The Dig (2021)
Carey Mulligan plays an upper-class widow in England, on the verge of World War II, wondering what history is buried beneath the downs out behind her manor. So she hires a self-taught archeologist played by Ralph Fiennes to dig it up. It’s a Netflix original that seems to have fallen through the programming cracks, but how can you resist that cast? It’s based on the true story of the Sutton Hoo excavations, and you’ll have to watch it to learn what they found — because I’m certainly not going to tell you.
Watch it on Netflix: The Dig
Dolemite Is My Name (2019)
One of those movies about the making of a movie that’s better than the movie that was made. Eddie Murphy plays Rudy Ray Moore, a two-bit comedian who reinvented himself as a badass pimp character and created the endearingly terrible 1975 blaxploitation/kung-fu classic Dolemite (on Amazon Prime). It’s the best role Murphy has had in years, and he conveys the joy with which Moore hustled his way to success and the anger and desperation behind it. A hilarious and pointed movie.
Watch it on Netflix: Dolemite Is My Name
Echo in the Canyon (2018)
The music that poured out of Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon in the mid-1960s set a sonic benchmark whose reverberations we’re still hearing 50-some odd years later. Sparked by Bob Dylan, the folk-rock revolution kicked off with the Byrds and Buffalo Springfield and remains present and accounted for in every singer-songwriter streaming their wares today. Andrew Slater’s documentary lays the groundwork of the movement’s birth; seek out 2019’s David Crosby: Remember My Name (on Amazon Prime) for the rest of the picture.
Watch it on Netflix: Echo in the Canyon
The Founder (2016)
Michael Keaton stars as McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc, and if you think this movie is a straight-up corporate hagiography, you probably think that title isn’t ironic either. In this telling, Kroc’s a restaurant supply salesman who sees the fast-food techniques pioneered by the McDonald brothers (John Carroll Lynch and Nick Offerman) and steamrollers them on the way to megafranchise glory. It’s a fine portrait of a great American shark, half dazzled and half damning.
Watch it on Netflix: The Founder
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Free Fire (2016)
An illegal arms sale is going down in 1970s Boston, and all the players — especially the IRA soldiers — are paranoid and trigger-happy. Another director might take it all seriously, but in Ben Wheatley’s capable hands, it’s like a bedroom farce with bullets flying instead of doors slamming. There’s no real point, other than watching some very good actors having a very good time playing some very stupid people who literally shoot themselves in the foot. With Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy and a very funny Armie Hammer.
Watch it on Netflix: Free Fire
Get On Up (2014)
When Chadwick Bozeman died a year ago, many mourned the fact that his career was finally taking off after an early run of biopics — but have you seen those biopics? They’re pretty good! And the best of the bunch may be this hotfooted dance through the life and times of R&B godhead James Brown, presented as an impressionistic series of events that are welded together by Brown’s rocket-fueled ambition and Black pride. Bozeman wholly disappears into the man; no wonder he didn’t get the credit he should have.
Watch it on Netflix: Get On Up
A Ghost Story (2017)
An art-house variant of the old Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze movie Ghost — meaning that it’s slower and more contemplative and there’s no Whoopi Goldberg. As a parable, though, writer-director David Lowery’s muted drama is a haunting experience, with Casey Affleck hanging around long after his character’s death — in a bedsheet, no less — and waiting for a closure he can’t begin to guess. Rooney Mara plays his widow and has a scene in which she eats a condolence pie that is both endless and sublime.
Watch it on Netflix: A Ghost Story