In light of the impending release of the much anticipated Baz Luhrmann film The Great Gatsby, I return to my childhood to give a recommendation of 1996's Romeo+Juliet, also starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead male role. For my generation, it feels like a classic. Perhaps The Great Gatsby will have the same influence over the nine year-olds of today.
The best film I saw in theaters so far in 2013, No is a funny twist on a political thriller. Gael García Bernal gives an outstanding performance in the lead role.
Of all the films I saw in 2012, P.T. Anderson's The Master most impressed me, leaving me with the sense that I had just seen something refreshingly new, intensely acted, and visually breathtaking. Joaquin Phoenix delivers the best performance of the year and of his career, and Philip Seymour Hoffman is as perfect as ever. This is my favorite film of the year, and I'm sure I'll be seeing it many more times in the years and decades to come.
My favorite movie thus far of the year, Melancholia is Lars von Trier's latest effort, and it's a hugely successful one. It stars Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg, with supporting roles played by Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Sarsgard, and John Hurt, among others. All performances are top-notch, giving Trier the perfect raw materials to realize his startling, powerful narrative. This is two-hours of beauty, wonder, and emotional rawness. Enjoy.
Who knew that a show following the life and times of a motorcycle club as it approaches its second coming could be so rich and challenging? Kurt Sutter has created one of the most interesting family portraits in this imagining of life for the SAMCRO crew in calm, crime-free Charming, California. Katey Sagal steals every scene, but leaves plenty of room for the series's other fruitful characters to shine. Watch with patience and soon you'll find how much there is here to enjoy.
Idris Elba makes the perfect emotionally-torn, smokey-eyed, impulsive but smart, truth-seeking, ethically-questionable detective John Luther. This is a series that shocks, thrills, makes you think, and re-imagines (and re-writes) all the relationship conventions of cop-drama television. BBC has just given you another reason to spend the evening at home.
Finally on DVD, last year's Animal Kingdom is a very suspenseful, nerve-wrecking film that puts a lot of unstable, unpredictable, and dangerous players together in a very drawn out game of survival and revenge. Family loyalty is at the heart of it, with Oscar-nominated Jacki Weaver giving one of the most brilliant screen performances ever as the powerful, in-control, merciless momma.
Despite the duds of recent episodes, How I Met Your Mother remains a reliably funny, creative, and smart half-hour comedy. It's a recommended weekly viewing – or a highly recommended beginning viewing. You have almost six completed seasons to enjoy, so if you have some time to kill with a laugh, download or rent HIMYM, and you will most likely be satisfied. Warning: it's a pop-culture inspired, PG, often sentimental show that may not be for everyone.
Many believe the 80s to have experienced a decline in great filmmaking. Sergio Leone's 1984 classic Once Upon a Time in America is one of the great examples of how misleading this claim can be. It wasn't the 70s, but it certainly was a time that produced many incredible, forward-thinking films. Even some of the fluff wasn't so bad and informed many above-average future films. The vast feeling of Leone's film makes for a very emotional, yet simultaneously exciting and suspenseful, viewing experience.
A film offering plenty to the viewer – including sex, music, humor, romance, and drama – this early Mike Nichols flick gives way for some of the best American performances, including a tour de force from then newcomer Dustin Hoffman. It's a movie that delights in any mood and still gives pleasure after many viewings.
Kiarostami's latest invention follows a French woman living in Italy and working as an art dealer as she romances a British scholar who has just published a book justifying the importance and value of the copy. A stunning performance from Binoche, beautiful imagery and framing, and a lulling pace set this film apart.
The concept of revolution is not new. Neither is that of facing foreign-born atrocities and restrictions on one's civil liberties– and having the intelligence, guts, drive, and perseverance to fight against them. This week, I highly recommend you watch this film– for the first time or for a repeated viewing. No one can deny its continuing importance both in cinema and our sociopolitical realties.
Before Terminator, before Aliens, before the big blockbuster science fiction thriller, there was good old low-tech, budget sci-fi entertainment. It was less about the effects (though there were still effects) and more about the ideas behind them. The standards were not as high in terms of production, and the results less entertaining than we are currently used to – however, the stories were often strong and enduring, as we find in these recommended 50s films.
Bong Joon-ho's great crime thriller before he made the sci-fi horror "The Host." You will not be disappointed if you rent this 2003 suspense wonder from one of the decade's best and most promising directors.
I loved two English-language pictures this year, both nominated for the 2011 Academy Awards. I here post my original brief reviews of each, at the time when I first viewed the films a few months back. I still remember them fondly and congratulate them on their Oscar noms.
Here I list just a couple of the network comedies that have brightened up my week and given me faith that networks can at least get half-hour comedies right.
Take a controversial and current movie subject – the Facebook phenomenon –, give it to a seasoned writer – Aaron Sorkin –, hand it off to a smart pop director – David Fincher –, add a perfectly cast and talented young leading man – Jesse Eisenberg –, accompany him with some solid supporting acting, and you got a perfect little drama-comedy that is a joy to watch from head to toe.