Pick of the week: “Beasts of No Nation” (Netflix) — My full review is here. This brutal and beautiful film follows a West African boy who gets conscripted as a rebel child soldier under the tutelage of a charismatic Commandant (Idris Elba). Sections of the film are hard to watch, as the boy witnesses (and takes part in) unspeakable acts of cruelty, but we somehow hang onto a thread of empathy for him, especially as the war ends and he struggles with his guilt and grief.
“Margot at the Wedding” (Paramount Vault) — Rather quietly, Paramount Pictures put about 100 films spanning the studio’s entire existence up for free on a new YouTube channel called “The Paramount Vault.” It’s a hodgepodge of below-the-radar films, including the Elvis movie “King Creole,” the Wachowski’s debut “Bound,” and Noah Baumbach’s brittle 2007 comedy about the tensions between two sisters, played by Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh, which boil over when one of them prepares to be married.
“Art & Copy” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Madison native Doug Pray made this entertaining documentary about some of the great advertising campaigns of all time and the colorful characters who dreamed them up.
“Laura” (Netflix) — One of my favorite memories of Roger Ebert was watching him and UW film professor emeritus David Bordwell present (and defend) Otto Preminger’s 1944 movie as a great film before a Wisconsin Film Festival audience. It’s a strange and sly spin on traditional ’40s noir.
“The Relic” (Netflix) — I think Peter Hyams’ 1997 monster movie is a lot of fun, as a mysterious crocodoile-like creature wreaks havoc on the Chicago Museum of Natural History and its denizens, including a funny turn by Tom Sizemore as a seen-it-all Chicago cop.