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Symkus column: Some suggestions for a super film festival without leaving home

Ed Symkus
More Content Now
The Daily Herald

There’s nothing like settling down to and getting lost in a movie to take our minds off troubled times. And with cinemas everywhere closing for now, and much of the citizenry hunkering in their homes, the assignment that came my way was to suggest ways to see movies, then recommend which ones to watch.

OK, I accept the challenge.

There are myriad movie streaming services with reasonably priced monthly fees that bring films to your living room or computer. Among them, Netflix ($9), Hulu ($6), Disney Plus ($7), HBO Go and HBO Now ($14.99), Amazon Prime ($119 a year). There are also free movie streaming services at many public libraries, including Kanopy and Hoopla.

That’s the easy part for me. Coming up with titles that I think you should invest your time and money in ... hey, that’s a big responsibility! But, in setting up a couple of rules for myself, I’m confident that most of you will enjoy these suggestions.

Each of them earned a spot on one of my annual top-10 lists, and I’ve seen all of them at least twice. I’ve chosen specific categories, picked three titles within each and, because no one knows when movie theaters will be back in business, am considering this part one of a series.

ACTION

“Big Trouble in Little China” - Egotistical truck driver Kurt Russell takes on an ancient Asian mystic who’s searching for immortality, and a girl with green eyes.

“John Wick: Chapter 2” - Super assassin Keanu Reeves is hunted down by every hitman (and woman) in New York City due to a favor he owes to a shady character. Lots of guns and knives and stunts.

“Raiders of the Lost Ark” - Steven Spielberg pits whip-wielding archeologist Harrison Ford against vicious relic-hunting Nazis.

COMEDY

“Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” - Silly, chauvinistic spy Mike Myers is frozen in the swingin’ ’60s, thawed decades later, and must deal with the evil Dr. Evil (also Myers).

“Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” - Sacha Baron Cohen stars as a foreigner out of his element in a road trip across America. Extremely offensive and outright hilarious.

“Flirting with Disaster” - Adopted Ben Stiller attempts to find his birth parents, but keeps getting wrong information and is continually “reacquainted” with the wrong people.

DOCUMENTARY

“Crumb” - It’s an intimate and oddball look at the strange life of underground comics cartoonist Robert Crumb (“Fritz the Cat,” “Mr. Natural”) and the even weirder members of his family.

“Fast, Cheap & Out of Control” - Errol Morris explores the unrelated inner workings of a lion tamer, a topiary gardener, a robotics scientist and an expert on naked mole rats.

“Koyaanisqatsi” - There are no words (except the chanted title) in this alternately pensive and kinetic meditation on the rise and fall, and subsequent rise and fall of civilization.

DRAMA

“Boyhood” - A young lad (Ellar Coltrane) grows up before our eyes as director Richard Linklater spends some scripted time with him and his mom (Patricia Arquette) once a year for 12 years.

“The Long Goodbye” - Smart-aleck private eye Phillip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) wends his way through ’70s Los Angeles, with drunks, rich folks and gangsters making it hard for him to solve a murder.

“Out of Sight” - Career criminal George Clooney is planning his next heist the moment he gets out of jail, but he gets mixed up with some very bad company, and a romance with Jennifer Lopez.

FOREIGN

“And Now My Love” - Claude Lelouch’s sprawling French film tells a multi-generational love story, traces the development of the movie industry, and offers up bits of international history.

“Border” - In Sweden, an odd-looking female airport worker who can sniff out contraband meets an equally odd-looking man who is acting guilty. But this isn’t about physical appearances; it’s about fantasy and Swedish folk tales.

“Incendies” - A dying mom leaves letters for her adult brother and sister children that will introduce them to the father they never knew, and reveal secrets about their family that they never dreamed of.

KIDS

”Babe” - A cute little pig (a real one, not CGI) has an ambition to herd sheep on an Australian farm, and is helped in achieving his dream by a friendly farmer. Lots of animals do a lot talking in this one, and none of it is cloying.

“The Incredibles” - It’s a true family movie, with mom, dad, brother and sister (and maybe infant) all having superpowers and fighting off evil nemeses. It’s also brilliantly animated by the Pixar folks.

“Time Bandits” - A young British lad whose parents mostly ignore him has a wild adventure with six greedy dwarfs who have stolen a “map of time” from The Supreme Being, and use it to go on a looting spree through history.

SCIENCE FICTION

“The Fifth Element” - Bruce Willis is a down-on-his-luck flying cab driver in the distant future who must save Earth from a malevolent force by protecting a benevolent alien known as “the perfect being” (Milla Jovovich), who is, in turn, the only one that can protect him.

“Robocop” - In crime-ridden Detroit, a cop (Peter Weller) is killed by a crazed street gang, is resurrected into a robot-like lawman, cleans up the city, and wreaks havoc on those who did him wrong.

“Strange Days” - A new type of extremely addictive “entertainment system” allows users to experience the emotional and physical feelings of others, but a supplier of the hardware and software becomes the target of some racist cops who were recorded committing a murder on it.

Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at esymkus@rcn.com.