"It’s the movie that could never be made today," howl fans of Mel Brooks’ arguable finest hour. (Though we’d put “The Producers” first, then “Young Frankenstein.”) The people who say this are typically strident anti-PC types — retrograde righties who hate liberals and delight at a pretty much objectively hilarious comedy that makes jokes about black people, about Jews, about Native Americans, about Nazis, etc., etc., etc. Fine, even pinko lefties who own “pussy hats” can agree we’re a little touchy these days. But Brooks is no retrograde rightie, then or now. And you don’t have to look too closely at his rapid-fire Western parody to realize the jokes aren’t on black people, on Jews, on Native Americans, etc., etc. They’re on stupid, backwards white people who feel weirded out by people who aren’t them. And they’re on Nazis, too, of course.
‘The Slums of Beverly Hills’
No one’s happier than we that Natasha Lyonne is a big thing again, thanks to “Orange is the New Black,” scene-stealing turns in “Hello, My Name is Doris” and “The Intervention,” and a tragically brief appearance on “Girls” a couple seasons ago. She’s simply fulfilling the promise of her original breakthrough, which is to say her leading turn in 1998’s “The Slums of Beverly Hills.” As the cranky, sexually confused daughter of a nomadic car salesman (Alan Arkin), she’s a total rock star, holding her own against co-star Marisa Tomei, even when they’re not doing a Parliament-backed pas de deux with a vibrator. And by the way, we’re stoked that writer-director Tamara Jenkins is finally making another movie, with Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti. After all, her last one, “The Savages,” turns 10 years old this year.
He had some of the funniest lines in “300,” but the first time people truly noticed Michael Fassbender was when he played Bobby Sands, IRA’s most noted martyr, in Steve McQueen’s own breakthrough. “Hunger” just popped up on FilmStruck in the bundle “A Movie History of the IRA” — a rich and diverse lot going all the way back to Carol Reed’s “Odd Man Out” (1947) and including both the crossover indie “The Crying Game” and John Frankenheimer’s cucumber cool actioner “Ronin.” McQueen’s feature debut is the most rigorous, detailing Sands' prison stint leading to his hunger strike. It doesn't really show off its breakout star till the hour-mark. That’s when he gets a 15-minute tete-a-tete with Liam Cunningham’s priest, mostly filmed in one epic long take. Before then you marveled at McQueen’s filmmaking, but here you get to wow over two truly kickass actors strutting their stuff.