A late 1970s set comedic crime caper is featured in today’s streaming guide and is available through HBO’s services:
Shane Black’s The Nice Guys casts Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as private eyes who team to find a missing teen played by Margaret Qualley, who broke out last year with her role in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The writer/director is known for his private eye tales. If you haven’t seen Black’s 2005 effort Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, mark it down as a must watch too.
Guys incorporates Black’s humorous touches with some hard edged bits. The chemistry of Crowe and Gosling works well and this is another solid effort from a talented filmmaker.
Available via Netflix, today’s streaming guide highlights a Depression era gangster pic that took its star out of his typical comfort zone:
2002’s Road to Perdition casts Tom Hanks as a 1930s hitman whose family falls victim to his professional choices. The pic comes from Sam Mendes as the follow-up to his Oscar winning American Beauty. The supporting cast includes Paul Newman in one of his final onscreen appearances, Jude Law, and a pre 007 Daniel Craig (Mendes would direct him later in Skyfall and Spectre).
This was a rather bold choice for everyman Hanks and it paid off with solid reviews and robust box office. If you missed it the first time around, it’s well worth a view.
Today’s Streaming Guide focuses on an Oscar nominated period drama that is available for viewing via Hulu:
1998’s Gods and Monsters is responsible for introducing many American filmgoers to the work of Ian McKellen before he became a household name shortly thereafter with the X-Men and Lord of the Rings franchises. He’s cast as director James Whale, most known for his horror classics Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein. Set in the 1950s, Whale is aging and medically fragile and under the care of Lynn Redgrave’s nurse. Brendan Fraser (in rare dramatic work) costars as a young gardener who befriends Whale and is the object of his affection.
Monsters deservedly garnered Academy nominations for McKellen and Redgrave and won Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s worthy of a look.
For today’s streaming guide, I focus on what I consider Steven Spielberg’s best picture of the 21st century:
Minority Report was released in 2002 and it’s new to Netflix as of yesterday. Set in 2054, the sci-fi action thriller casts Tom Cruise as the head of a police force that determines “precrimes” – allowing law enforcement the ability to arrest perps before they commit murder. This system turns its head on Cruise when he becomes subject to such an investigation. Costarring Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, and Max Von Sydow, Report is a visual feast with a highly intelligent screenplay. The pic is based on a short story from famed author Philip K. Dick. Such features as Blade Runner and Total Recall have also been based on his works.
While it was a hit upon release, I’ve always felt this doesn’t get as much credit as it deserves. I consider it to be the #1 movie of 2002 and the kind of relentless entertainment that its director is celebrated for. If you haven’t caught it (or need a reminder of its quality), I can’t recommend it enough.
Today’s Streaming Guide give us a mid 1980s comedic adventure that was an unexpected blockbuster at the time and is available via Hulu:
Romancing the Stone was not expected to be a success at the time of its release. From director Robert Zemeckis, Michael Douglas had yet to establish himself as a bankable leading man. The pic casts him as a petty smuggler who assists Kathleen Turner’s romance novelist searching for her kidnapped sister in Colombia. Danny DeVito memorably costars as one of the kidnappers. Critics and audiences alike gave it the stamp of approval.
Stone, influenced by the Indiana Jones series, marked Zemeckis’s first major hit. Many would follow including Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Forrest Gump. The Douglas/Turner/DeVito trio would reunite for a sequel the next year with the less effective The Jewel of the Nile. They would join forces in 1989 for The War of the Roses, the black comedy directed by DeVito that is also well worth a look.
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…
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.