“Pawn Sacrifice” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Tobey Maguire gives a bravura and boldly unlikable performance as Bobby Fischer, the unstable chess wizard who played a series of high-profile matches against Boris Spassky (Liev Schreiber) in 1971. The film has the contours of a sports movie but the depth of a character study, mixing archival footage and reenactments to tell a fascinating story.
“Dirty Wars” (Netflix) — My full review is here, and my full interview with Jeremy Scahill is here. This documentary follows journalist Jeremy Scahill (a onetime UW-Madison student and Milwaukee native) as he criss-crosses the globe investigating the U.S. military’s campaign of drone strikes against civilians in other countries, often justifying them retroactively. The movie is engrossing and intense, but ends on a note of futility, as Scahill wonders what all the muckraking can do against a government involved in an undeclared, unending war.
“Steve Jobs: Man in the Machine” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney takes a tougher, more comprehensive look than the Danny Boyle/Aaron Sorkin film, but the film ultimately turns the iPhone 6S’s black mirror back on us, and asks why we lionize somebody as a genius for bringing us ever cooler, ever more omnipresent pieces of tech.
“Sliding Doors” (Amazon Prime and Hulu) — Gwyneth Paltrow and Gwyneth Paltrow both try on their British accents in this 1990s romantic comedy, playing out two alternative futures for a London woman that hinge on whether she gets on a certain train or not.
“That’s Not Us” (Netflix) — Three couples — one straight, one gay, one lesbian — head to Fire Island for a weekend and find the tensions in their relationships start to surface in this empathetic comedy-drama.