Adam Sandler stars as a professional NBA scout in the Netflix drama called HUSTLE, and you don’t have to be a basketball fan to enjoy it. Sandler is best known for goofy comedy that rarely makes me laugh. But when he occasionally takes a dramatic role, he’s very convincing. In HUSTLE, he plays a weary, but smart and very likable basketball scout who’s been searching for talented players all over Europe for 30 years. But what he really wants is to be part of the coaching staff of the Philadelphia 76ers. What drives HUSTLE is the dogged determination of Sandler as Stanley in pursuit his goal. He’s fed up with being away from his wife (played by Queen Latifah) and his daughter. But then by chance, he sees a street basketball game in Spain and notices a very tall man with obvious talent (played by an NBA player, Juancho Hernangomez). HUSTLE chronicles the ups and downs the two of them go through and also features some great basketball action, showing many professional players that I didn’t recognize because I don’t follow basketball. For fans of the game, HUSTLE is a must see. For everyone else, it’s solid, involving entertainment.
Sometimes films need to be nominated for an Academy Award before Hawaii theaters bring will them here. WOMEN TALKING and LIVING are two examples. Nominated for best picture, WOMEN TALKING is an intense drama about women in an isolated religious farm community who have been sexually abused by seven of the men who rule their colony. When the rapes are discovered and police arrest the abusers, the rest of the men go to town to bail them out. And 8 of the women meet in a hayloft to debate what action they should take: Do nothing, stay and fight, or leave. Directed by Sarah Polley, the film stars Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, and Jessie Buckley among others. In LIVING, Bill Nighy has earned a Best Actor nomination for his role as a repressed bureaucrat and widower living a dreary, repetitive life in 1950’s Britain. But that all changes when his doctor tells him he has only about six months to live. LIVING is a fine reimagining of Akira Kurosawa’s IKIRU.
Actor Jesse Eisenberg has acted in more than forty movies in the last twenty years. But now he’s written and directed a feature film for the very first time. It’s called WHEN YOU FINISH SAVING THE WORLD and it disappeared from local theaters after just one week. Unfortunately, it’s clearly the work of a well intentioned filmmaker who doesn’t know yet how to write a good script or direct an engaging film. But as an actor, I really admire Eisenberg’s talent. He’s currently playing one of four main characters in FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE, a great 8 episode streaming series that originated on FX but is now streaming on Hulu. The show stars Eisenberg, Claire Danes, Lizzy Caplan and Adam Brody. FLEISHMAN IS IN TROUBLE is an astonishingly honest look at the struggles of middle age people who start questioning everything they’ve done in their lives. It’s the best streaming series I’ve seen in a year. (HULU)
Many of the most critically acclaimed movies in 2022 were box office failures and didn’t last more than a week or two in theaters. But most of these overlooked films are streaming now. One of those excellent films is EMILY THE CRIMINAL, starring Aubrey Plaza. Plaza is best known for her six years playing a comic character the TV series, PARKS AND RECREATION. But for the past seven years she’s shown she has serious acting chops. In EMILY THE CRIMINAL, she plays a tough but vulnerable young woman whose conviction on an assault charge keeps her from getting a decent paying job. Emily is saddled with 60,000 dollars of student and she’s desperate. She works at such a low paying food delivery job that she can barely cover the interest payments on her loans. But a friend shows her how she can get involved in a credit card buying scam and she enters the criminal world. The dark story develops in surprising ways and eventually comes to a shocking climax. EMILY THE CRIMINAL does not excuse criminality, but it does explain how society can inadvertently turn desperate people into criminals. (Netflix)