Heartwarming blockbusters, Hawaiian shirts, and drunk monsters make for an interesting collection of summer worthy watches.
With my third consecutive Hulu free trial ending this week, I thought I’d hunker down and go through that long forgotten “watch list” to compile some film favorites I’ve found and rediscovered on the streamer.
Palm Springs (Hulu Original)
A time loop-trapped comedy in the middle of a lockdown summer couldn’t be better timing.
Groundhog Day mixed with a Creamsicle indie vehicle is the best way to describe Palm Springs. Premiering at Sundance, Hulu acquired the film for a record-breaking sale of an estimated $22 million.
Premiering at drive-ins in addition to its streaming release, Palm Springs is a perfect summer comedy for the socially distant.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get trapped reliving the same day over and over when attending a wedding at a small motel in the desert. Hijinks, occasional boredom and moral ambiguity ensue not unlike our own quarantine. Its comedic highs match and natural romance are not unlike another film available on Hulu, Plus One.
Oh, and a crazed J.K. Simmons seeks revenge.
Love & Mercy (2014)
Rock biopics have become a new kind of Oscar fodder and merchandise-based ploy in the last couple years. It’s hard to pull it off: the feat of giving an artist’s boy of work and their personal facets due justice. Love & Mercy does both.
The Bill Pohland-directed film is enveloped by The Beach Boys sound, but centers on the troubled life of singer/songwriter Brian Wilson. Portrayed in different parts of his life by A-list actors – Paul Dano and John Cusack – the biopic equally concentrates on his musical genius and sickness perpetrated by childhood abuse.
The two performances act as contrasts but always evoke Brian’s nature. There is trauma in Brian’s life and that is raw and provoking, but there is also great joy thanks to the music. Pohland captures the spirit of the music and the ’60s thanks to documentary techniques borrowed from Sympathy for the Devil when recording things like the Pet Sounds sessions and capturing band member tensions.
Colossal is like a coin: one side monster movie, the other an alcoholic, feminist, ideological narrative. There’s a lot to unpack here, but thanks to the brilliance of Anne Hathaway and an original, albeit disjointed, story. It works.
Hathaway plays Gloria, an unemployed, often drunk writer living off her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) in New York. He kicks her out, and she starts anew in her hometown where she runs into an old friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).
Tempted by alcohol working at his bar, Gloria runs it another problem: she’s somehow linked to a monster popping up in Seoul, South Korea. It mimics her quirks and movements, presenting a power struggle and deeper identity crisis.
This movie isn’t for everyone, but if embrace it, you totally get it. You can find power in Gloria’s missteps and her BIG steps.
I’m ashamed to admit that I only saw Parasite for the first time a mere days ago. I’ve been holding off on watching it because I wanted to be in the right head space to give my full attention to the Oscar-winning masterwork.
I’d previously seen Okja (2017) and Snowpiercer (2014) from director/writer Bong Joon-ho and was overwhelmed by both in an all-consuming way. The latter made me sweat from its fast pacing and barreling energy, while the former made me re-examine my own acts of consumerism.
Those two reflections are integral to Bong’s style. He makes you think and feel in the mind, heart, and body. Parasite capitalizes on all of these, taking the known dynamic of rich and poor, and turning it into a layered tale of family, morals, economy, and education through a cross-generational perspective with fitting satire, beauty, and horror.
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Like Colossal, Sorry to Bother You has elements of fantasy that advance and reflect the inner struggles of its characters.
Written and directed by Boots Riley, the dark, obscure comedy takes place in an alternate Oakland, CA where Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), takes a job as a telemarketer at RegalView. Green discovers his ticket to success when he unlocks his “white voice” (David Cross). Other black characters, like Tessa Thompson’s Detroit, use this voice to appease the white people in their presence.
Green will do whatever it takes to become a “pro caller” and ride that gold gilded elevator so that maybe he’ll feel better about his self-worth. Inherently, Sorry to Bother You is rooted in what it means to be successful in America, and what we will risk to get there.
There’s also a lot of crazy shit that goes down: people/animal manipulation, a coked out Armie Hammer…but I’ll spare you the details.
I had to throw in a bigger blockbuster in here. I miss going to the movie theater in general, but I miss seeing these kind of movies the most: pure popcorn entertainment. Bumblebee has all of that, but it also has a lot of heart.
