Today’s Streaming Guide bring us an absolute masterclass in filmmaking and acting that is currently available via Netflix:
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is an early 20th century tale of oil mining and greed with a towering and Oscar winning performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. As Daniel Plainview, a ruthless prospector turned tycoon – Day-Lewis pretty much won the Academy Award as soon as the picture screened for critics. Blood was also victorious in the Cinematography category and deservedly so. The pic also features dynamite supporting work from Paul Dano as a scheming preacher. And there’s a line regarding milkshakes that stands along the hit Kelis track as the best 21st century milkshake references.
Blood continued Anderson’s ascent into greatness after such features as Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and Punch-Drunk Love. It has since continued with The Master, Inherent Vice, and Phantom Thread (which is headlined by another terrific Day-Lewis role). I have a special place for Boogie Nights, which I considered to be the best movie of the 1990s not named Pulp Fiction. As far as PTA’s output, this ranks second.
Today’s Streaming Guide focuses on one of the highest quality police procedural thrillers to emerge in recent years and it’s available for viewing on Netflix:
Director David Ayer has most recently been known for working with Will Smith on Suicide Squad and Netflix’s Bright. Prior to that, he specialized in Los Angeles set crime pics. He co-wrote 2001’s Training Day, in which Denzel Washington won the Best Actor Oscar before directing Christian Bale in Harsh Times and Keanu Reeves in Street Kings.
From the behind the camera, his best of the bunch in my view is 2012’s End of Watch. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, and Anna Kendrick, this is a gritty genre affair made with style and first-rate performances. It performed decently upon initial release. If you haven’t seen it, End is definitely worth the watch.
The Streaming Guide today starts with a bold picture that defies genre explanation from 2018 and it’s currently available on Hulu:
Sorry to Bother You is one of the most audacious directorial debuts in recent memory from Boots Riley, most known for his contributions to the world of hip hop. It is a daring race relations comedy and drama with an unmistakable point of view on capitalism. Sorry is also a romance, a tale of unions, and it manages to somehow incorporate science fiction elements with human and horse hybrids. That’s right… if you’re looking for something wholly original to view, this fits the bill. The cast includes Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Armie Hammer, and Danny Glover.
For my second pic (also via Hulu), I turn to 2017’s I, Tonya. From Craig Gillespie, it recounts the sordid saga of the 1994 Winter Olympics attack on figure skater Nancy Kerrigan. Margot Robbie earned an Oscar nod for her portrayal of rival Tonya Harding and Allison Janney took Supporting Actress gold as her wildly eccentric mother. Seek out ESPN’s 30 for 30 doc about the subject and watch I, Tonya as an added bonus.
And that does it for today, folks! Until next time…
Clint Eastwood’s Richard Jewell continues his late career spate of no-frills dramas focused on recent events. This is a mostly successful and effective one which recounts the title character’s accusations of being responsible for the 1996 Centennial Olympic Park Bombing in Atlanta. Eastwood and screenwriter Billy Ray spare no anger (sometimes subtle, sometimes above the surface) at the U.S. Government and the media for their contribution to his suffering. That is where Jewell has generated some controversy due its depiction of one reporter played by Olivia Wilde. Some of that material is indeed problematic, but the film overall is buoyed by a trio of terrific performances.
One of them is Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell. Working as a low-level security guard with deep reverence for law enforcement (he longs to be in that club), Jewell works the event that results in pipe bombs being detonated and he saves lives by discovering the knapsack that the devices are kept in. However, he also becomes the tragedy’s prime suspect. His two biggest investigators depicted here are Jon Hamm’s FBI agent and Wilde’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter. Richard’s support system include his lawyer Watson Bryant (Sam Rockwell) and his beloved mama Bobi (Kathy Bates).
Jewell’s credit as a hero is short-lived as the government and media hone in on him as the potential bomber. Hauser’s performance (he’s been memorable in smaller roles in I, Tonya and BlacKkKlansman) is first-rate as he captures Jewell’s vulnerability and unwillingness to fight the system until it’s almost too late. Credit also goes to Rockwell and Bates. The scenes between this trio give the picture its greatest dramatic heft.
As mentioned, the treatment of Wilde and the FBI as a whole is a bit more complicated. Their story here has been called more fictionalized than the reality. I can only say that Wilde’s reporter in particular is written as more of a caricature. Yet the unfair treatment of Jewell is one that resonates with Hauser’s superb work assisting in a major way.
