6 Best Movies to Watch by David Alan Grier

Staff & contributors

Like so many pictures about the pictures, The Player is a biting satire of the biz. Tim Robbins plays Griffin Mill, a Hollywood executive who gives dinner speeches about movies being art but works at a studio where endings are unceremoniously tweaked for maximum audience approval ratings — and therefore maximum profits. The greedy corporate Tinseltown of The Player feels very close to the franchise-pumping Tinseltown of today, but there’s enough wit and irony here to keep it from feeling too depressing.

Legendary New Hollywood director Robert Altman packages his critique in familiar clothing: that of a film noir. After receiving threatening postcards from a disgruntled writer he never called back, Griffin takes matters into his own hands and soon finds himself living out the plot of a taut thriller. The Player gets even more deliciously meta than this: nearly every scene contains a winking reference to the movies, and it’d probably be easier to count which stars of past and present don’t show up for a cameo here. What’s more, Altman gives The Player the kind of “happy ending” that Griffin’s studio is always demanding from writers — only here, it’s spun into a bitter commentary on the whole industry. Simply masterful.

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery

Actor: Adam Simon, Alan Rudolph, Alexandra Powers, Althea Gibson, Andie MacDowell, Angela Hall, Anjelica Huston, Annie Ross, Bert Remsen, Brad Davis, Brian Brophy, Brian Tochi, Brion James, Bruce Willis, Buck Henry, Burt Reynolds, Cathy Lee Crosby, Charles Champlin, Cher, Cynthia Stevenson, David Alan Grier, Dean Stockwell, Dennis Franz, Derek Raser, Dina Merrill, Elliott Gould, Felicia Farr, Frank Barhydt, Fred Ward, Gary Busey, Gina Gershon, Greta Scacchi, Harry Belafonte, Jack Jason, Jack Kney, Jack Lemmon, Jack Riley, James Coburn, Jayne Meadows, Jeff Celentano, Jeff Goldblum, Jeremy Piven, Jill St. John, Joan Tewkesbury, Joel Grey, John Cusack, Julia Roberts, Karen Black, Katarzyna Figura, Kathy Ireland, Kevin Scannell, Leah Ayres, Leeza Gibbons, Lily Tomlin, Louise Fletcher, Lyle Lovett, Malcolm McDowell, Marina Zenovich, Marlee Matlin, Martin Mull, Michael Bowen, Michael Tolkin, Mike Kaplan, Mimi Rogers, Natalie Strong, Ned Bellamy, Nick Nolte, Pamela Bowen, Patricia Resnick, Patrick Swayze, Paul Dooley, Paul Hewitt, Peter Falk, Peter Gallagher, Peter Koch, Randall Batinkoff, Ray Walston, Rene Auberjonois, Richard Anderson, Richard E. Grant, Ritchie Montgomery, Robert Carradine, Robert Wagner, Rod Steiger, Sally Kellerman, Sally Kirkland, Scott Glenn, Scott Shaw, Shari Belafonte, Stephen Tolkin, Steve Allen, Steve James, Susan Emshwiller, Susan Sarandon, Sydney Pollack, Ted Hartley, Teri Garr, Tim Robbins, Vincent D'Onofrio, Whoopi Goldberg

Director: Robert Altman

A revelation of a movie, both in filmmaking and commercial success. While little-known abroad, it has made more than $42 million in US Box Office revenue out of a tiny $5 million budget. Kumail Nanjiani, stand-up comedian and star of the show Silicon Valley, tells his own story of romance with his now-wife Emily V. Gordon (who co-wrote the movie). Because it is based on a true story, and because it is the product of the love of both its writers and stars, this movie is incredibly heartfelt. It is also timely, addressing heavy themes such as identity, immigration, and family relationships. Not to mention it is absolutely hilarious. And it's produced by Judd Apatow. Trust me and go watch it.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Adeel Akhtar, Aidy Bryant, Alison Cimmet, Andrew Pang, Anupam Kher, Bo Burnham, Celeste Arias, Charles Gould, David Alan Grier, Ed Herbstman, Holly Chou, Holly Hunte, Holly Hunter, Isabel Shill, Jack Corrigan, Jack O'Connell, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Jeremy Shamos, Keilly McQuail, Kerry Flanagan, Kuhoo Verma, Kumail Nanjiani, Kurt Braunohler, Lauren Patten, Lawrence Ballard, Linda Emond, Marilyn Torres, Matthew Cardarople, Mitra Jouhari, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Myra Turley, Rahul Bedi, Ray Romano, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Shana Solomon, Shenaz Treasury, Shunori Ramanathan, Sophia Muller, Spencer House, Susham Bedi, Vella Lovell, William Stephenson, Zach Cherry, Zenobia Shroff, Zoe Kazan

