‘Film Stars’ makes an impression
Based on a true story, “Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool” is a fascinating slice of Hollywood history.
Annette Bening stars as aging actress Gloria Grahame who, for years, enjoyed an on-again, off-again relationship with a nearly three decades-younger British actor named Peter Turner (Jamie Bell).
Initially the action revolves around Peter’s decision to help care for the gravely ill Gloria but flashbacks are woven into the fabric of the movie so fluidly that the romance quickly takes center stage. Essentially a two-hander, “Film Stars” is a triumph for Bening and Bell, who pass the chemistry test with flying colors. On Amazon, Google, iTunes, Movies Anywhere and Vudu.
Also New to VOD and Streaming
The Commuter: The fourth collaboration between Liam Neeson and Spanish helmer Jaume Collet-Serra is nearly as exciting as “Non-Stop,” their 2014 outing. This time around, Neeson is an insurance salesman who’s approached by a mysterious stranger (Vera Farmiga) on a commuter train and commanded to identify a passenger named Prynne, or Neeson’s family will be killed. At 65, Neeson might be a little too long in the tooth to be battling bad guys but he exudes such an everyman vibe that he instantly gives credibility to this old-school actioner. On Amazon, Google, iTunes, Movies Anywhere and Vudu.
Bombshell: If Hedy Lamarr is remembered these days, it’s for being the glamorous star of such films as “Algiers” and “Samson and Delilah.” But, as this astonishing documentary chronicles, she was also a natural born inventor who created the technology that makes WiFi and GPS devices possible. “Bombshell” weaves together interviews with Lamarr’s children as well as a fascinating, never-before-heard audio interview with Lamarr herself to tell the story of the Austrian actress’s career and tempestuous personal life. Don’t miss this one. On Amazon, Google, iTunes, Movies Anywhere and Vudu.
The Final Year: Shot in 2016 and 2017, this absorbing documentary spotlights President Barack Obama and his foreign affairs team as they attempt to lock in policies all over the world which they believe will define their legacy. Director Greg Barker captures surprising details of life inside the White House from dead cockroaches in advisor Ben Rhodes’ office to U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power’s insights into Obama’s struggles with war and peace. The final act, which involves Trump’s surprise victory, finds Obama refusing to give up hope that future generations will continue to fight the good fight.
Mercury 13: Here’s the remarkable story of the women who were tested for spaceflight in 1961 but eventually dubbed the wrong gender to make the trip beyond Earth. NASA’s “man in space” program, dubbed “Project Mercury” began in 1958. The men chosen – all military test pilots – became known as The Mercury 7. But away from the spotlight, female pilots were also screened. Thirteen of them passed and, in some cases, performed better than the men. This is their story. On Netflix.
The Week Of: Former “SNL” stars Adam Sandler and Chris Rock team up as two fathers with clashing views about their children’s upcoming wedding. Set over the course of the seven days preceding the big event, the laughfest also features “SNL” veteran Rachel Dratch and Steve Buscemi. On Netflix.
For the Kids
Paddington 2: A frontrunner for the year’s most delightful family film, the sequel to the 2015 hit concocts a totally fresh adventure for the little bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw) who’s living happily in London with the Brown family (Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville). Falsely accused of burglary, Paddington has to clear his name and unmask the real villain (Hugh Grant, having a good time). There’s a delicious prison sequence built around marmalade sandwiches and a genuinely exciting finale involving steam trains. Here’s hoping a third installment is in the works. On Amazon, Google, iTunes, Movies Anywhere and Vudu.
Hobbyhorse Revolution: Initially, this doc about teen girls in Finland who’ve invented a new sport that involves jumping around on hobbyhorses seems like it is going to be pretty silly. But, after awhile, the girls win you over as they recount how their strange obsession has helped them deal with bullying, alienation and depression. Credit filmmaker Selma Vilhunen not only with eliciting candid interviews from the hobbyhorse fanatics but with treating the sport with a welcome amount of respect. On Amazon, Google, iTunes, Movies Anywhere and Vudu. Suicide Squad - Hell To Pay: With the exception of “Wonder Woman,” DC seems to have better luck with its animated endeavors than its live-action outings. That trend continues with this enjoyably over-the-top cartoon adventure. At the behest of Warden Waller, the crafty criminals Deadshot, Killer Frost, Captain Boomerang and Harley Quinn hit the road to steal a powerful mystical object. Expect a collision of chaos, gunfire and bad attitudes. On Amazon, Google, iTunes, Movies Anywhere and Vudu.