Movies on DVD, streaming you can’t miss
Nothing wants to go up against “Furious 7” in the theaters except for a predictable and dependable Nicholas Sparks adaptation like “The Longest Ride.” Theaters aren’t the only way we watch new movies anymore, though. I’m going to tell you about four new movies accessible via Redbox, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and other streaming and rental services. They’re all very different, but they’re all very good, and chances are you haven’t seen a one:
The first is “Kill the Messenger.” In the 1980s, the Reagan administration supported a regime change in Nicaragua referred to as the Contras. In 1996, reporter Gary Webb wrote that the CIA had begun funding the rebellion by allying with Nicaraguan drug dealers and allowing billions in crack cocaine to freely flow into American neighborhoods.
The first half of “Kill the Messenger” is a procedural that expertly guides us through the connections Webb (Jeremy Renner) discovered. Its second half follows the fallout Webb faced from the government and other papers that published CIA rebuttals. Renner delivers one of his best performances to date. He’s sometimes wasted as an action hero, but we connect with him in “Kill the Messenger” because his emotional well-being is at stake.
The CIA would eventually acknowledge in 1998 that Webb’s theory was largely correct, long after his career had been destroyed. The Reagan administration had allowed the free flow of drugs into our country as a way of financing war against Communists in a third-world country. We ignored it in favor of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. One scandal involved funneling billions in drugs into our streets. The other focused on a dress. “Kill the Messenger” is a film that reminds us we’re too often willing to sell out our freedoms, ideals, and the well-being of our own citizens to fight shadow wars.
In “The Voices,” Ryan Reynolds accidentally turns into a serial killer. He doesn’t mean to, but his cat won’t take no for an answer. You see, Reynolds plays Jerry, who thinks he speaks to animals. While his faithful dog Bosco attempts to keep Jerry on the straight-and-narrow, his cat Mr. Whiskers keeps telling him things like, “The only time I’ve ever felt truly alive is when I’m killing.” Clearly, this film has rare insight into the minds of cats everywhere.
It’s a wacky approach to a comedy about mental illness, but if you can make it past an awkward introduction, “The Voices” delivers some of the best dark humor in recent years.
Though always funny, it’s also touching and dramatic. In an odd way, the film constructs a metaphor for the voices we each fight in our head -- voices that tell us we’re not beautiful or strong or smart enough. We live in a society where everyone is constantly failing because of the doubts that well up inside us. “The Voices” is a vicious (and very R-rated) comedy, but it digs deeper thanks to a deceptively nuanced performance by Reynolds.
Few movies are as unsparing as “The Homesman,” Tommy Lee Jones’s second film as director. A pioneer woman (Hillary Swank) and a drifter (Jones) are set to the task of transporting three women who have gone mad to a church in Iowa. They are faced with a lonely, 5-week journey through dangerous land. Swank’s Mary is equal parts strong and desperate, and Jones plays a jester.
The film’s shot in long shadows and pale sunsets, across empty plains backed by choruses of wind that never quite reach you. It’s a beautiful moment in time that could only exist in cinema, a movie that descends toward madness without making judgments. It is as stark and unpredictable as movies come, more like “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” or “Unforgiven” in its quiet power than the John Wayne and Gregory Peck Westerns of yore.
It’s a film I missed when it passed through a handful of theaters late last year. Had I seen it then, it would have easily landed in my top ten.
Finally, “Predestination” is a near-perfect adaptation of a short story long viewed as impossible to film: Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies.” It’s the time travel movie to end all time travel movies, one simultaneously massive and incredibly intimate paradox.
To describe it in detail is to ruin any of a number of mind-bending plot twists, but suffice to say that this is Ethan Hawke’s finest performance since “Gattaca.” “Predestination” belongs in the same class of science-fiction brain-benders. The emotional core of the film lies with Sarah Snook’s performance, though. It’s one I’m sure I’ll be championing at the end of the year.
“Predestination” was nominated for nine Australian Academy Awards and won four (including best actress for Snook).
These films join others like “I Origins” and “The Guest” as new, smaller films that you’ll only find on DVD or streaming.
Gabe Valdez grew up in Chicago, went to college in Massachusetts, is a former news reporter in Floresville, Texas, and worked in politics in Oregon. He writes and directs films when he can find the time. Reviews, views, photos and more can be found at http://basilmarinerchase.wordpress.com. Email him at email@example.com.
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