5 Best Movies to Watch by Andy Garcia

Staff & contributors

This is one of those reviews where it’s probably enough to say: watch the pilot. There is no better proof of how good Modern Love is than its first episode. The show is based on true stories that were shared in The New York Times column by the same name. That first episode is about the relationship between a doorman and a New Yorker. But, plot twist, Modern Love isn’t just about romantic relationships. It’s also about friendships, family links, and all displays of love and affection. The second episode is with Dev Patel and Catherine Keener, which I found to be also excellent. There are other ones with Tina Fey, Anne Hathaway, and many other big names, but the first two episodes are still my favorites. The power of Modern Love is in the riveting true stories it tells. It might as well have been called “you can’t make this stuff up.”

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Andy Garcia, Anne Hathaway, Cristin Milioti, Dev Patel, Laurentiu Possa, Tina Fey

Rating: TV-MA

Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town, Arrival) plays Gary Webb, a journalist in investigating the American government’s possible involvement in cocaine trafficking in Latin America. Based on a true story, it’s in the same vein as other recent movies on investigative journalism. Jeremy Renner’s performance is the main reason to watch this movie. Even as the story spins into deeper levels of complexity, he remains a coherent, steady point of reference. It was his chance to prove to directors that he can carry a big-budget movie and he nailed it.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Andy Garcia, Barry Pepper, Dan Futterman, David Alessi, David de Vries, David Lee Garver, Gil Bellows, Jen Harper, Jena Sims, Jeremy Renner, Joshua Close, Lucas Hedges, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Matt Lintz, Matthew Lintz, Michael Cuesta, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Sheen, Nancy Davis Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Oliver Platt, Paz Vega, Ray Liotta, Rhoda Griffis, Richard Schiff, Robert Patrick, Robert Pralgo, Rosemarie DeWitt, Shaira Barton, Steve Coulter, Susan Walters, Tim Blake Nelson, Yul Vazquez

Director: Michael Cuesta

Rating: R

Miranda’s Victim often feels like two different movies smushed into one. On the one hand, it tells the story of how Trish finds the courage to speak up against her abuser, who happens to be a person of color. On the other hand, it shows us the legal intricacies that led to the founding of what we now know as Miranda Rights. In better hands, these two stories (one emotional and one technical) could’ve worked well together, and they would’ve spoken to the intersectionality at the heart of this complicated case. But instead of going for nuance, instead of exploring the complex racial and gender politics that inform this case, Director Michelle Danner goes in all sorts of odd directions as if herself confused about what the focus should be. 

Breslin is heartbreaking and powerful as Trish, but she’s only given so much to act with. Despite being based on a real person, her character is reduced to trauma and tears—a caricature of abuse—and nothing more. The movie is at its strongest when it converts into pure courtroom drama by the third act. Suddenly, it’s brisk and intelligent, bolstered by the compelling one-two punches of the judge (a commanding Donald Sutherland) and the two lawyers (Ryan Philippe, a revelation, and Luke Wilson, only slightly better here than in his earlier turn in Legally Blonde). As a story about violation and abuse, there’s surprisingly little compassion to be found, despite the title. But as a legal drama, it’s as informative as it can be. 

Genre: Drama, History

Actor: Abigail Breslin, Andy Garcia, Brent Sexton, Brian Colin Foley, Dan Lauria, Donald Sutherland, Emily VanCamp, Enrique Murciano, James Healy Jr., Jann Ellis, Josephine Hies, Joshua Bowman, Kyle MacLachlan, Luke Wilson, Michael Mulheren, Mireille Enos, Najah Bradley, Nolan Gould, Ryan Phillippe, Sheilagh Weymouth, Taryn Manning

Director: Michelle Danner

City Island is a lighthearted comedy/drama about the Rizzo family, residents of the titular fishing community in The Bronx, New York. Andy Garcia plays the patriarch of the family who works as a corrections officer, and who decides one day to bring home a young ex-con named Tony under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Tony soon becomes entwined in the dysfunctional household as he develops varying relationships with each family member, even as each of them lives their own secret life apart from the rest. This secrecy drives much of the plot, as their personal mysteries play out in an unexpected and often amusing ways. It’s a lively slice-of-life full of boisterous characters, comedic misunderstandings and ultimately a warm embrace of family unity.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Alan Arkin, Andy Garcia, Bettina Bresnan, Carrie Baker Reynolds, Curtiss Cook, Dominik Garcia, Dominik Garcia-Lorido, Emily Mortimer, Ezra Miller, Hope Glendon-Ross, Jee Young Han, Julianna Margulies, Louis Mustillo, Louise Stratten, Lynn Collins, Marshall Efron, Matthew Arkin, Paul Diomede, Paul Romero, Rick Aiello, Sharon Angela, Steven Strait, Vernon Campbell

Director: Raymond De Felitta

Rating: PG-13

Pain Hustlers is based on a 2018 New York Times article of the same name exposing a drug company that marketed a fentanyl-based drug. Zanna, the on-screen pharmaceutical start-up, is modelled after Insys: the actual company who pushed a fentanyl-based spray for pain management with the help of sales reps who particularly appeal to a certain male gaze. A DIY scheme of bribing doctors through "speaker programs"—or recurring, debaucherous parties—gets Zanna off the ground, catapulting stripper-turned-manager Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) to a much-yearned financial stability. Together with the coked-up COO (magnificently played by Chris Evans), Liza puts her street smart potential to work; she goes all in, until it all crashes and burns. It's cynical how predictable the plot of such a film can be, mainly because the only character development we see is in Liza's sudden moral spark at the sight of drug abuses and overdoses. Pain Hustlers tries really hard to build a hero, tear her down, and then rehabilitate her status, but to what end? The film ends up using the fentanyl crisis as a narrative drive, a highly dubious move when you're supposed to be spreading awareness. 

 

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Adrian Eppley, Alex Klein, Amit Shah, Andy Garcia, Aubrey Dollar, Avis-Marie Barnes, Becca Breitfeller, Brian d'Arcy James, Britt Rentschler, Catherine O'Hara, Chloe Coleman, Chris Evans, Emily Blunt, Erin Ownbey, Greyson Chadwick, Jay Duplass, Josh Ventura, Mandi Christine Kerr, Mary Ann Hagan, Michael Kosta, Michael Lowry, Nicholas Christopher McNeil, Omer Mughal, Pat Dortch, Quinn Bozza, Rowan Joseph, Samantha Kacho, Selena Anduze, Sharon Conley, Tris Marie, Valerie LeBlanc, Willie Raysor

Director: David Yates

Rating: R