Pretty in Pink (1986) – One of the great things about the recent Spider-Man: Homecoming is that it draws inspiration from the 80's high school films of John Hughes. Hughes wrote, but didn’t direct Pretty in Pink (that was Howard Deutsch, who would also helm another personal favorite John Hughes movie, Some Kind of Wonderful). The cast includes Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer, Annie Potts, James Spader, and completed the Molly Ringwald trifecta of Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club. The movie is funny and sweet and about as 80's as you can get.
A Simple Plan (1998) – I recently watched the first season of Fargo and it reminded me of how great Billy Bob Thornton is. This Sam Raimi-directed thriller features one of his best supporting performances, as the not-too-bright, innocent brother of Bill Paxton. The two discover a crashed plane with a bag full of drug money, and things quickly go wrong. The movie, a not-unlike-Fargo wintery film noir, also stars Bridget Fonda.
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) – Returning to 1986 and John Hughes, there’s no way I couldn’t recommend this film. It’s in my top 10 of all time, endlessly quotable, with brilliant performances by Matthew Broderick as Ferris and Alan Ruck as his best friend Cameron. While it’s not streaming for free, you can rent it for less than a dollar.
Captain Fantastic (2016) - I’m one of those people who tend to follow particular actors rather than specific genres—mostly because I like too many genres—and Viggo Mortensen is one of the actors I follow. Mortensen has a fairly diverse body of work, so I never quite know what I’m going to get. I was thrilled when this movie rolled onto Prime—mostly because the premise of the film reminded me of one of my uber hippy, off the grid close friends, who is raising children. The film’s cinematography is quite good, and the color palette is vibrant and aesthetically pleasing. The story is heart-warming, but also prompts the audience to ask some deep and difficult questions about our cultural values and ideologies and raising our children.
Nerve (2016) - This was one of those films that when I saw the preview I thought, “I want to see that, but I’ll wait til it’s free.” Well, it’s free now (at least for those who have Prime). Nerve, surprisingly, exceeded my expectations. Part thriller and part rom-dram, Franco and Roberts had decent onscreen chemistry, but the film isn’t all cheap thrills and fluff as it taps into potential consequences of a social media convergent world. While there are some holes in the narrative, occasional pacing issues, and twists that seem just a hair too far from real, it’s worth remembering that just this year 40 people watched a teen being raped on Facebook Live. Overall, the film does a decent job of being entertaining while making you think. It’s not cinematically impressive, and it’s not going to rock your world, but if you’re looking for a film that’s going to entertain—one that doesn’t strain your brain, but isn’t entirely empty—then this is a solid choice.
The Dressmaker (2015) - I waited way too long to check out The Dressmaker; I’m kind of ashamed with myself. Kate Winslet is another one of the actors I follow, but for some reason, I’m always dragging my feet when it comes to viewing her recent films. I have no idea why—possibly because they are often dramas and/or lean a bit too far to the "dram" side when they are multi-classified, and I need to be in a serious mood to tango with them. But I almost always love her films and The Dressmaker was no exception. It made me laugh. It made me cry. And it totally reminded me of Big Fish (2003) and the way in which narratives can have mythological and magical powers. If you haven’t watched it, do so immediately.
Meru (2015) & The Mystery of the Pink Dolphin (2016) - Meru is one of the few documentaries that make you forget you are watching a documentary. It’s an immersive journey into climbing culture, and it’s as inspiring as it is tense. I enjoyed it more than Everest (so if you watched and enjoyed Everest, then Meru is a film you need to watch). Taking a left turn, if documentaries are your thing, check out The Mystery of the Pink Dolphin (2016), which documents a relatively unknown dolphin species that scientists have recently learned more about—this one will be interesting for the whole family.
Almost Famous (2000) - Although my absolute favorite Cameron Crowe film – Singles (1992) - doesn't appear to be streaming anywhere at the moment, Almost Famous is a close second for me. It is one of those films that can make you nostalgic for a time you never even lived in and experiences that are totally foreign to you. This is probably because William Miller (Patrick Fugit) is so likable and relatable as the film's central character – a young geek who is out of his depth, writing a cover story on rising band Stillwater for Rolling Stone magazine.
The Lobster (2015) - Part of the "Greek weird wave" of films, this absurdist black comedy from director Yorgos Lanthimos most certainly fits the 'weird' descriptor. Following the story of David (Colin Farrell), this film explores a world in which relationships are compulsory, and single people are forced to live in a "hotel" where they are tasked with finding a mate. Those who do not find a mate within 45 days are turned into an animal of their choosing, using a process that is never shown nor fully explained. Like Lanthimos' earlier film, Dogtooth (2009), episodes of random violence and cruelty make this a difficult film to watch, but it is a worthwhile experience for the dark comedy, stellar acting, and biting social commentary.
Flight of the Conchords (2007-2009) - This television series that ran on HBO from 2007-2009 follows the misadventures of the titular two person band (Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie), who have traveled from their native New Zealand to New York City in search of fame. Each episode features several original songs from the band, which tie into the plots and help express the emotions that the deadpan band members have trouble with in their normal interactions with others. Although Jemaine and Bret are the standout stars of the show, an ensemble cast of slightly weird friends and associates rounds things out. If nothing else, watch the "Bowie" episode from season 1 for what is probably the best Bowie impersonation ever committed to film.
New in Theaters This Week...
[Click the posters for more information]