Armchair Vacation: 5 Films To Watch At Home This Weekend (August 3-5)

It’s the beginning of August, and with that comes a few things. The summer is slowly starting to wind down, and with the start of a new month, comes a huge dump of content onto various streaming outlets. Be it a huge number of films dumped onto Netflix, or Criterion’s continuing strive to get Hulu to be the go to spot for cinephiles with their films, the beginning of a new month is just like Christmas for us film fans. Oh, and it helps to have networks like TCM continuing to prove people wrong, as classics still have their place in today’s landscape. And here are five films, new and old alike, to make your weekend all about cinema.

5. ESPN’s 30 For 30 (Available On Netflix)

While the cliché may be that nerds or cinephiles are not the most athletically inclined, documentary film has always made a perfect partner with the human stories found within the sports world. Be it the iconic bits of documentary filmmaking that made NFL Films a go to brand for football fans with cinematic hearts, or films like Hoop Dreams even finding their way into The Criterion Collection, ESPN may have created the greatest blend between film and sports to date. There 30 For 30 series, created by Bill Simmons, was the network’s attempt at telling a collection of stories from the sports world, through the lens of some of today’s greatest directors. Be it Spike Jonze, Albert Maysles, Billy Corben, Steve James and Barbara Kopple, various filmmakers took some of the greatest sports stories in athletic history, and has made one of the greatest collectives of documentaries of this lifetime. These films are now available to watch on Netflix, and some real gems include The U (about the rise of The University Of Miami football team in the ‘˜80s), Run Ricky Run (looking at the rise, fall, and everything in between of Ricky Williams) and a personal favorite, Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks, a film that looks at Miller and his relationship with the Knicks, and Spike Lee of all people. Just great films.

4. TCM’s Tarzan Bonanza (Friday 6am EST-Saturday 1:45am EST)

Talk about a blockbuster way to start your weekend. As Total Recall hits the big screen this week, for those looking for action without the remake baggage, TCM has just what you ordered. All day and night on Friday, August 3, the network will be airing feature and short films revolving around the story of Tarzan. Made famous on the big screen thanks to the giant hunk of a man known as Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan was a massive player cinematically during the ‘˜40s, and thanks to TCM, you’ll be able to see why. I myself became familiar with this story via my great-grandfather growing up, and I’ve been in love with these films ever since. They are just superb stories, really thrilling adventure films, and all around fun for the entire family.

3. River Of No Return (TCM ‘“ Saturday 12pm EST)

This week saw the release of the Forever Marilyn Blu-ray box set, featuring a collection of the actress’ many fantastic performances. Thankfully, the set included one of her most underrated turns as well, in Otto Preminger’s great Robert Mitchum-starring feature, River Of No Return. TCM will be airing the film Saturday at noon, and it’s one of this weekend’s must watch films. Preminger was as much a chameleon of a filmmaker as they come, and this film is no different. A Western at heart, the film is lush and gorgeous, shot beautifully in Cinemascope, the visuals take a back seat to the chemistry between Mitchum and Monroe. Monroe is an absolute monster on-screen, giving us a look at her in her most vulnerable, and also at her sexiest. She steals absolutely every scene right from under the beast of a man known as Robert Mitchum, who is so beautifully paired with the beauty, Marilyn Monroe. It’s a thrilling Western featuring some great set pieces, and there is even one Monroe performance sequence in particular that will leave you breathless.

2. Mahler (Hulu Plus)

Directed by Ken Russell, Criterion has added this film to their Hulu Plus page, and it’s one of the most interesting additions in quite some time. Looking at the life of Gustav Mahler, this writer is not particularly familiar with the film, its subject matter, or sadly its director, but this seems like it could be one hell of a film. We have been looking at the films of Derek Jarman this week on the site, and knowing that Jarman would later work with Russell on a few features, has this writer immensely interested in seeing just how that connection was made, or where the two are similar. A 1974 film, the piece won an award at Cannes that year, so it seems on the surface to be a rather formidable film, so hopefully it can live up to the hype. I know I will be watching it this weekend, as should you all.

1.  Heaven’s Gate (Netflix)

Well, well, well. Just a week after it was revealed that Criterion had been hard at work on a restoration of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, and literally two days after they hinted at its impending release in a wacky drawing, Cimino’s much talked about era-defining and era-ending epic has hit Netflix streaming for all to watch.  The film has been considered the biggest failure in cinematic history, not only failing monetarily and critically but also ending an entire era of American filmmaking. We haven’t been able to look at the film through the lens of Criterion having a pending release of the film as some sort of milestone for the film, so it will be interesting to see just how this viewing of the film could change knowing that the stamp of approval that is the Criterion ‘C’ is about to be tossed right in the corner of this film. And thankfully, Netflix has made that re-watch possible.

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