Instant Gratification: “The Homesman” and four other good movies to watch on Netflix and Shout Factory TV


Pick of the week: “The Homesman” (Netflix) — My full review is here. Tommy Lee Jones’ most recent film as director as well as an actor is an “anti-Western” in every sense, following a drunken thief (Jones) and a good woman (Hilary Swank) escorting three emotionally damaged women back East. But it also flips the genre on its head, showing the toll that taming a frontier took on the innocent and defenseless who were dragged along.

Hoop Dreams” (Shout Factory TV) — The free streaming site added a bunch of arthouse films in May, including six John Cassavetes classics and Steve James’ wonderful 1994 documentary about two African-American boys hoping their basketball skills will lift them out of the inner city.

Winter Sleep” — My full review is here. Three characters seem like they’re on the world’s slowest collision course in Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s closely-observed 196-minute drama about an imperious hotel owner whose illusions about his marriage and position in the town are slowly stripped away.

The Sixth Sense” — Gotta say, M. Night Shyamalan’s new film “The Visit” does not look like a return to form. Better to go back to his modern horror classic about a psychiatrist (Bruce Willis) and the troubled boy (Haley Joel Osment) who can see dead people. Now that we know the twist, it’s fun to watch how artfully Shyamalan executes his sleight-of-hand.

Futuro Beach” — In this Brazilian drama, a tragic swimming accident brings together a young lifeguard and a German veteran of Afghanistan. The encounter spins their lives off into directions they never imagined, and the film follows them over the next decade as they make choices that can’t be undone.


“The Homesman” takes the Western in the opposite direction


I hadn’t planned on writing about “The Homesman,” but it wouldn’t let me go. When I first saw the Western — directed, co-written by, and co-starring Tommy Lee Jones — last week at Sundance Cinemas, I walked out of the theater not sure how I felt about it. The jumble of tones, the ambiguity of the performances, the jarring plot turns, and above all the stubborn refusal to play by the rules of the Western — I just wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’m glad I didn’t have to turn around a review for the next morning.

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The five movies you need to see in Madison: Dec. 5-11, 2014


1. “The Homesman” (all week, Sundance) — I really liked Tommy Lee Jones’ last film as a director, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” and this Western also looks strong. Jones plays a drifter helping several women driven mad by pioneer life head back east, but the path is difficult and dangerous.

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