Episode 333: The Firm

For the next couple of months we will be covering the movie adaptations of author John Grisham’s legal thrillers. With a who’s who of a cast and Oscar-winning filmmaker, this franchise-starter is a somewhat quieter take on the typical cinematic thriller, but one that puts intelligence and relatability above superhuman acts. Also note that this is one of Tom Cruise’s highest running distance totals of his filmography, so of course that means it’s great.

* Note – full spoilers in effect for entire episode *

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Episode 273: Nomadland

We discuss director Chloé Zhao’s outstanding third feature film, an Oscar favorite and local Seattle Film Critics Society multi-award winner, which tells the story of a woman who leaves home to travel around the American West in a van, experiencing community, dealing with grief and economic recession, and highlighting a nomadic lifestyle many Americans may not be familiar with.

Nomadland Spoiler Review – 08:19

The Connecting Point – 54:26

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Music: City Sunshine – Kevin MacLeod

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You Should Be Watching: August 9-15

Welcome to You Should Be Watching, my weekly opportunity to introduce you to a variety of great films, gems of the past and present, available for you to stream from Netflix, Amazon Prime, FilmStruck, and anywhere else streams are found.

This week I’m recommending a 2017 film that happens to be one of the best Westerns in years, transcending the genre itself. Next, a classic Japanese film that is as deep in meaning as the sand dunes its protagonist is trapped at the bottom of. Finally, a Robert Redford-led government conspiracy crime caper.

As always, be sure to check out the list of all the notable films that are expiring soon and newly arriving.



  — Available Aug. 15

Year: 2017

Director: Scott Cooper

Genre: History, Drama, Western, Adventure

Cast: Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Jesse Plemons, Adam Beach, Rory Cochrane, Ben Foster, Stephen Lang, Timothée Chalamet, Jonathan Majors, Q’orianka Kilcher, Paul Anderson, Ryan Bingham, Peter Mullan, Robyn Malcolm, Scott Wilson, Bill Camp, John Benjamin Hickey

From the shocking opening where the serenity of a mother in her home schooling her children is shattered in a flurry of sudden and vicious gunfire and brutality, the tone is set for this very bleak but somehow hopeful film. Christian Bale plays Native American-hating Army captain Joseph Blocker. His duty, against his will is to escort Chief Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family through deadly territory back to their reservation. While the setting makes this a Western, deep themes run throughout that echo the entire history of human relations, cycles of violence and resulting prejudice and attempts to overcome it all. It’s a very unique film in that it shows compassion for all peoples but doesn’t hold back on showing how cruel and violent anyone can be, regardless of race. It also explores the nature of doing one’s duty despite how one feels about it and learning to forgive the worst wrongs.

In a film full of fantastic performances and colorful characters representing many types and races of people, Rosamund Pike (Rosalie) and Christian Bale stand above the rest. The pair’s relationship could have easily been abused for the sake of cheap romance, but instead through the trauma they share from their past, they take a fascinating and heart-wrenching emotional and spiritual journey together. They both have to struggle to overcome the pain of their past and the grief it is causing them as well as current danger and try to maintain their faith despite God having seemed to turn a blind eye to them.

Woman in the Dunes


Year: 1964

Director: Hiroshi Teshigahara

Genre: Thriller, Drama

Cast: Eiji Okada, Kyôko Kishida, Ginzô Sekiguchi, Kôji Mitsui, Sen Yano, Hiroko Itô

Tokyo teacher and entomologist Jumpei Niki (Eiji Okada) is on a three-day vacation and gets tricked into going down a sandy cliff side from which there is no way out. The only way to survive and keep the house down there from collapsing is to shovel sand every night along with the unnamed woman (Kyôko Kishida) who lives in the house. Despite this relatively simple plot, Hiroshi Teshigahara has created a film incredibly dense with meaning.

Is it a nightmarish retelling of the Sisyphus myth? Is it a glimpse of a man in hell? Is it a commentary on the dehumanization of slavery or the nature of our innate lustful and voyeuristic attitudes? Is it a cautionary tale inspiring us to live with purpose rather than merely live to survive? Is it an homage to the allegory of Plato’s cave? Yes and much more. Hiroshi Segawa’s masterful cinematography along with claustrophobic editing serves to amp up the hopeless conditions. And Toru Takemitsu’s tense musical score gets at the sense of unease and downright fear at what’s happening.


