As Wilson’s investigation grows more intensive, he uncovers more squirmy things and gets himself into deeper trouble. The mere image of the upright Englishman, gray and dapper, in the Los Angeles sunlight is already a fascinating juxtaposition (the ravishing cinematography is by Edward Lachman). But Soderbergh and Dobbs structure the film with constantly shifting, dislocated sound and image, so that the past, present, and future are always colliding in an uncomfortable way. Melissa George is seen as Wilson’s daughter. Like Soderbergh’s previous, equally excellent crime-drama Out of Sight, it did not do well at the box office.
Find it on Fandor
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
Summer is often a time to see stories of treasure hunters in the movies, and there was no treasure hunter more explosively insane than Klaus Kinski’s conquistador Lope de Aguirre in Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972). Without question one of the greatest, maddest, and most beautiful films ever made, it tells the story of a 16th century Spanish expedition to find the legendary lost city of gold, El Dorado. Their journey takes them up the Amazon river, with frequent difficulties and obstacles challenging them.
The film is equally famous for its behind-the-scenes trials. Herzog shot it on a stolen 35mm camera, in sequence, so that the cast could feel the same miseries as the characters. It opens with an impressive scene, through the fog, the explorers winding their way up a narrow trail on a steep mountainside. The closing shot is just as impressive, involving an army of monkeys that needed to be trapped, one by one, for the scene. During shooting, Kinski was given to violent tantrums that terrorized the cast and crew. This was the first time Kinski and Herzog worked together, and they formed a famous friendship/rivalry that lasted through four more films and was depicted in Herzog’s 1999 documentary My Best Fiend.
New to Vudu
The 17th film written and directed by brothers Ethan and Joel Coen, Hail, Caesar! (2016) is not as deep as some of their masterpieces (Fargo, No Country for Old Men), nor is it as funny as Raising Arizona or The Big Lebowski. But as an homage to old-time Hollywood and a whole bunch of different genres of classic movies, it’s a film full of love and joy. A huge ensemble cast is involved, but Josh Brolin leads things off as a 1950s Hollywood studio “fixer,” Eddie Mannix, whose job is to protect the stars from public scrutiny, and make sure things are running smoothly. Trouble begins when leading man Baird Whitlock (George Clooney), currently shooting a Roman Epic, is kidnapped.
A song-and-dance man (Channing Tatum) is somehow involved, and twin gossip columnists (both played by Tilda Swinton) come snooping around. Meanwhile, the star (Scarlett Johansson) of a musical swimming extravaganza is pregnant and can’t fit into her fins. She’s brought to another specialist (Jonah Hill), with an unusual solution. Finally, a cowboy actor (Alden Ehrenreich, the movie’s real find) is re-cast in an English drawing-room film, directed by an exasperated Brit (Ralph Fiennes). It’s all fairly frenetic, and though it could have used a bit more of Lebowski’s laid-back quality, it’s still pretty funny. There are lots of other great actors here, including the Oscar-winning star of Fargo, Frances McDormand, as a clumsy film editor.
See it on SnagFilms
Muhammad Ali: The Greatest
The year 2016 has already been notorious for taking many of our greatest legends from us, including David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Merle Haggard, and, not least of all, Muhammad Ali. Named the greatest athlete of the 20th century, Ali had a story as big as the heavyweight championship, fighting for his rights, fighting for equality, and quite often being the underdog, despite being “the greatest in the world.” He was a larger-than-life character, famous for his taunts, and his colorful way with words. Yet he endeared himself to generations of fans; he was a hero even to those who never saw him box.
There are a ton of Ali documentaries and films out there... so many that it’s easy to get them all mixed up. But Muhammad Ali: The Greatest (2001), written, produced, and narrated by Carlos Larkin, is available free on SnagFilms.com (as well as to paid subscribers of Hulu and Amazon Prime). It’s not a great film, and it appears to have been a straight-to-video (or a made-for-TV) item, only 52 minutes long. It has constant narration, but with a selection of great old photos, some vintage interviews, and even a little fight footage. Until a definitive Ali doc comes along, this is a decent way to celebrate an amazing fighter, and an amazing life.