Recliner Reviews for Aug. 28, 2014

08/27/2014 4:24 PM

08/27/2014 4:25 PM

Sometimes it’s a dilemma: what DVD should you rent or what movie should you stream or order-on-demand? Do you want a date flick, an action caper, or a goofy comedy? Weekly Surge is here to help with our reviews of recent at-home movie releases, which we’ve watched from the comfort of that favorite recliner.

A few weeks ago we lost two icons of film – legends on opposite ends of the performer spectrum. Lauren Bacall helped create the mold of what would become the sultry femme fatale of American Film Noir. Robin Williams was a ball of comedic energy, also able to delve into deep pockets of his psyche and create nuanced dramatic performances. Here are a handful of movies that may not be talked about in other memorials. These films aren’t necessarily the most popular, but show diversity of craft and explain why these actors are masters of their medium.

A Movie Memoriam for Robin Williams

Yes, we all remember Williams’ breakout film, “Popeye,” where he played a cartoon and acted outrageous. But his first dramatic turn, “The World According to Garp,” is a genius performance that shot him from a cannon. His follow-up, “The Survivors,” showed his brand of comedy could be dark and human. Williams pulled off the dark because he was lovable, and this obviously shined through when Terry Gilliam cast him as an insane homeless man in the “The Fisher King,” a career-defining role that set a tone for ’90s dramas and earned him an Oscar nod. Williams’ performances rose to more challenges, reaching into the Polish ghettos of WWII with “Jakob the Liar” and the future of American suburbs with “Bicentennial Man,” both in 1999. He turned in two great thrillers in 2002, allowing Christopher Nolan to turn him into a villain in “Insomnia” and playing sympathetic and crazy in “One Hour Photo.” Later in his career, audiences saw Williams’ unselfishness as he joined am ensemble cast in the dark comedy, “The Big White,” and the family-oriented “Night at the Museum” films. No, it’s not a best-of list. But these films are all worthy of a much-needed Robin Williams marathon.

A Movie Memoriam for Lauren Bacall

Bacall was so nervous auditioning for her first film, “To Have and Have Not,” she had to push her chin down against her neck to stop from quivering. Head down, eyes cast up at the camera would become her signature look – a brilliant accident. This film is also where she met her husband, Humphrey Bogart. Bogey and Bacall established Hollywood’s dark age of film noir with “The Big Sleep,” “Dark Passage” and “Key Largo.” Despite third billing in “How to Marry a Millionaire,” she stole scenes with her wit. Bacall played a precursor of Nurse Ratched in “Shock Treatment” (1964). She teamed up with Paul Newman on “Harper” (1966) as a dazzling throwback to her noir days. She added nothing but class to an all-star cast in “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974). After her pedestrian pairing with John Wayne on 1955’s “Blood Alley,” she poured herself into their reunion, “The Shootist” (1976) – Wayne’s last film. She earned her first Oscar nomination in the ‘90s for “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” She was active until the end, doing voice-over work in the beloved anime-crossover “Howl's Moving Castle” (2004) and the animated comedy-drama “Ernest & Celestine” (2014). Bacall is part of Hollywood’s Golden Age. But she was more than a signature look. She remained current and classy, and became immortal in the process.

Derrick Bracey, for Weekly Surge

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