Year: 1992

Director: Phil Alden Robinson

Genre: Crime, Drama, Comedy

Cast: Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, David Strathairn, River Phoenix, Timothy Busfield, Mary McDonnell, Ben Kingsley, James Earl Jones, Donal Logue, Denise Dowse, Eddie Jones, Time Winters, Bodhi Elfman, Stephen Tobolowsky, George Hearn, Lee Garlington, George Cheung, Michael Kinney, Gary Hershberger

With Robert Redford’s confirmation just days ago that he is retiring from acting after his next film is released this fall, now’s a great time to go back to Phil Alden Robinson’s (Field of Dreams) early Mission: Impossible-lite government conspiracy crime caper that put the NSA on the map of the public’s consciousness. Redford plays Martin Bishop, an affable former hacker who heads a security team of eccentric characters with dubious pasts. They get pressured into doing a favor for the government and soon find themselves caught in a massive conspiracy that could get any or all of them killed.

While the film is dated in its look and technology, the plot is entirely relevant to modern concerns of online privacy. It’s also far more entertaining than it has a right to be thanks to its clever writing, abundance of twists and turns, and light-hearted adventurous tone, and inspired casting, combining such disparate actors on the team as Dan Aykroyd as Mother, Sidney Poitier as Crease, and David Strathairn as Whistler, the blind guy who uses his other senses to greater effect than anyone else. Mary McDonnell adds a feminine presence as Martin’s ex-girlfriend Liz and along with Stephen Tobolowsky in a bit part creates one of the most memorable sequences of the movie. And last but not least, Sir Ben Kingsley gets to be a misguided, all-too-powerful villain, with a ponytail to boot.


LAST CHANCE (last date to watch)


August 15
The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
Sweet Bean (2015)

August 24
The Road (2009)


August 10
Altered States (1980)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)
Dogtooth (2009)
Falling Down (1993)
Magnolia (1999)
Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
Them! (1954)

August 12
The Last House on the Left (1972)

August 17
The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)
The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982)
Escape from New York (1981)
The Falls (1980)
Hairspray (1988)
A Zed & Two Noughts (1985)

August 20
Frances Ha (2012)

August 24

Act of Violence (1949)
Boy (2010)
Casablanca (1942)
The Freshman (1925)
From Here to Eternity (1953)
Get Carter (1971)
The Little Foxes (1941)
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Nine Queens (2000)
Now, Voyager (1942)
The Producers (1967)
Stella Dallas (1937)
Swing Time (1936)
Top Hat (1935)
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

August 31
Badlands (1973)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Diary of a Lost Girl (1929)
The Exorcist (1973)
Gun Crazy (1950)
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
Kameradschaft (1931)
Reservoir Dogs (1992)
The Searchers (1956)
They Live by Night (1948)
Tootsie (1982)
Westfront 1918 (1930)
You Only Live Once (1937)


August 31
Across the Universe (2007)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
The ’Burbs (1989)
Clue (1985)
Dead Man Walking (1995)
Escape from Alcatraz (1979)
Event Horizon (1997)
Hellboy (2004)
My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown (1989)
Primal Fear (1996)
Rain Man (1988)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)
Trainspotting (1996)



Paid in Full (2002)


The Haunted Palace (1963)
High Noon (1952)
Hoosiers (1986)
Jacob’s Ladder (1990)
Joe (2013)
Rich Hill (2014)
A Star Is Born (1937)
The Uninvited (1944)


Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Emigrants (1971)
The Exorcist (1973)
The New Land (1972)



August 10
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – NETFLIX FILM (2018)
The Package – NETFLIX FILM (2018)

August 11
No Country for Old Men (2007)

August 15
Hostiles (2017)


August 10
Borg vs McEnroe (2017)

August 16
Role Models (2008)

Jacob Neff is a film enthusiast living east of Sacramento. In addition to his contributions as an admin of the Feelin’ Film Facebook group and website, he is an active participant in the Letterboxd community, where his film reviews can be found. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with his latest thoughts and shared content.