Get The Girlfriend Experience, celebrate Robert Redford, go to Animal House and more visual pleasures

Thursday 8.11
The high-contrast, go-for-broke cinematography of Ron Howard’s 2013 Formula One race car drama, Rush, is just one of the reasons that the film rises above the usual kicks of average, feel-good sports movies. It’s also driven by ego more than by ambition. Howard amplifies the bitterness between Englishman James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Austrian Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) and pares down their real-life 1970s rivalry to its essence in this brisk, entertaining film. See it on Hulu, new this month.

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Friday 8.12
Baz Luhrmann, the master of overindulgent visual splendor, who misses (Australia) at least as much as he scores (Moulin Rouge), tries his hand at serialized storytelling with The Get Down, which drops six of its planned 12 episodes today on Netflix. Set in the Bronx in the late 1970s, when disco was queen and hip-hop was being born, it follows some musically inclined teenagers. It’s a $120 million gamble for the filmmaker, who isn’t capable of making anything on a small budget. From the trailer, it looks as if every cent was spent onscreen. Let’s hope it’s better than Vinyl or Roadies.

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Saturday 8.13
The KC Library’s free-film series Regarding Redford celebrates legend Robert Redford, who turns 80 next week. Beat the heat and see him light up the screen with pal Paul Newman in 1973’s Best Picture-winning The Sting, a fun con-man movie set in the Great Depression in which they were reunited with director George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). Bizarre fact: The film’s Scott Joplin-heavy soundtrack contributed to an unlikely resurgence of ragtime music when it was released, knocking Chicago VI out of the top album spot in 1974.

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Sunday 8.14
If The Sting is a perfect example of mainstream Hollywood star power in the 1970s, then National Lampoon’s Animal House is the signaling of a new generation of comedies. Turner Classic Movies presents a two-day theatrical event, as toga parties and food fights are back in cinemas today and Wednesday via Fathom Events (playing at Cinemark Merriam and AMC Olathe Studio). The idea of TCM host Ben Mankiewicz “presenting” John Landis’ anarchic anti-establishment college comedy is almost as funny as John Belushi spitting mashed potatoes all over Kevin Bacon.

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Monday 8.15
Based on the 2009 Steven Soderbergh movie of the same name, the provocative new TV series The Girlfriend Experience was a critical hit for Starz this spring. New on Blu-ray and available á la carte from Amazon, the show stars Elvis Presley’s granddaughter and Mad Max Fury Road co-star Riley Keough as a law student who moonlights as a high-end call girl. The refusal of indie filmmakers Lodge Kerrigan and Amy Seimetz to shoehorn their characters into simple moral boxes makes it a fascinating, if distant, watch.

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Tuesday 8.16
Mark this one down as a lost classic. I’m thrilled that Tim Hunter’s (Twin Peaks) chilling 1986 drama, River’s Edge, is streaming now on Amazon Prime, because it gives a wider audience to a movie that feels totally fresh 30 years later. Based on a real incident, it follows alienated teens Keanu Reeves, Ione Skye and Crispin Glover as they deal with the fact that one of their friends has just strangled his girlfriend and left her for dead. It’s about as far from John Hughes as you can get, and when one of the only voices of reason is a drug-dealing lunatic with a blow-up doll (Dennis Hopper), you know you’re in some morally vacant territory.

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Wednesday 8.17
Speaking of morally vacant, the genre of exploitation flicks is rife with subversion, and the boxed set Female Prisoner Scorpion (new on Blu-ray) is a fun bit of toying with genre expectations amid the usual violence and nudity. In 1972, Shunya Ito was ordered to make a women-in-prison movie to appear on the lower half of a double bill for the Japanese film market. Given free reign, however, and influenced by European art-house masters Fellini and Bergman, he delivered surrealistic touches and tough questions with star Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood), a collaboration that carried through three hit movies. The Blu-ray set collects the first four and features exhaustive bonus features.

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Eric Melin is the editor of Scene-Stealers.com and president of the KC Film Critics Circle.

Categories: A&E