Pick of the week: “A Most Wanted Man“ — Philip Seymour Hoffman’s last lead role (he was in “Mockingjay Part 1” after this) was in this faithfully grim adaptation of John Le Carre’s thriller, playing a German counterintelligence officer hoping to snare a terrorist financier. Director Anton Corbijn (“The American”) tamps down his usually showy visual style to match the patient, slow-winding tension of the story, and Hoffman is perfect as a no-nonsense investigator who battles with his superiors and the local CIA officer (Robin Wright), who would prefer a quick, showy resolution.
“What Happened, Miss Simone?” — My full review is here. This strong Netflix-produced documentary looks at the epic and tragic life of the iconic jazz singer, often letting Simone herself tell her story through rarely-heard audio interviews. What emerges is a portrait of a tremendously gifted singer who was often isolated by her gift, and whose inner rage pulled into her into some deep waters of ’60s political radicalism.
“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” — My full review is here. Riz Ahmed (“Nightcrawler”) plays a Manhattan financier of Pakistani descent who finds himself increasingly distrusted by his peers after 9/11. Mira Nair’s film has a ticking-clock framing device that’s a little silly, but it’s a smart and complex thriller that keeps us guessing how far into radicalism Ahmed’s character will go — and whether it’s American foreign policy that pushed him there.
“Eastern Boys” — My full review is here. A well-to-do gay French man picks up a teenage immigrant at the train station. The next day, the immigrant brings back his friends to rob him blind. And then things get interesting in this mix of thriller and sorrowful drama about the gap between first- and third-world life that’s often right under our noses.
“Curious George” — This 2004 film actually does a pretty nice job capturing the charm of the original books, and Will Ferrell makes a surprisingly good Man in the Yellow Hat.