Instant Gratification: “The Big Short” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix and Hulu

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

Left to right: Steve Carell plays Mark Baum and Ryan Gosling plays Jared Vennett in The Big Short from Paramount Pictures and Regency Enterprises

Pick of the Week: “The Big Short (Netflix)My full review is here. Adam McKay has satirized ’70s newsmen (“Anchorman”) and buddy cop movies (“The Other Guys”), but his wit has never been sharper or put to better use than against the arrogant idiocy of bankers who precipitated the 2008 financial meltdown. Working from Michael Lewis’ book and using a ridiculously good cast, McKay keeps us laughing even as we’re learning what happened, and why we should be so pissed off about it.

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“Into the Forest”: A powerful film about the (literally) powerless

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“Into the Forest” opens Friday at AMC Desert Star in Baraboo. (It’s also available on several streaming outlets, including Vudu and iTunes). R, 1:41, three and a half stars out of four.

“Into the Forest” is a post-apocalyptic disaster movie without a single visual effect. No explosions, no zombies, no mobs rioting in the streets. There’s just quiet, and dark.

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“Here Comes Mr. Jordan” sums up the human condition in a bittersweet sax riff

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“Pleasant Valley, where all is peace, and love, and harmony, and where men are beating each other’s brains out.”

It’s rare that an opening title card sets the tone of a movie quite so effectively as the laugh-out-loud beginning to Alexander Hall’s 1941 gem “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” now out in a new Blu-ray edition from the Criterion Collection. It’s both a funny line and a signifier of one of the themes of the film, about how nothing quite lives up to our idealization of it. Not even Heaven.

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Instant Gratification: “Lost in America” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix

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Pick of the week: “Lost in America” (Netflix) — Albert Brooks fan rejoice, as Netflix is now streaming all the comedies he wrote and directed. Maybe give a miss to “The Muse,” but there are some comic masterpieces here, including “Defending Your Life,” “Modern Romance” and this 1985 gem  starring Brooks and Julie Hagerty as an upwardly mobile couple who decide to “drop out” of society, only to find life out of the rat race isn’t so comfortable. Even in a top-of-the-line RV.

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The “Mystery Science Theater 3000” cast is reunited. And it feels so good.

 

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(Photo courtesy of City Pages)

It was somewhere in the fourth hour of my five-hour drive up to Minneapolis that I wondered to myself whether my apparently lifelong devotion to “Mystery Science Theater 3000” was worth it.

I was driving from my home in Madison up to the State Theatre in Minneapolis for the live broadcast of the Rifftrax Live “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reunion” show on June 28. In the ‘90s, this would have been a no-brainer. It’s fair to say I was obsessed with the show – had just about every episode on videotape, MST3K Info Club card in my wallet. Many a Saturday night was built around takeout Chinese and a new episode of “MST3K.”

But that was then. Now I’ve got a career, a wife, kids. I watch and write about the DVDs from time to time, and have headed to the local movie theater for a Rifftrax simulcast event from time to time, which is a lot of fun. But it’s not essential to me in the way it was 20 years ago.

And yet still, I went to Minneapolis. And I’m so glad I did. The event will be rebroadcast in theaters on Tuesday, July 12, and if “Mystery Science Theater 3000” has meant anything at all to you over the years, I highly recommend you go.

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“Going Away”: Two wandering souls connect in the south of France

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One is vagabond by choice. The other is a vagabond by necessity. Their paths cross in veteran French director Nicole Garcia’s empathetic but at times unfocused “Going Away.”

The 2013 film, largely overlooked in the United States and only now available on DVD from Cohen Media, mixes Dardennes Brothers-style economic realism with big melodramatic revelations. The fit can be awkward at times, but also strikes emotional sparks against a lush south of France backdrop.

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