Albert Brooks films
2016 has been a rough year, forcing us to take solace in the little pleasures. So here’s something great! All seven films Albert Brooks has written and directed all of a sudden stream on Netflix! Granted, his movies aren’t walks in the park. Through the comedies he’s made himself, he’s revealed himself as a kind of anti-Woody Allen: the quip-flinging neurotic who doesn’t play cute and especially not nice.
Brooks’ first three films are particularly hilarious rolls in the dark, the characters he plays being super-villains whose powers include toxic self-absorption. In 1981’s “Modern Romance” he dumps his girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) in the first scene, spends the next 45 minutes brooding over it, then the second they reunite he suspects her of infidelity. Stanley Kubrick called it one of his favorite films.
Brooks softened a bit starting with 1991’s “Defending Your Life,” though he got back a bit of his old “edge” (a term he mocks in 1999’s “The Muse,” the only dire one in the lot) in 2007’s “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World.” But they’re still brutal, even if they can’t touch 1979’s reality TV attack “Real Life” and 1985’s devastating yuppie satire “Lost in America.”
‘Back to the Future’
Robert Zemeckis once revealed he didn’t get the Oedipal content of his 1985 classic, in which a young man (Michael J. Fox) travels back to 1955 only to be romantically pursued by his then-young mom (Lea Thompson). Incredible as that may be — he also cowrote the script, mind — but this is a film that goes to places so weird even one of its creator’s couldn’t grasp them. Indeed, though it spawned the seeds of “Rick and Morty,” which began life as a straight-up “Back to the Future” parody, the original is as strange and busy as any of the show’s episodes. The two not-unworthy sequels also now stream, if you’re up for a reassessment.
In this column, we try to recommend good films, quality films. But there are exceptions. For instance: Has the world realized this splashy Stephen King adaptation — directed by no less than Lawrence Kasdan with a script by him and no less than “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” scribe William Goldman — is one of the world’s greatest bad films? A story of alien “ass-weasels” keeps topping itself with creatively terrible ideas, delivered with as stony a face as possible. Pre-fame Damian Lewis plays an American who gets possessed by an extraterrestrial, who makes him speak with a British accent. Morgan Freeman talks about how aliens like “Friends.” There’s a chase scene entirely located in someone’s mind. Donnie Wahlberg recites “Scooby-Doo” quotes during the action climax. Get this a “The Room” cult stat.