Thursday, March 28, 2013

Autumn Preview: 15 Films to Watch For This Season

The world has been moving so fast I forgot all about my proposed Autumn preview. Not to worry, it's not like there has been much decent in March anyways, so I will look ahead to April and May to see what films there are to get excited about. With recent watches of Jack the Giant Slayer, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Hyde Park on Hudson, A Good Day to Die Hard, Mama and The Loneliest Planet, I am hoping the streak of immediately forgettable experiences will end soon.

Much like last year we will find ourselves immersed in the blockbuster season in April with Marvel's newest feature, but in the lead up to Sydney Film Festival in June, will 2013 finally bring us something remotely memorable?

Here are fifteen films released in Australian cinemas in April and May that have that potential:

Trance - April 4 - review by Sam McCosh, An Online Universe

First Position - April 11

Warm Bodies - April 11

Kon-Tiki - April 11

No - April 18

Iron Man 3 - April 24

Antiviral - April 25

The Hunt - May 2

Spring Breakers - May 9

The Place Beyond the Pines - May 9

Star Trek Into Darkness - May 9

Evil Dead - May 9

 That is a lot of heavy-hitters for the one day. 

Byzantium - May 16

Tabu - May 16

The Great Gatsby - May 30

Having already seen Trance and The Hunt and not being a Trekkie nor a big superhero fan, Spring Breakers, The Place Beyond the Pines and then Gatsby are the three I am most anticipating. I am also looking forward to catching Tabu once again.

Release dates are different all over the world, but what are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Releases (28/03/13)

There is another week of high volume releases coming, with G.I Joe: Retaliation, The Host, The Croods, Return to Nim's Island, Rust and Bone, Hyde Park on Hudson and in Vic/Qld/NT Adventures in Zambezia (for NSW/SA/ACT it hits screens April 11) hitting cinemas. Throughout March the line-ups have not only been unflattering, but have usually contained at least five new films.

Rust and Bone - A struggling single father helps a beautiful whale trainer recover her will to live following a terrible accident. Lonely and destitute, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) leaves the north of France for his sister's house in Antibes after becoming the sole guardian of his estranged five-year-old son Sam. When Ali lands a job as a bouncer in a nearby nightclub, things quickly start to look up for the itinerant father and son. Then one night, after breaking up a fight in the club, Ali meets the radiant Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), and slips her his number after dropping her off safely at home. Though Stephanie's position on the high end of the social spectrum makes romance an unlikely prospect for the pair, Marie finds her reaching out in desperation to Ali. Her spirit broken, Stephanie gradually finds the courage to go on living trough transcendent moments spent with Ali -- a man with precious little pity, but an enormous love of life.

Hyde Park on Hudson - In June 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray) and his wife Eleanor (Olivia Williams) host the King and Queen of England (Samuel West and Olivia Colman) for a weekend at the Roosevelt home at Hyde Park on Hudson, in upstate New York - the first-ever visit of a reigning English monarch to America. With Britain facing imminent war with Germany, the Royals are desperately looking to FDR for support. But international affairs must be juggled with the complexities of FDR's domestic establishment, as wife, mother, and mistresses all conspire to make the royal weekend an unforgettable one.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Review: Hyde Park on Hudson (Roger Mitchell, 2012)

The 1939 visit of King George VI (Samuel West) and his wife, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman), to the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s (Bill Murray) country estate in Hyde Park, New York, was a media circus and a significant event in the strengthening of American-British relations on the eve of World War II. This is the setting of Hyde Park on Hudson catalogued via the unique perspective offered by Daisy (FDR’s sixth cousin) and civilian observer who becomes [one of] FDR’s mistresses. This could have made for quite an effective character study. But, Hyde Park on Hudson is simply an unfathomably dull film.

Linney’s voice-over narration – inspired by the posthumously published letters or her then-secret relationship with FDR – has far too much bearing on everything, but as Daisy wasn’t dining with the royalty, nor in the room when FDR and the King talk, doesn’t have conviction. As a result, we feel like we are watching exactly what Daisy is telling us, however true that may be. Daisy is such a meek, naïve character – lured into an affair with President, believing it to be love – that her devastation at the realization that he’s not only a married man, but that she’s not his only mistress, does not evoke any sympathy. Almost every sequence lacks energy and there are few cinematic qualities. If one were watching this tale in their living room, it would still be tedious sit. It is relatively pleasant, mind you, but unlikely to stir even a single emotion.