In these times, it’s certainly important to laugh and today’s Streaming Guide gives us two goofy comedies currently available on HBO’s viewing services:
2010’s MacGruber is a feature-length treatment starring Will Forte’s inept MacGyver type character that he originally debuted on SNL. It was not a hit upon release, but has found many fans over the past decade. I found it to be frequently uproarious with memorable supporting turns by Kristin Wiig and Val Kilmer. There’s also an, ummm, love scene between Forte and Wiig that won’t leave your psyche anytime soon.
2004’s Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story was a blockbuster a decade and a half ago. Headlined by Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller, this silly sports tale about something we all played in gym hits more than it misses. In hindsight, the inspirational scene with Lance Armstrong towards the end seems… dated. Yet this is certainly good for some laughs.
Today’s Daily Streaming Guide features two potboilers from the 1980s with political overtones. Both are available on Amazon Prime:
Brian De Palma’s 1981 effort Blow Out stars John Travolta, Nancy Allen, and John Lithgow. Arriving after a trio of hits for the lead (Saturday Night Fever, Grease, Urban Cowboy), audiences didn’t really know what to make of it upon release. It has since developed a deserved following (Quentin Tarantino is among the ardent fans). As a sound technician embroiled in a murder plot, Blow Out gives us one of Travolta’s finest performances.
Roger Donaldson’s 1987 noir pic No Way Out finds Kevin Costner as a Naval officer uncovering dirty deeds by Gene Hackman’s Defense Secretary. Costarring Sean Young, who’s involved in a love triangle with the leads, the film is a solid thriller that cemented Costner’s leading man status.
Two comedies make their way into my Daily Streaming Guide. Also – about the “daily” thing – I’m trying my darnedest to post each day, but sometimes life and work get in the way. I’ll do my best to update as much as possible!
1996’s Kingpin from the Farrelly Brothers arrived in-between two of their massive and beloved comedies – Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary. This bowling farce starring Woody Harrelson, Randy Quaid, and a glorious Bill Murray didn’t receive near as much attention. It’s since turned into a cult favorite and its brand of depraved and often hilarious comedy is well worth a look (for Murray’s hair alone).
2004’s Along Came Polly is the romantic tale of ultra cautious Ben Stiller and free spirit Jennifer Aniston. They are responsible for plenty of funny moments, but supporting players Alec Baldwin and especially the late Philip Seymour Hoffman make it even more worthwhile.
Today’s Daily Streaming Guide brings us a must watch for horror fans who like a little comedy and irreverence spliced in!
2012’s The Cabin in the Woods is streaming on Hulu. What begins as a seemingly run-of-the-mill scary pic about college students being terrorized in a cabin takes all kinds of unexpected and often humorous turns. The film is cowritten by Joss Whedon and a month after its release, he struck box office gold with the first Avengers. This is directed by his colleague Drew Goddard (making his debut) with a cast includes Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford doing sublime work, and genre legend Sigourney Weaver in a small yet pivotal role.
Cabin wasn’t a big hit at the multiplexes, but it’s deservedly achieved cult status since. I find it to be one of the wildly entertaining flicks of its kind in recent times.
Today’s edition of my Daily Streaming Guide centers on two captivating documentaries, which are both available for viewing via Hulu:
The 2014 doc Life Itself is about the life and death of renowned film critic Roger Ebert. From his wilder days in Chicago to becoming sober to his famed partnership with fellow reviewer Gene Siskel, the pic is an all encompassing look at the legendary Pulitzer Prize winning writer. The most touching moments involve his debilitating cancer battle that ended his life in 2013. Emotionally resonant and often funny, Life Itself is a great watch even for people who weren’t tremendously influenced by his work (like me).
2018’s Three Identical Strangers can be filed under the heading “truth is stranger than fiction”. That phrase plays throughout the tale of identical triplets who didn’t know of one another’s existence until they were 19. The less you know about it going in, the better. Just know that you’ll be entertained and consistently surprised.
My Daily Streaming Guide rolls along today with three new movies worthy of your binge watching consideration:
From 2007, David Fincher’s Zodiac finds the filmmaker in his dark and visually stylish wheelhouse. The man behind Seven and Fight Club meticulously details the case of the Zodiac Killer in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a top-notch cast including Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. (one year before his first appearance as Tony Stark in the MCU).
Speaking of stylish, Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive from 2011 has it in spades. It also defies genre placement. Ryan Gosling doesn’t have much dialogue, but this is one of his finest roles as a stunt performer who moonlights in underground criminal circles. A contemplative pic with violent outbursts, Drive is a stunner.
On the cinematic front, J.J. Abrams is best known for revitalizing the Star Trek and Star Wars series. His stand-alone 2011 effort Super 8 has a Stranger Things vibe before that landmark show existed. With a heavy Spielberg influence, it would have been right at home being released in 1985. It’s a lot of fun and there’s a humdinger of a trash crash sequence.