Director: Michael Showalter

Rating: R

They Cloned Tyrone is a genre-bending gem. It combines Deep State conspiracy theories with sci-fi and social commentary, all while looking like a futuristic 1970s Blaxploitation film. It’s outrageous good fun and pleasing to look at (here is a film that knows how to properly light Black actors), but there are times when it feels too far fetched. The science can get wonky and its commentary on gentrification lacking, but all is forgiven when you have such a strong trio of leads. One of the smartest things They Cloned Tyrone does is pair Boyega with Teyonah Parris, who plays the call girl Yo-yo, and Jamie Foxx, who plays the pimp Slick Charles. They have a fun-loving no-nonsense chemistry about them that makes them easy to attach to and root for. They’re also just very funny, which might be expected of Foxx but it comes as a pleasant surprise for Parris, whose popular turns in Mad Men and WandaVision prove that she’s been severely underutilized as a comic.

Genre: Action, Comedy, Mystery, Science Fiction

Actor: Adam Cronan, Al-Teron, Austin Freeman, Big Boy, Bricine Brown, Charity Jordan, David Alan Grier, David Shae, Elliott Dixon, Eric Robinson Jr., J. Alphonse Nicholson, Jamie Foxx, Jason Burkey, Jason Louder, Jessica Fontaine, John Boyega, Joshua Mikel, Juel Taylor, Justin J. Jordan, Kiefer Sutherland, Leon Lamar, Marc Inniss, Mark Pettit, Megan Sousa, Michael A. Dean, Nick Arapoglou, Osahon Tongo, Robert Tinsley, Ryan Dinning, Shariff Earp, Shinar Frazier, Suzanne C. Robertson, Swift Rice, Tamberla Perry, Tangela Large, Teyonah Parris, Trayce Malachi

Director: Juel Taylor

Rating: R

With the tried-and-tested music and lyrics of Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, this film adaptation of the Color Purple musical was practically guaranteed to have power in its key moments. And with a cast that includes tremendous vocalists like Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks (both of whom had previously played their respective characters on stage), the film's most important sections possess an energy and soul that allow its protagonist to dream of something beyond her dire personal circumstances. However, after a while, this movie begins to feel like it's only ever made up of isolated scenes without the proper build-up nor the right pacing to earn the movement from one episodic moment to the next. Even with the dynamite chemistry between cast and score, the film's odd staging and blocking constantly get in the way of what should be something incredibly emotional.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Aba Arthur, Adetinpo Thomas, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, Charles Green, Chase Steven Anderson, Ciara, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, Danielle Brooks, David Alan Grier, David Vaughn, Deon Cole, Elizabeth Marvel, Emana Rachelle, Fantasia Barrino, H.E.R., Halle Bailey, Jamaal Avery Jr., Jeffrey Marcus, John L. Adams, Jon Batiste, L. Warren Young, Louis Gossett Jr., MaCai Arrington Griffin, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi, Stephen Hill, Tamela Mann, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence J. Smith, Tiffany Elle Burgess, Whoopi Goldberg

Director: Blitz Bazawule

Rating: PG-13

Proof that even the most tired tropes (which the holiday genre is arguably entirely made up of at this point) can still be warm and enjoyable with above-average craft and a fun cast, Candy Cane Lane avoids the monotony that tends to plague other Christmas movies. Which isn't to say that the film is a new classic—it still concludes too easily and doesn't give its more emotional side the space to breathe. But with an entertaining fantasy premise (specifically, a sort of scavenger hunt based on The Twelve Days of Christmas) bolstered by strong visual effects and supporting actors who have been given free rein to improvise, the movie stays dynamic and lightly humorous, if a little lacking in substance.

Genre: Comedy, Family, Fantasy

Actor: Aidan Kennedy, Ali Astin, Amanda Schoonover, Amy Johnston, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Catherine Dent, Chris Redd, D.C. Young Fly, Danielle Pinnock, David Alan Grier, Eddie Murphy, Genneya Walton, Iman Benson, James DuMont, Jenly Crespo, Jillian Bell, Kelly Younger, Ken Marino, Kevin Olusola, Kimberly Christian, Kirstin Maldonado, Lombardo Boyar, Madison Thomas, Matthew Sallee, Mitch Grassi, Nick Offerman, Preston Galli, Reginald Hudlin, Riki Lindhome, Robin Thede, Scott Hoying, Stephen Tobolowsky, Tallie Brinson, Thaddeus J. Mixson, Tiago Roberts, Timothy Simons, Tracee Ellis Ross, Trevante Rhodes

Director: Reginald Hudlin

Rating: PG