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Joseph Gordon-Levitt is disillusioned idealist Edward J. Snowden in Snowden, Oliver Stone’s drama about the controversial NSA whistleblower. Framed by the famous meeting in a Hong Kong hotel room where Snowden (played with modest integrity by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) shared top-secret files revealing illegal surveillance programs with journalist Glenn Greenwald (Zachary Quinto) and documentarian Laura Poitras (Melissa Leo), it tells the story of a patriot from a conservative background who decides to serve his country working for American intelligence after an injury in basic training ends his career as an enlisted soldier, and then becomes disillusioned by the abuse of power under cover of the Patriot Act.
Stone champions mavericks who challenge the status quo in the name of justice and the ideals of the American experiment and Snowden is kind of American hero, the moral voice in an amoral world who challenges the prevailing philosophy that the ends justify the means. Stone doesn’t set up a straw man villain here—Snowden’s CIA mentor and protector (Rhys Ifans) believes deeply that he’s doing the right thing to protect American lives in post 9/11 era—he simply argues that questioning the government and holding it accountable for its actions is just and necessary to maintain the democratic ideals of the country. In many ways this is Stone’s most straightforward film in decades. There’s no showboating cinematic fireworks or flamboyant cameos here (even Nicolas Cage is subdued in a small role), just the commitment to presenting Snowden as a true patriot for standing up for the rights of American citizens.
Rated R. On Cable and Streaming VOD on Amazon Video and other SVOD services.
Also on DVD and Blu-ray with a featurette, deleted scenes, and a 41-minute Q&A with director Oliver Stone, actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Edward Snowden (via video connection from Russia) moderated by Matt Seitz. The Blu-ray also includes bonus DVD and Ultraviolet Digital HD copies of the film.
Snowden [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD]
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Captain America: Civil War is an Avengers movie everything but name, with the star spangled boy scout (Chris Evans) battling Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of the Marvel Comics Universe picking sides. It also introduces Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and reintroduces Spider-Man (Tom Holland). PG-13. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
Also new: Disorder (2015), a thriller about a psychologically scarred bodyguard (Matthias Schoenaerts) whose obsessive protection of his charge (Diane Kruger) becomes dangerously delusional (not rated), and the Oscar-nominated German drama Downfall (2004) about the last days of the Third Reich starring Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler (R, with subtitles) (reviewed on Stream On Demand here).
Streaming TV: Think of The Magicians: Season 1, a SyFy Channel series based on the Lev Grossman novels, as “Harry Potter” for the American college experience. 13 episodes. Reviewed on Stream On Demand here.
More streaming TV: Chasing Cameron: Season 1, a Netflix original reality series following social media celebrity Cameron Dallas, plus the CNN documentary series The Eighties, animated Ajin: Season 2, and Comedy Bang! Bang!: Season 5 (2016) from Comedy Central.
True stories: Werner Herzog explores the Internet in Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World (2016, PG-13), Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me profiles the stage legend (not rated), and The Hollywood Shorties (2016) profiles the world’s smallest professional basketball team (not rated).
Delirious (2006) – Steve Buscemi is perfectly cast as an acerbic freelance paparazzo (“I’m not a paparazzi, I’m a licensed professional!”) who makes his living as a termite in the celebrity industry. He burrows through walls of privacy for unflattering snaps of stars and scams free buffets and event gift bags with a whiny sense of entitlement. When his unpaid assistant, a sweet and unassuming homeless kid (Michael Pitt), gets swept into the inner circle of a fragile pop starlet (Alison Lohman), he becomes obsessed with envy and resentment. The showbiz satire of Tom Dicillo’s comedy is a familiar collection of absurd parodies of pop culture entertainment and celebrity entitlement, but the prickly story of friendship and jealousy is nicely brought to life by Buscemi and Pitt. Not rated.
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Amazon Prime / Hulu
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Hail, Caesar! (2016), the Coen Bros.’s sly lampoon of 1950s Hollywood, is affectionate and satirical and features marvelous recreations of bygone moviemaking magic. Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, and Tilda Swinton have a blast with their larger-than-life characters (PG-13). Reviewed on Stream On Demand here. Also from the Coen Bros: the Oscar-nominated A Serious Man (2009, R).
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The complete 7-part miniseries Close to the Enemy, a compelling drama about the early stirrings of the Cold War in 1946 Britain, is now available to stream.
Where the Heart Is: Season 7, a drama set in a fictional Yorkshire town, makes its American debut on AcornTV. 9 episodes.
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