The Last Movie Stars
Streaming. Both a look at the Hollywood of yesteryear, when movie stars had to actually display far more talent than the ability to make a TikTok video to get the big gigs, and a reminder that real love can and does exist, Ethan Hawke’s deeply intimate, and thoroughly researched new series on Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward is undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2022. Chronicling the late superstar duo’s rise as a couple (and the unfortunate hiccups later), and as actors, “The Last Movie Stars” features a splendid mix of archival material like videos, photos, and audio recordings along with zoom interviews (Hawke crafted the show during the lockdown) with the likes of George Clooney and Laura Linney.
Jerry and Marge Go Large
Streaming. We have a lottery pool at work but, except for the occasional $4 win or free ticket, we’re pretty much throwing our money away on a chance of winning the big prize. It’s actually a 1 in 292,331,208 chance but come one, nothing is a sure thing. Unless you live in a small town in Michigan and your neighbors are Jerry and Marge Selbee. Based on a true story, “Jerry and Marge Go Large” is a sweet, well-acted tale of two people that figured out – Larry is a math wiz – that the more you played a certain lottery game the better your chances of winning. But the Selbees aren’t in it for their own gains. They are trying to raise money for their small community and actually get their neighbors involved in the game. Things get tough when the game is cancelled in Michigan and the closest place to play is Massachusetts. While their plan seems foolproof, it is not without sacrifice. Mostly time. From their initial purchase of a few thousand dollars worth of tickets, through week’s when they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, each ticket must be printed individually. This means long days (and nights) standing at the local liquor store and just buying ticket after ticket after ticket after ticket…..you get the picture.
This is such a fun film to watch, from the premise to the cast. Cranston and Bening will go down as two of the best actors of their generation, and it’s a treat to see them play off each other so well. And it’s always a treat to see Rainn Wilson and Michael McKean on screen. The script is sharp and the direction well-paced. This film is an early summer treat for viewers not into dinosaurs and super heroes. – MS
Only Murders in the Building : Season Two
Streaming. If the fact it’s been commissioned for a third season didn’t already tip you off, Hulu and Disney+’s “Only Murders in the Building” is one of the more unique comedies on the box. Meticulously crafted by long-time friends and collaborators Steve Martin and Martin Short, it’s a contemporary murder mystery cloaked in far more laughter than intrigue but, by golly, have they got some very unexpected and much welcome plot twists in this second season (watch out for episode 4!). – CC
Murder at Yellowstone City
Digital. Director Richard Gray has assembled a fine ensemble cast – including the always-dependable Richard Dreyfuss, as well as Gabriel Byrne, Nat Wolff, Anna Camp, and Thomas Jane – for a delicately-made western about a former slave looking for peace and quiet in his new home, and the sheriff who arrests him for the murder of a prospector who has recently struck rich. Nothing is what it seems, of course. Some good twists and turns, nifty direction from Australian Gray (“Robert the Bruce”, “Blinder”), and some good production design (they reportedly built this whole town from scratch, just for the film!) overshadow any of the script’s squat pacing and plotting issues. – ML
Digital. A film that’ll break your heart.. then piece it back together, “Bowen’s Heart” is an undisputedly enriching documentary that profiles a family’s hope, strength, and understandable despair when their then 8-year-old goes is forced to undergo heart surgery. What directors have done here is paint both an intimately personal story of the Hammitt’s but also an overall picture of just how difficult and it is for the entire family – or friends, If you will – when someone falls gravely ill within its unit. – ML
Orders From Above
Digital. Pic tells of a police officer probing one of the architects of the final solution some fifteen years after the World War II concluded. What could’ve likely been an awkward and misguided slapdash indie is, thanks to the savvy if not practiced captain and its crew, a surprisingly captivating and good-looking indie thriller – appreciably shot with very little resources during a Covid lockdown in Australia but an otherwise inexperienced filmmaker – that will no doubt become director Vir Srinivas‘s calling-card to Hollywood. – ML
The Lonesome Trail
Digital. It’s a Wonderful Life by way of a religious-skewed western, the affectionately made and well-written feature adaptation of ‘’The Lonesome Trail,’’ penned and directed by the book’s author Arlette Thomas-Fletcher, tells the story of a preacher who settles in a small town and give it a welcome shake-up. An indie-through-and-through, sure, but the heart it wears on its sleeve, and the passion of its cast and crew, more than makes up for its budgetary shortcomings. Though most will enjoy it, “Trail” will obviously strike more of a chord with the faith-based audience and family westerns (a’la “Dr Quinn : Medicine Woman”) of the past. – ML