Friday, July 17, 2015
Netflix This Movie! Vol. 138
You've got good choices in theaters this weekend! Here's what to watch when you come home.
Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2015, dir. Spike Lee) Spike Lee's latest is sure to be polarizing, but if you're in the mood for something shaggy and idiosyncratic then you might enjoy Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. As a fan of the director I found the movie to be fascinating with a great soundtrack and some standout sequences. The whole movie isn't a success and it's far from one of Lee's classics, but there's more than enough here to warrant a watch.
Hits (2014, dir. David Cross) David Cross is one of those guys you are either a big fan of or he’s “Hey, that guy!” I am definitely in the former camp. I’ve been a fan of Cross since his Mr. Show days and, of course, as one of the greatest characters in TV history (in my humble opinion), Tobias Funke. However, many people may not be a fan of his stand-up, which comes through the most in Hits. It definitely has the feeling of the small indie comedy we’ve had thrown at us every year since Little Miss Sunshine, except it’s funnier. Hits' underlying theme is “fame” and how in the day of Youtube it’s easier to attain it, but usually for the wrong reasons. Cross does make sure to take the time to throw stones at everyone, so while the movie does have political themes throughout it, you get the feeling that Hits is annoyed with everyone. I think what I enjoyed the most about Hits, though, is that you can definitely see Cross’ improv background, as the movie is great at giving every single character, no matter how small, a character trait that instantly makes him or her more interesting. Additionally, there are moments in Hits where you can tell that Cross is just letting his actors improvise and be funny with a very loose script. Hits was charming and sweet where it needed to be, while still making me laugh, with very fun lead performances from Matt Walsh and Meredith Hagner.
Crime of Passion (1957, dir. Gerd Oswald) This late-fifties crime film stars Sterling Hayden (The Asphalt Jungle) and Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity), two actors who made massive contributions to film noir during a relatively short window. Raymond Burr also co-stars in this tale of love and murder in the cruel city. The screenplay for Crime of Passion is written by Jo Eisenger, who had previously penned Gilda, one of the best noir films of the whole cycle. Crime of Passion doesn't quite rise to the heights of Gilda, but it's still a compelling story filled with strong characters and excellent performances from its cast.
The Hustler (1961, dir. Robert Rossen) One of the great films of the early sixties, The Hustler tells the story of professional pool shark “Fast Eddie” Felson (Paul Newman), his sometimes girlfriend (Piper Laurie), his “manager” (George C. Scott), and billiards champion Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason). The Hustler is one of those dark dramas that recreate a specific place and time so vividly you can almost smell it. Newman, Laurie, Scott, and Gleason would all be nominated for Academy Awards-- and all lose because Oscar never gets it right (and because Scott and Gleason were both nominated in the same category). Twenty-five years later, Paul Newman actually won the Best Actor Oscar for the sequel, Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money, his sixth nomination. Talk about delayed gratification.
Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau (2015, dir. David Gregory) I was a fan of this documentary when I reviewed it earlier this year, mostly for the way it illuminates just how many things can go wrong on a movie no matter how promising it starts our or how much Hollywood muscle is behind it. While Lost Soul certainly makes it seem like Richard Stanley's Dr. Moreau would be much more artistic and memorable than the one we got, the doc has the advantage of never having to prove that because we'll never know. Still, there are incredible stories throughout this film and it lets us get to know Richard Stanley a little better...at least, as much as anyone actually can know Richard Stanley. If you love movies (and it's safe to assume you do if you're here), you'll probably enjoy this.