The Contender

Ahead of its time.

Here in 2021 we have a female U.S. Vice President, but back in 2000, when Prez Jeff Bridges nominates Joan Allen to replace his VP, who just died in office, it creates huge tremors.

Washington, D.C. powerbrokers quickly swing into action on both sides, with the mud-throwing and partisan bickering feeling very familiar in any year.

Shady Senator Gary Oldman threatens to derail Allen’s confirmation, dredging up nasty secrets from the past and setting up a tense showdown.

A solid lil’ thriller and actor’s showcase, anchored by an especially-strong cast, this is political theater with some real zing.

Mank

Ready for your closeup?

Tracing the rocky creation of Citizen Kane, David Fincher’s superb drama may actually win more Oscars than the legendary film it’s about.

While Gary Oldman is top-drawer as boozy screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, the best performances can be found out around the edges.

Arliss Howard is a wily weasel as studio boss Louis Mayer, while the very-underrated Amanda Seyfried soars as actress Marion Davies, a box office star whose career was tainted by unfair comparisons to an untalented Kane character.

Ultimately kinder, and smarter, than her companions, she’s the bright, beating heart in an otherwise icy affair.

Air Force One

“Get off my plane!”

Harrison Ford is the president we wish we had — a man of rock-solid moral character who will throat-punch a terrorist.

Facing off with Gary Oldman, delightfully-despicable as a cold-hearted killer intent on freeing an imprisoned dictator, the Prez proves he can hold his own in mid-air conflict.

A decorated Vietnam War vet, Ford’s tough-as-nails Commander in Chief dodges a chance to escape from his hijacked plane, laying down some two-fisted retribution between scowls.

A film made to be played every 4th of July, with the rockets’ red glare and bombs bursting in air as backdrop.

 

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

“I never drink … wine.”

Of course, Gary Oldman may occasionally dine on other fluids, or at least that’s the gossip around the old homestead.

Having broken (quite badly) with God after his wife’s suicide, Vlad the Impaler lives on for generations in a new, even more fierce, form.

Driven by an unquenchable thirst, and a burning desire to hook up with a young and dewy Winona Ryder — who looks a lot like his dearly-departed wife — Dracula lets the fangs fly free.

Lush and operatic, Francis Ford Coppola’s revamp of a horror icon still has a lot of bite.

 

The Fifth Element

“Big ba-da boom!”

Things frequently explode in an adrenaline-fueled eyeball-blaster of a sci-fi film, a movie I irrationally love.

Lay back on the couch, and catch a wave of pure bliss watching Milla Jovovich, God’s gift to cinema, save the universe from pure Evil, doing so with a flurry of fisticuffs while wearing a giant stretchy bandaid.

The biggest star to give me an autographed photo, her 40-film career has included blockbusters (Zoolander, Resident Evil) and unsung gems (Stone, A Perfect Getaway).

But nothing matches this giddy celebration to beautiful excess.

The Fifth Element, like its star, is freakin’ sublime.