an audience-pleaser with a superb performance by Saoirse Ronan.
  • Spotlight – a riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama with some especially compelling performances;
  • The Martian – an entertaining Must See space adventure – even for folks who usually don’t enjoy science fiction;
  • Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg’s Cold War espionage thriller with Tom Hanks, featuring a fantastic performance by Mark Rylance.
  • Sicario – a dark and paranoid crime thriller about the drug wars.
  • 3 Left Standing – the wistful stand-up comedy documentary.
  • Trumbo – the historical drama that reflects on the personal cost of princliples.
  • Spectre – action and vengeance from a determined James Bond.

This week’s DVD/Stream of the Week recommendations are selected from my Best Movies of 2015 – So Far:

    • The smartest road trip movie ever, The End of the Tour.  It’s available streaming from Amazon Instant, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
    • The unforgettable coming of age dramedy Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. It’s available streaming from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play and now available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox.
    • The extraordinary Russian drama Leviathan, a searing indictment of society in post-Soviet Russia. Leviathan is available streaming on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.
    • The hilariously dark Argentine comedy Wild Tales. It’s available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu and Xbox Video.
    • The Brian Wilson biopic Love & Mercy, the story of an extraordinarily gifted person’s escape from torment. Love & Mercy is available on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes and Vudu.
    • The gentle, thoughtful and altogether fresh dramedy I’ll See You In My Dreams with Blythe Danner, available to stream from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
Sam Elliiott and Blythe Danner in I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS
Sam Elliott and Blythe Danner in I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS

DVD/Stream of the Week: WILD TALES

WILD TALES
WILD TALES

Okay, here’s the first Must See of 2015 – the hilariously dark Argentine comedy Wild Tales. Writer-director Damián Szifron presents a series of individual stories about revenge. It’s still high my list of Best Movies of 2015 – So Far.

We all feel aggrieved, and Wild Tales explores what happens when rage overcomes the restraints of social order. Think about how instantly angry you can become when some driver cuts you off on the highway – and then how you might fantasize avenging the slight. Indeed, there is a story in Wild Tales that has the most severe case road rage since Spielberg’s Duel in 1971. Now Wild Tales is dark, and you gotta go with it. The humor comes from the EXTREMES that someone’s resentment can lead to.

One key to the success of Wild Tales is that it is an anthology. In a very wise move, Szifron resisted any impulse to stretch one of the stories into a feature-length movie. Each of the stories is just the right length to extract every laugh and pack a punch. The funniest stories are the opening one set on an airplane and the final one about a wedding.

The acting is uniformly superb. In one story, Oscar Martínez plays a wealthy man in a desperate jam, who buys the help of his shady lawyer fixer (Osmar Núñez) and his longtime household retainer (Germán de Silva) – until their prices get just a little too high. The three actors take what looks like it’s going to a thriller and morph into a (very funny) psychological comedy with a very cynical view of human nature.

One of the middle episodes stars one of my favorite film actors, Ricardo Darín, who I see as the Argentine Joe Mantegna. I suggest that you watch Darín in the brilliant police procedural The Secrets in Their Eyes (on my top ten for 2010), the steamy and seamy Carancho and the wonderful con artist movie Nine Queens.

Wild Tales has been a festival hit (Cannes, Telluride, Toronto and Sundance) around the world and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Picture Oscar. I saw Wild Tales at Cinequest 2015. It’s now available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu and Xbox Video.

Movies to See Right Now

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL

This is as good as it gets until December – FOUR of my Best Movies of 2015 – So Far are playing in theaters:

Don’t miss Fabrice Luchini in the delightfully dark comedy Gemma Bovery. The Melissa McCarthy spy spoof Spy is a very funny diversion. Far from the Madding Crowd is a satisfying choice for those looking for a period bodice ripper. I also liked the two-in-one Swedish comedy The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, a rich mixture of absurdity and broad physical humor.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the savagely funny Argentine comedy Wild Tales. It’s now available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu and Xbox Video.

Don’t forget that Turner Classic Movies is filling each June and July Friday with film noir in its Summer of Darkness series, hosted by Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller – the Czar of Noir. The series schedule includes several favorites of my Overlooked Noir.

This week Turner Classic Movies is also bringing us some of the very best Westerns. On June 29, we can see the now-overlooked masterpiece The Emigrants (1971), depicting the journey of Swedish emigrants to frontier Minnesota. It is remarkably realistic and faithful to the historical period. The same cast (Max von Sydow, Liv Ullman) continued the story in the sister film The New Land (1972). Both films were directed by Jan Troell and both were nominated for Oscars. It’s a Must See for anyone whose heritage includes 19th century European immigration to the prairie states.

