“I Am Ali”
This documentary came out in 2014, but with Muhammad Ali’s recent death, it’s only right we include this intimate look at the man behind the public persona. Documentarian Clare Lewins (“Kareem: Minority of One”) links Ali’s life together using his personal audio recordings and interviews with his family and those closest to him. Missing from the film are long commentaries about his life in the ring. Instead, we see how Ali used the platform of boxing to make an impact on his world. And for a while, it was his world, but carrying this weight has its costs. The film shows us the price he paid for standing up for his beliefs and his vanity in ripping apart his opponents and refusing to accept retirement. But more than universal principles to be attributed to an icon, it shows us through testimonials and archival footage what a good friend and son and brother and father he was. How can the greatest be anything but worth a watch?
“10 Cloverfield Lane”
Executive producer J.J. Abrams shrouded this film in mystery before its release, taking it under the umbrella of his Bad Robot production company. He claimed it took place in the same universe as the shaky-cam monster mash “Cloverfield” from 2008. From a technical standpoint, the two films are night and day. The approach here is straightforward. A claustrophobic thriller set in a basement. The tight plot twists and tangles around the small cast of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. The young and wide-eyed Winstead and Gallagher balance out the intensity of Goodman. First-time director Dan Trachtenberg manages to make a name for himself while knotting his way into the world of Bad Robot. Like with most Abrams’ projects, Trachtenberg leaves audiences wanting more. You’ll want to know what else they have waiting down the street – worth a watch.
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Since leaving “Saturday Night Live,” Jason Sudeikis hasn’t relegated his career choices to goofy comedies (“Angry Birds” aside). His costar is the girl-next-door, British actress Rebecca Hall. It’s a pretty odd pair, but it works in this comedy/drama/romance mashup. Hall plays the widow of a folk singer who died young, and Sudeikis plays a New York writer and music professor infatuated with the late singer. Blythe Danner and Griffin Dunne show why they’ve been doing this since the seventies. The one misstep here is Joe Manganiello dropping in to fill up a beefcake role. In Writer/director Sean Mewshaw’s debut, he tackles transgression head on, making his characters come to grips with death. Sudeikis and Hall fall for each other in a quaint setting as the songs of Damien Jurado lilt around them – charming and worth a watch.