“Charlie Wilson’s War” is based on a real-life figure: a womanizing, high-living six-term congressman from Texas who was profiled some time ago on 60 Minutes. Producer-reporter George Crile was so intrigued that he spent several years piecing together the story of how this unlikely hero wound up financing Afghan rebels in the 1980s—without anyone in Washington seeming to notice. His research led to a book that in turn inspired this movie. It’s a story so incredible you almost couldn’t make it up—and that’s why “Charlie Wilson’s War” is so fascinating. With director Mike Nichols and writer Aaron Sorkin behind the camera, and Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman in the starring roles, no wonder this movie works so well.
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In “15 Minutes,” Robert De Niro plays a New York City detective who has a habit of making headlines, and enjoys it. He often gives tips to Kelsey Grammer, the host of a scandalous TV show called Top Story—and Grammer is a hungry for the kind of eyebrow-raising fodder that makes his show a hit. Then along come two men from Eastern Europe who plan to rob, murder and pillage, document themselves doing it on video, then sell the evidence to Top Story. They crave notoriety and realize that in America, celebrity is its own reward, and the legal system can be manipulated. John Herzfeld wrote and directed this explosive film, which has other story threads going on involving fire inspector Edward Burns and TV reporter Melena Kanakaredes, who’s in love with De Niro. Some people called this movie outlandish but I think it’s frighteningly plausible.
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These movies deserve to be better known…and I hope, in time, they will be.
See more of Leonard Maltin’s picks here. Note: These picks, which start at $0.99, may not be available in all areas.