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Monday, August 10, 2020

The Firm and More – /Film

(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the most effective movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and almost every other streaming service out there.)

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The Firm
Now Streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 1993

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Genre: Thriller

Director: Sydney Pollack

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook, David Strathairn

The Firm is as solid as a Hollywood thriller gets. The form of movie they don’t really make anymore – a mid-budget pic aimed squarely at adults, with a powerful cast on top of that – this John Grisham adaptation is tense, clever, and never dull, whilst it stretches to not exactly two-and-a-half hours. Director Sydney Pollack knows exactly what he’s doing, letting the movie breathe, and letting every thing fall into place slowly but steadily. And talk about a fantastic cast – Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook, David Strathairn, Jeanne Tripplehorn (where did she go??), Wilford Brimley playing against type as a bad guy, Tobin Bell using a weird accent, a possibly coked-up Gary Busey. You can’t beat it. Tom Cruise is a young lawyer who gets head-hunted by a lawyer in Memphis. He takes the gig because the money is too good to pass up, and sure enough, that he realizes everything comes with a catch: his firm is in league with the mafia. Cruise is playing a standard guy here, and that’s particularly fun to watch that because that he usually plays superhuman dudes constantly doing crazy stunts these days. Although, yes, that he does have multiple scenes where he runs. And as great since the cast in general is, Gene Hackman may be the real standout, playing a morally gray character. Man oh man do I miss seeing Gene Hackman show up in new movies.

For fans of: Michael ClaytonAbsence of Malice, Holly Hunter smoking in every scene she’s in.

 

The Last Dance
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Sports Documentary

Director: Jason Hehir

Cast: The Chicago Bulls

I’m not just a sports person, so I was hesitant to watch The Last DanceBut after hearing everyone sing its praises, I finally decided to surrender – and I’m glad I did. Even if you’re not in to sports there’s so much here to latch onto. The docuseries, which first aired on ESPN and is now on Netflix, uses Michael Jordan‘s final season with the Chicago Bulls to tell a sprawling story of all the years Jordan used the Bulls, and beyond. Phil Jackson, Scottie PippenDennis Rodman, and many, many more people pop-up here, but the story always extends back to Jordan. Jordan is presented here as a Daniel Plainview figure – someone determined to win at all costs regardless of who he could destroy in the act. It’s fascinating to watch, and the editing, which cuts together clips of games scored to great songs of the era, makes The Last Dance wildly entertaining.

For fans of: Hoop Dreams30 for 30 documentaries, looking at Michael Jordon’s huge house.

 

Fear City: New York vs. The Mafia
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2020

Genre: True Crime Docuseries

Director: Paul Moessl

New to Netflix, Fear City: New York vs. The Mafia is definitely an intimate look at how investigators and prosecutors tracked and sooner or later brought down the mafia in New York City in the 1970s and ’80s. Loaded with footage from the era and actual audio recordings of the mobsters – who appear to punctuate every sentence with “fuck” – Fear City avoids wise guy cliches and focuses more on the work that went in to first wire-tapping the mob and then eventually bringing them down after the mobsters were attached to huge multi-million-dollar scams, mostly involving the construction of skyscrapers (Trump Tower gets raised more than a few times). Best of, Fear City only runs three episodes, so it never overstays its welcome – an approach more contemporary true crime documentaries should follow.

For fans of: Dirty MoneyGoodFellas, thick New Yawk accents.

 

Palm Springs
Now Streaming on Hulu

Release Date: 2020

Genre: Comedy

Director: Max Barbakow

Cast: Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, J.K. Simmons

A modern-day riff on the Groundhog Day time-loop scenario, Palm Springs is funny, sweet, and usually surprisingly melancholy. Not everything here works (a subplot involving a character played by J.K. Simmons never finds its footing), nevertheless the stuff that works works well. While at her sister’s wedding in Palm Springs, Sarah (Cristin Milioti) ends up stuck in a period loop with Nyles (Andy Samberg), who has already been stuck in the loop for a long period. Of course, it’s just a matter of time before these two time loopers fall for each other. But first, they benefit from their surreal situation by doing any such thing and every thing they can think about, consequences be damned. Samberg is sharp here, but he’s playing the type of character he always plays, just with some more rough edges. Milioti may be the real break-out here, balancing both humor and pathos with aplomb.

For fans of: Groundhog DayEdge of TomorrowGroundhog DayEdge of TomorrowGroundhog DayEdge of TomorrowGroundhog DayEdge of TomorrowG–

 

Shattered Glass
Now Streaming on Peacock

Release Date: 2003

Genre: Drama

Director: Billy Ray

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Peter Sarsgaard, Chloë Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, Melanie Lynskey, Steve Zahn

The Star War prequels convinced many people that Hayden Christensen was not a very good actor. But Shattered Glass proves they can turn in something strong with the right material. Christensen plays Stephen Glass, a reporter at The New Republic who turns in one single slam-dunk article after still another, making him something of a superstar. But here’s the catch: he made most of them up. Everything came crashing down for Glass when somebody noticed articles he wrote about a hacker just didn’t add up, and Shattered Glass chronicles his downfall, following editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard, fantastic and furious) as he first tries to prove Glass was telling the truth and then begins to realize one of is own star reporters is completely filled with shit.

