Training Day (2001) earned Denzel Washington an Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as a corrupt narcotics cop. In part it’s because he’s playing against type: Denzel earned his reputation as Hollywood’s bedrock of decency and morality: his screen heroes fight fear, prejudice, and self-doubt for their goodness. Detective Alonzo Harris proved that the cops can be scarier than the crooks. “To protect the sheep you gotta catch the wolf, and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf.”
Ethan Hawke earned a nomination for Best Supporting actor as his rookie partner and Scott Glenn, Tom Berenger, Eva Mendes, and Harris Yulin co-star, and Antoine Fuqua directs from a screenplay by David Ayer. Rated R.
It’s now on Netflix. Queue it up!
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Sicario, a chaotic but compelling thriller set in the violence of the drug war on the Mexican border, tosses Emily Blunt into the middle of a mission where the details are withheld from her. Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin co-star in the R-rated action drama. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
It’s a busy week for Cable and Video on Demand. There is the drama Infinitely Polar Bear with Mark Ruffalo and Zoe Saldana (R), the horror films The Visit from M. Night Shyamalan’s (PG-13) and The Green Inferno, Eli Roth’s tribute to Italian cannibal movies (R), the Civil War western The Keeping Room with Brit Marling and Hailee Steinfeld (R), and the PG-rated musical fantasy Jem and the Holograms based on the eighties cartoon.
And more: the documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution (no rating) the comedy Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser (originally made for Crackle), the animated comedy Hell & Back (R), the dramas Captive with David Oyelowo and Kate Mara (PG-13) and Other People’s Children with Diane Marshall-Green and Chad Michael Murray (not rated), and the action film The Throwaways with James Caan and Kevin Dillon (not rated)
Available same day as select theaters nationwide is Diablo, a western starring Scott Eastwood and Walton Goggins. R.
Across the Universe (2007), directed by Broadway legend Julie Taymor and featuring the music of The Beatles, is an audio-visual whirl through the sixties. There’s the war, of course, and the war protesters, and a Janis Joplin-like singer, but mostly it converges on the communal idealism of artists and young romantics in a Greenwich Village apartment building. Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess star (as Lucy and Jude, of course). There’s also a Jo-Jo, a Prudence, and a Sadie. It’s an energetic swirl with some dazzling imagery and, of course, terrific music (though you may not always appreciate the reinterpretations), but no subtlety or nuance to the sprawling story that argues all you need is love to cure all wounds. PG-13.
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Before The Big Short, Margin Call (2011) waded into the mire of the financial collapse to explore the culture of greed that spawned the disaster. Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Demi Moore, Zachary Quinto, and Stanley Tucci star. R. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (2002) is a drama in an English country manor with a superb cast (including Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, and Maggie Smith), an Agatha Christie-like mystery, and an Oscar-winning screenplay by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. R.
Here are two essential American films from the seventies. Al Pacino is a New York cop who fights the systemic corruption in Serpico (1973), directed by Sidney Lumet (R) and Warren Beatty investigates an assassination conspiracy in The Parallax View (1974), directed by Alan Pakula (R).
Fortitude: Season One, a British-American co-production, is a murder mystery with horror movie edges set on a remote Norwegian island in the Arctic Circle. Christopher Eccleston, Richard Dormer, Michael Gambon, Sienna Guillory, and Stanley Tucci star.
Cell 211 (2009), superb Spanish thriller set in the chaos of a prison riot, is being developed for an American remake. Spanish with English subtitles, no rating but R-level violence. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
Maison Close: Complete Season 1 is a sexy French series about life in a high class brothel in la Belle Époque Paris. French with English subtitles, mature audiences.
All three seasons of Happy Endings, the low-rated but beloved sitcom with Adam Pally, Elisha Cuthbert, Damon Wayans Jr., and Casey Wilson, are now on available.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015) brings back Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and the rest of the British retirees in India, and adds Richard Gere and Tamsin Greig to the curry. PG.
Also newly arrived: the 2015 version of Far from the Madding Crowd, directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan (PG-13) and John Michael McDonagh’s blackly comic drama Calvary with Brendan Gleeson (R).
Available on Saturday, January 9 is Mad Max: Fury Road.
Also from 2014: The Imitation Game with Benedict Cumberbatch as code-breaking genius Alan Turing (PG-13), the foodie drama The Hundred-Foot Journey with Helen Mirren (PG), the offbeat comedy St. Vincent (2014) with Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy (PG-13), and the musical drama Begin Again with Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo (R).