If nothing else, this nasty debilitating donkey punch of a global pandemic has given all of us the opportunity to catch up on all those good movies and shows available through a dozen different streaming services. While the vast majority of people out there will devote that to train wrecks like Netlix’s “Tiger King,” I’ve create a list of recent movies available online for those seeking a more soul-stirring experience than a crazed redneck with a mullet mistreating majestic animals. I can’t promise you’ll be more entertained, but you will not hate yourself nearly as much.
Directed by Alex Lehmann
Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) are middle-aged neighbors and best friends living an unextraordinary life in an equally unextraordinary apartment complex. They make pizza, watch kung fu movies and play a made-up game called ‘paddleton’ (roll credits). Michael learns he has untreatable cancer and decides that he wants to die on his own terms. In order to do that, Andy decides to drive Michael cross-country on one last adventure so they can pick up a cocktail of drugs that will end his life.
This is a movie that works because of two very capable actors in Duplass and Romano, who deliver excellent performances and make their friendship feel genuine. These two guys only have each other. Michael has to deal with his own mortality while Andy struggles with a life without his only human connection. “Paddleton” is a nice blend of light comedy, heartwarming friendship and a third act so heartbreaking that you will cry yourself into a stupor. There’s something about a movie forcing you to deal with your own mortality that feels weirdly topical.
Hulu: “The Day Shall Come”
Directed by Christopher Morris
Chris Morris is probably a director most people aren’t familiar with. He’s a brilliant comic mind from the UK who made one of the 21st century’s most surreal and most entertaining pitch-black comedies about aspiring terrorists, “Four Lions.” His latest film covers similar themes as he examines a young, poverty-stricken militant named Moses. Moses runs a small commune of like-minded souls who are dealing with an ideological struggle: continue a path of non-violence, or become radicalized and start breaking shit?
Moses becomes the target of the FBI, which is trying to coerce potential terrorists into committing illegal acts and then shipping them off to prison for the remainder of their lives. The legality of this is questionable, and Morris mines it for comedic effect. “The Day Shall Come” is a very dark, alarming piece of cinema—unapologetic in its assertions and somewhat heartbreaking in its conclusion. Like Morris’ previous films and television shows, there’s a clarity of vision and fearlessness which is unrivaled.
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Pixar and I haven’t been on the best of terms, which is to say that I’ve been bored senseless by them for the better part of a decade. What started out as the greatest thing to happen to animation since the words “Hayao Miyazaki” has become a cookie-cutter cartoon factory that makes the same basic movie every year. The animation is always top-notch and there’s always great talent involved, but the story beats are basically the same and each experience feels painfully simple.
“Onward,” Pixar’s latest outing, made a quick trip from the theater to the new Disney+ streaming service this past week. Ian (Tom Holland) and Barley (Chris Pratt) are elf brothers in a world where magic has been replaced by technology. The landscape is filled with mythical creatures doing the most pedantic things. After they discover a magic spell left behind by their dear, departed dad, they take off on a road trip to complete the spell.
This might be one of Pixar’s most manipulative recent outings. It pushes more buttons than the elevator operator at the Burj Khalifa. The movie isn’t bad, but it doesn’t rival the jewels in the Pixar crown. I suppose it’s unfair to expect a studio to improve with each subsequent effort, but “Onward” doesn’t do anything novel to this familiar formula. However, if you need to kill an hour and 42 minutes with your kids while trapped inside your house, you could do much, much worse.
Shia LaBeouf penned the semi-autobiographical script about his relationship with his estranged father for this fascinating piece drama from director Alma Har’el. LaBeouf also plays his own father, which might be the most psychologically interesting artistic endeavor of the past year. The film is a tightly packed piece of family drama with the typical trappings of movies that are about movies: obnoxious stage father; kids having to grow up too soon; the things people are willing to sacrifice for a steady paycheck. LaBeouf’s performance is excellent and worth checking out.