For fans of: SpotlightAll the President’s Men, watching people in the 1990s maybe not understand how internet sites work.

 

Airplane!
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 1980

Genre: Comedy

Director: David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams

Cast: Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lorna Patterson

One of the funniest movies ever made, Airplane! is really a send-up of disaster movies, especially movies in the Airport series. When food poisoning knocks out some of the passengers, and pilots, of a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago, traumatized Ted Striker (Robert Hays) must overcome his fears and land the plane safely. What follows is a non-stop assortment of sight-gags, somewhat dated references, and a manic spirt that’s totally irresistible.

For fans of: The Naked Gun, The Kentucky Fried Movie, sniffing glue.

 

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

Release Date: 2011

Genre: Action

Director: Brad Bird

Cast: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Michael Nyqvist, Anil Kapoor, Léa Seydoux

Many people seem to count Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol as their favorite M:I sequel. I’m not just one of them (Rogue Nation entirely, baby), but this is probably one of the most entertaining entries in the series – the film that turned the franchise into a number of jaw-dropping set-pieces where Tom Cruise would risk his life for the entertainment. Cruise was always big on doing his stunts, but Ghost Protocol was the first Mission where that he was performing stunts that really could’ve killed him, like scaling along side it of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The plot involves Ethan Hunt and his team wanting to prevent nuclear war, and, sure, whatever – that’s fine. But let’s maybe not kid ourselves. We’re maybe not watching this movie for the plot, we’re watching it to see director Brad Bird turn Tom Cruise right into a human cartoon.

For fans of: Tom Cruise risking his life like a madman.

 

Out of Time
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2003

Genre: Thriller

Director: Carl Franklin

Cast: Denzel Washington, Eva Mendes, Sanaa Lathan, Dean Cain

Out of Time isn’t the flashiest Denzel Washington thriller, but it does feature a great performance from the actor along with a lot of twists and turns. A Florida noir, Out of Time has Washington as an area Chief of Police amid an affair with an area woman, played by Sanaa Lathan. The relationship ends up getting Washington in plenty of trouble when his mistress arises dead, and he ultimately ends up being the only beneficiary of her $1,000,000 life insurance policy. Is he being set-up? Is there a lot more than meets a person’s eye here? Whatever is going on, Washington’s character uses his police access to throw fellow cops off his scent, but there’s only so long that will last. Tense and full of great set pieces – a scene where Washington is desperately trying to fake a fax machine message is tension-filled movie making at its finest.

For fans of: Body HeatDouble Indemnity, Denzel Washington wearing a series of Hawaiian shirts.

 

Daniel Isn’t Real
Now Streaming on Shudder

Release Date: 2019

Genre: Horror

Director: Adam Egypt Mortimer

Cast: Miles Robbins, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sasha Lane, Mary Stuart Masterson, Hannah Marks, Chukwudi Iwuji, Peter McRobbie

What if your imaginary friend from childhood resurfaced whenever you were a grownup. And imagine if he wasn’t so imaginary? That’s the set up for Daniel Isn’t Real, a creepy little horror flick in regards to a loser scholar (Miles Robbins) who manifests his imaginary friend (Patrick Schwarzenegger) to simply help with his confidence. Or so he thinks. However, it soon becomes abundantly clear that “Daniel” isn’t who – or what – he says he is. Director Adam Egypt Mortimer manages to accomplish a lot with a little here, leaning on some strong production design to tie it all together.

For fans of: ZDrop Dead Fred, impromptu sword fights.

 

Maniac Cop 2
Now Streaming on Shudder

Release Date: 1990

Genre: Horror

Director: William Lustig

Cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, and Bruce Campbell, Robert Z’Dar

All the Maniac Cop movies are fun and worth watching in their own right, but Maniac Cop 2 is the best of the bunch. An improvement over the first film in nearly every way, Maniac Cop 2 doesn’t just have great horror, it has great action, too – there’s a scene involving someone hanging outside an automobile, cuffed to the tyre, as the car speeds through traffic, that’s better than any such thing I’ve observed in the entire Fast and Furious franchise. One again, undead cop Matt Cordell is roaming the mean streets of New York, murdering people. To make things extra interesting, Cordell actually teams up with a serial killer midway through the film, although he’s got ulterior motives. This is really a violent, sleazy film, occur a dark, dirty New York where smoke is definitely pouring out of manholes and every one hates one another. All the cops are crooked and violent and corrupt, and they don’t give a fuck who knows it. Until the Maniac Cop comes calling, that’s.

For fans of: The Maniac Cop franchise, obviously.

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