Pick of the Week: “The Trials of Muhammad Ali” (Netflix): My full review is here. Netflix dropped this excellent documentary by UW-Madison graduate Bill Siegel about a month ago, but wisely picked it back up after the death of Ali. It’s a terrific look inside Ali’s struggles in the 1960s against the Vietnam War and for civil rights, a fight that got him banned from boxing and made him a pariah for many white Americans. While he is being rightfully lionized, this film is an important reminder of how much of the country turned its back on him and what he stood for.
“Love & Mercy“ (Amazon Prime): My full review is here. This unusual and engaging biopic of Brian Wilson presents the Beach Boys visionary at two ages — as the troubled young genius behind masterpieces like “Pet Sounds” (Paul Dano), and as a reclusive middle-aged man (John Cusack) under the sway of a shady therapist (Paul Giamatti). As the film slides back and forth in time, thanks to the deeply felt performances and some wonderful design, the viewer really gets the sense of what it must be like to be in Wilson’s head.
“Chasing Amy“ (Netflix): Kevin Smith may be making movies about footlong Nazis and guys turned into walruses now, but back in the 1990s he made this raunchy and perceptive comedy about indie comic book artists in love (Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams) who find their pasts hard to shake. I miss the guy who made this.
“Lamb” (Amazon Prime): My full review is here. Writer-director-star Ross Partridge made a beautiful and unsettling film about a lost middle-aged man who befriends a young girl (the wonderful Oona Laurence) and takes her on a road trip that, in the eyes of the law, is a kidnapping. Partridge is playing with fire in his subject matter, but he presents a memorable film about a friendship that, despite its inappropriateness, has value for both parties.
“Remember” (Amazon Prime): My full review is here. Christopher Plummer is terrific as a concentration camp survivor suffering from dementia who, at the urging of a fellow survivor (Martin Landau), crisscrosses the country hunting the Nazi guard who killed their families. Canadian director Atom Egoyan walks the line between thriller and something deeper and darker.