2 Best Movies to Watch by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Staff & contributors

This charming documentary about one of the most brilliant, groundbreaking comedians alive strikes a delicate balance between accessible and deeply appreciative, making it both a great gateway for those yet to be uninitiated into the Albert Brooks fan club and a satisfying retrospective for us confirmed devotees. It’s directed and fronted by Rob Reiner, celebrated director himself and one of Albert Brooks’ oldest friends, and the choice is perfect: his rapport with Brooks is warm and easy, extracting real sincerity from the famously deadpan comedian-writer-actor-director.

Defending My Life features plenty of talking heads gushing about Brooks’ dazzling multi-hyphenate talents (among them Steven Spielberg and Sharon Stone), a standard convention for documentaries of this kind. But what elevates this into a portrait worthy of its subject are the scenes from a dinner shared by Brooks and Reiner, during which the former opens up about his childhood, reflects on his career, and divulges the autobiographical elements that informed his work. Their tete-a-tete flows with all the unforced rhythm of conversation between good friends; Reiner’s presence coaxes illuminating insight from Brooks, which makes watching the documentary feel as close to pulling up a seat at their table as you’d hope for. The 90 minutes just fly by.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Alana Haim, Albert Brooks, Anthony Jeselnik, Ben Stiller, Brian Williams, Chris Rock, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, James L. Brooks, Jon Stewart, Jonah Hill, Judd Apatow, Larry David, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Nikki Glaser, Rob Reiner, Robert De Niro, Sarah Silverman, Sharon Stone, Steven Spielberg, Tiffany Haddish, Wanda Sykes

Director: Rob Reiner

Rating: PG-13

This is Me…Now is more than just a glorified music video. It’s a personal confessional for one, and a surprisingly effective comedy for another. In parts, Jennifer Lopez speaks to her therapist (Fat Joe) about the dreams she’s been having, which then give way to surreal sequences of Lopez singing songs off her latest album, all about love and personal growth. You’d have to be a fan of Lopez’s pop style to appreciate the music, but the choreography is mesmerizing and, dare I say, Lopez’s true strength. When she’s not regaling us with her thoughts on love, we have the Council of Zodiac Signs, played by a stacked cast that includes Jane Fonda, Sofia Vergara, and Trevor Noah, to humor us with their genuinely funny observations. Lopez obviously has a vision, and it’s admirably big and earnest, but the technical side of the film fails her. Except for the ornate storybook opener, most of the dream sequences are gray and sludgy, and they rarely reflect Lopez’s rose-tinted view of life. I wish the film had more light, but instead, we get melty, inferior CGI work that is just painful to look at. Some people might be able to forgive this, but because film is largely a visual medium, I find that it ultimately detracts from the experience.

Genre: Drama, Music

Actor: Alix Angelis, Ben Affleck, Carlito Olivero, Danielle Larracuente, Derek Hough, Fat Joe, Jane Fonda, Jay Shetty, Jenifer Lewis, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Kim Petras, Matthew Law, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Paul Raci, Post Malone, Sadhguru, Sofia Vergara, Trevor Jackson, Trevor Noah

Director: Dave Meyers

Rating: PG-13