Then on July, TCM shows Sydney Pollack’s under recognized 1972 masterpiece Jeremiah Johnson, which features a brilliantly understated but compelling performance by Robert Redford. If you want to understand why Redford is a movie star, watch this movie. It’s only 108 minutes long, and today’s filmmakers would bloat this epic tale to 40 minutes longer. (The same night, TCM is accompanying Jeremiah Johnson with with two other great Westerns, Little Big Man and The Searchers.)

Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman in THE EMIGRANTS
Max von Sydow and Liv Ullman in THE EMIGRANTS

DVD/Stream of the Week: WILD TALES

WILD TALES
WILD TALES

Okay, here’s the first Must See of 2015 – the hilariously dark Argentine comedy Wild Tales. Writer-director Damián Szifron presents a series of individual stories about revenge. It’s now topping my list of Best Movies of 2015 – So Far.

We all feel aggrieved, and Wild Tales explores what happens when rage overcomes the restraints of social order. Think about how instantly angry you can become when some driver cuts you off on the highway – and then how you might fantasize avenging the slight. Indeed, there is story that has the most severe case road rage since Spielberg’s Duel in 1971. Now Wild Tales is dark, and you gotta go with it. The humor comes from the EXTREMES that someone’s resentment can lead to.

One key to the success of Wild Tales is that it is an anthology. In a very wise move, Szifron resisted any impulse to stretch one of the stories into a feature-length movie. Each of the stories is just the right length to extract every laugh and pack a punch. The funniest stories are the opening one set on an airplane and the final one about a wedding.

The acting is uniformly superb. In one story, Oscar Martínez plays a wealthy man in a desperate jam, who buys the help of his shady lawyer fixer (Osmar Núñez) and his longtime household retainer (Germán de Silva) – until their prices get just a little too high. The three actors take what looks like it’s going to a thriller and morph into a (very funny) psychological comedy with a very cynical view of human nature.

One of the middle episodes stars one of my favorite film actors, Ricardo Darín, who I see as the Argentine Joe Mantegna. I suggest that you watch Darín in the brilliant police procedural The Secrets in Their Eyes (on my top ten for 2010), the steamy and seamy Carancho and the wonderful con artist movie Nine Queens.

Wild Tales has been a festival hit (Cannes, Telluride, Toronto and Sundance) around the world and was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Picture Oscar. I saw Wild Tales at Cinequest 2015. It’s now available on DVD from Netflix and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu and Xbox Video.

2015 – so far an exceptionally good year for movies

EX MACHINA
EX MACHINA

Wow, we’ve had a great start to 2015 in the movies. I’ve already placed eight films on my running list of Best Movies of 2015 – So Far.  Usually, I only have three or four at this time of year. Here’s my Best of 2015 to date:

  • Wild Tales (saw at Cinequest; DVD release in June)
  • Leviathan (available to stream from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and DirecTV)
  • Ex Machina (in theaters now)
  • Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (saw at San Francisco International Film Festival; releases June 12)
  • The End of the Tour (saw at San Francisco International Film Festival; releases July 30)
  • ’71 (saw at Cinequest; DVD release in July)
  • The Look of Silence (saw at San Francisco International Film Festival; limited release July 16)
  • The Grief of Others (saw at Camera Cinema Club; release undetermined)

I’m also mulling over adding to the list I’ll See You in My Dreams (in theaters now).  And I know I’ll include Corn Island, an exquisite Georgian film that I saw at Cinequest, if it gets a US release.  This is a GREAT and uncharacteristic start to the year in movies!

I’m already looking forward to some especially promising films that debuted at the Cannes International Film Festival. The universally acclaimed, heartbreaking biodoc of Amy Winehouse, Amy, releases July 3. Other Cannes films that will contend for my top ten list include The Lobster, Louder Than Bombs, Mia Madre, The Measure of a Man, Sicario (releases September 18), Youth, Green Room, The Assassin and Dheepan.

Plus there will be some superb documentaries that I don’t know about yet AND the usual stream of Oscar Bait movies released in the fall by the prestige arms of the Hollywood studios.  We should have a pretty good handle on 2015’s pool of excellent cinema at the time of the Toronto and Telluride film festivals in September.

2015 has been an excellent year so far and has the potential to be a great year of cinema.

ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL
ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL