6/2 Capsules

In the Electric Mist (2008, Bertrand Tavernier)
★½
Second attempt (Alec Baldwin tried in 1995’s HEAVEN’S PRISONERS) to turn James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux novels into a film franchise. Tommy Lee Jones is good in the lead and the supporting cast is all fine (Peter Sarsgaard is fantastic) but the script’s a mess. The “mystery” involves Jones, Hollywood actors (Sarsgaard and Kelly Macdonald), and a Civil War general’s ghost. Tavernier tries hard with the direction–to never let the film feel like a TV movie, which it otherwise might–and does pretty well. Probably incoherent if you haven’t read the novel.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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In the Heat of the Night (1967, Norman Jewison)
★★★★
Sidney Poitier is the big (Northern) city Black detective, Rod Steiger is the Mississippi redneck sheriff, can they work together to solve a murder? One hopes so. Excellent direction from Jewison, excellent performances from Poitier and Steiger (Steiger even gets too much to do considering it’s Poitier’s movie), meandering Stirling Silliphant script (from the John Ball novel). Great supporting cast. It’s just a thriller masquerading as a social picture.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Deadline – U.S.A. (1952, Richard Brooks) Crusading newspaperman Humphrey Bogart has to contend with his paper going out of business, the mob, and his ex-wife getting remarried. Writer-director Brooks’s ambitious are beyond what he can realize. Great performances from Bogart, Ethel Barrymore (as the paper’s owner), and Kim Hunter (as his ex). Almost entirely superb supporting cast. Great black and white photography from Milton R. Krasner; it’s about half a great movie.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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To Die For (1995, Gus Van Sant)
★★★★
Pitch black comedy about TV media personality-obsessed, burgeoning sociopath Nicole Kidman’s rise to fame and the damage she wreaks along the way. Director Van Sant and screenwriter Buck Henry (adapted the Joyce Maynard novel) embrace the story’s lack of potential for not-uneasy laughs and go for every awkward, creepy laugh they can get. Great performances, particularly from Kidman and Joaquin Phoenix. It’s an outstanding film. DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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My Scientology Movie (2015, John Dower)
★★★★
When documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux can’t get the Church of Scientology to participate in a film about the Church of Scientology, he enlists various ex-communicated Church members to help him cast actors as Church officials in an attempt to glean some insight into the mysterious organization. Sometimes funny, sometimes terrifying, always thoughtfully executed and constructed. Theroux’s exceptionally impartial, all things considered. DVD, Streaming.
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