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Created May 19, 2012 02:58AM PST • Updated Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST

Let’s give thanks for five solid recommendations this early holiday season. Four are available from Netflix Instant, while Safety Not Guaranteed is not. Oh well, it’s an uncertain world.

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Average

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  • 73 Points
Title Released Trust Weighted Summary Viewable
1st Safety Not Guara...
2012 Great 83 Points
_100

Safety not guaranteed, but viewing pleasure assured from this endearing romcom. It features a smart story about a Miss Lonelyheart falling in love with an apparently crazy time-traveler whom she’s researching for an exposé. This crazy but real (crazy-real?) scenario meshes easily with today’s über-ironic audiences.

Unfortunately it’s not easy for audiences to find. It was in a couple theaters in June, then went missing. This week CineArts at Santana Row has it at 5:30 and 10:15. I caught the late show last night with an appr…

Full Review »
Added Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST • Updated Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST
2nd Giant
1956 Great 66 Points
_100

A deserved classic, this aptly titled movie features giant stars, a ginormous mansion incongruously stuck in the heart of the giant state of Texas, a running time that exceeds three hours and giant story elements. It all works amazingly well, never seeming drawn-out or boring, notwithstanding a rather stately pace.

Chronicling the amplification of 20th Century Texas society from cattle wealth to oil megawealth, Giant also stoops to conquer racism towards Mexicans. It does all this by following three generations of Texas gentry, their feudal underlings, rivals and assorted functionari…

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Added Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST • Updated Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST
3rd Barton Fink
1991 Great 66 Points
_100

The Coen Brothers are writers as much as directors, making Barton Fink – a satiric tribute to tortured writers and the demonic pull of Hollywood – more than a little self-reverential. Oops, did I say reverential? Referential, self-referential.

Either way, it’s one of their best movies, notwithstanding being clankingly arch at times. It is after all a career thriller. A writer goes to Hollywood and is forced to … go Hollywood. With the Coen’s trademark ironic humor applied, the whole schmear ends up as a Borscht Belt Day of the Locust, if you catch my drift. “That’s showbiz”…

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Added Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST • Updated Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST
4th The Man Who Shot...
1962 Perfect 66 Points
_100

Greatest Western? The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence is certainly in the running, given how it plays with Wild West myth-making, features three iconic stars along with a passel of great costars and wields a humdinger of an ending. “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance,” the last line portentously declares. The same could be said of the praise that can be heaped on this John Ford classic.

The story unfolds in flashback after a grey-haired Jimmy Stewart returns with his wife to the little town where they met decades earlier. Reflecting back, he tells the tale of a vi…

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Added Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST • Updated Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST
5th Machine Gun Prea...
2011 Very Good 83 Points
_100

Two movies in one – the demented story of a badass junkie and the inspiring story of an avenging angel. Both are about the same guy, Sam Childers, an American biker who has saved and continues to save hundreds of otherwise doomed Sudanese kids. As a kickass movie about a real guy trying to stop a current wave of genocide, Machine Gun Preacher succeeds as action-adventure and as call-to-action. Wow.

The call-to-action is the same one the Kony 2012 phenomenon raised earlier this year, the need for the world to stop Joseph Kony’s "Lord’s Resistanc…

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Added Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST • Updated Nov 17, 2012 12:42PM PST

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