Director Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) brings his love for animation and coherent, enjoyable storytelling to clean up Michael Bay’s mess. Flashback to the ’80s, the genesis of Transformers, where we meet Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) a misunderstood teenager still wrestling with the death of her father.
A gear head, Charlie’s love for cars is a fitting jumping off point for her relationship with Bumblebee. They develop a bond akin to The Iron Giant, and get into crazy antics straight out of a John Hughes romp.
If more Transformers movies are like this one, and trade unnecessary explosions for meaningful, fun fan references, we’ll be in good hands.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
It’s a shame my high school, or even college, literature classes didn’t have the range or sense to mention the work of James Baldwin.
Watching If Beale Street Could Talk is like seeing literature come to life. Kiki Layne’s narrations draw you into this beautiful love story, plagued by a racial injustice that insists on ripping them apart.
Layne plays Tish Rivers whose been in love with Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James) ever since childhood. They come together as adults, and are just beginning to know themselves as individuals and as a couple in the early ’70s when Fonny is falsely accused of rape.
Regina King (Best Supporting Actress) extends the portrayal of love as mother to Tish. Sharon Rivers would go to the ends of the earth for her children. But even she can’t protect them from everything.
It’s refreshing (and near fantasy) to see a president do the right thing over political gain, even in fictional circumstances.
Dave is a welcome wave of joy thanks to a warm performance from Kevin Kline, an affable guy about town. Hired to be the president’s body double for a simple walk and wave, Dave ends up pretending to be the leader of the free world after a stroke puts the real guy in a coma.
Under direct orders from a manipulative Chief of Staff (Frank Langella), Dave takes up residency in the White House to save face until the president miraculously recovers. He can’t sit idly by when he sees the injustices of the government and how he now has the power to fix them, though. Dave’s generous actions attract the attention of the First Lady (Sigourney Weaver) whose cold relationship with the president has forced them to separate wings.
Dave the political weight of The American President while conjuring its own ’90s fairy tale just the same.
Best in Show (2000)
If you’ve already binged through Schitt’s Creek twice this quarantine, more Moira and Johnny are available thanks to Hulu.
Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy star in four Christopher Guests films on the streaming service right now, including A Mighty Wind and Best in Show. Guest, known for his mockumentary style, goes inside the world of dog show participants for the latter.
It’s got an all star cast – Jennfier Coolidge, Jane Lynch, Levy, O’Hara, John Michael Higgins, Michael McKean, Parker Posey – and plenty of behind the scenes gags to boot.
Posey and her husband are neurotic, braces-wearing owners of a Weimaraner, Higgins (fabulously dressed) and McKean play gay, old Hollywood loving parents to a long-haired Shih Tzu, O’Hara and Levy encounter ex lovers on their journey from Florida with their Norwich Terrier…
Moonstruck is a movie that exudes comfort, whether you’re watching it during a full moon in the middle of winter, or on a sweltering midsummer’s day.
In an Academy Award-winning performance, Cher strips away her known glamour and puts it back on again playing Loretta Castorini, a widow in her 30s settling for an engagement to Johhny Cammareri.
Loretta is fine with marrying a man with little contempt for her to escape dreaded loneliness until she meets his brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage). Ronny, a wolf-looking man without a hand, has a temper and can be difficult, but they have a spark that even she can’t deny.
Moonstruck is a rom-com on the onset, but speaks to early stages and hardships of love that transcend the often flimsy and disregarded genre.
Other movies to watch cause you can’t shut me up
Portrait of a Lady on FIRE: I didn’t mention it above cause I don’t have the words to do it justice.
Morning Glory: Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton play morning news anchors. Its a delight.
The Gospel According to Andre: A glimpse into a black pioneer and revolutionary in fashion.
Free Solo: The guy climbs big rocks. Intriguing and breathtaking: the movie, but also the guy.
Juliet, Naked: Rose Byrne scorns her douchey ex by bagging his music idol (Ethan Hawke).
The Mask: Where’s Jim Carrey when you need him to derail the cops with some latin rhythm?
Vice: Still salty about Bale not getting the Oscar. He didn’t get to thank Burrito and Banana.
The Road to El Dorado: My childhood. Hemsworth and Hiddleston for the live action please.