Continue Reading at Graffiti With Punctuation.

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Releases (21/03/13)

Opening in cinemas this week we have A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack The Giant Slayer, Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai, The Loneliest Planet and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God - Oscar winning filmmaker Alex Gibney examines the abuse of power in the Catholic Church through the story of four courageous deaf men, who in the first known case of public protest, set out to expose the priest who abused them. Through their case the film follows a cover-up that winds its way from the row houses of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, through the bare ruined choirs of Ireland's churches, all the way to the highest office of the Vatican.

A Good Day to Die Hard: Bruce Willis reprises the lead role of John McClane, who travels to Russia to help his estranged son, Jack (Jai Courtney), out of prison, but is soon caught in the crossfire of a terrorist plot.

Jack the Giant Slayer: Tells the story of an ancient war that is reignited when a young farmhand unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants. Unleashed on the Earth for the first time in centuries, the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing the young man, Jack (Nicholas Hoult) into the battle of his life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom, its people, and the love of a brave princess, he comes face to face with the unstoppable warriors he thought only existed in legend-and gets the chance to become a legend himself. Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men), working with a team of screenwriters (including regular collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, Jack Reacher), brings to the screen a new mammoth-budget 3D version of the fairy tales ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. With battle sequences too violent for the little kids and a story far too silly to keep adults interested; Jack the Giant Slayer is likely to suffer from no-mans-land marketing odds.

The Loneliest Planet - Alex and Nica are young, in love and engaged to be married. The summer before their wedding, they are backpacking in the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia. The couple hire a local guide to lead them on a camping trek, and the three set off into a stunning wilderness, a landscape that is both overwhelmingly open and frighteningly closed. Walking for hours, they trade anecdotes, play games to pass the time of moving through space. And then, a momentary misstep, a gesture that takes only two or three seconds, a gesture that's over almost as soon as it begins. But once it is done, it can't be undone. Once it is done, it threatens to undo everything the couple believed about each other and about themselves.

Hara Kiri: Death of A Samurai: From visionary auteur Takashi Miike comes the story of a mysterious samurai who arrives at the doorstep of his feudal lord, requesting an honorable death by ritual suicide in his courtyard. The lord threatens him with the brutal tale of Motome, a desperate young ronin who made a similar request with ulterior motives, only to meet a grisly end. Undaunted, the samurai begins to tell a story of his own, with an ending no one could see coming. With stunning cinematography and gripping performances, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is a thrilling exploration of revenge, honor, and individuality in the face of oppressive power.

Weekly Recommendation: From what I have heard about Mea Maxima Culpa it seems to be the pick of the week. The subject matter is harrowing, the injustice addressed sure to be maddening, but I take it to be essential viewing. The Loneliest Planet has also received largely positive reviews, and if featured amongst several Top 10 lists from 2012. Hara Kiri is beautiful visually, and often distressingly moving, but it is far less exciting than Takashi Miike's best work. Jack the Giant Slayer is not recommended viewing, and judging from the reaction to the new Die Hard, I wager you can skip that one too. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Don Scardino, 2013)

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone is genuinely terrible. 

Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carrell) immediately fell in love with the magical craft when given a Rance Holloway (Alan Arkin) magician starter kit during his childhood. Burt finds a young partner in crime in Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi), and grows up to live his dream. They become the most famous magician pairing on the Las Vegas strip. But, after a number of years at the top, with fame and wealth to show for, the friendship has begun to fall apart. A feud has developed as Burt’s ego continues to grow and without fresh material their ticket sales are floundering. They also face tough competition from Steve Gray (Jim Carrey) an unpredictable showboat street magician whose outrageous self-abusive stunts have caused a sensation on television and the Internet. When Burt finds himself jobless and partner less, he is forced to rediscover the passion he has misplaced.

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Alliance Francaise French Film Festival Review: Sister (Ursula Meier, 2012)

Sister, co-written (with Antoine Jaccoud) and directed by Ursula Meier (Home), is about the lengths a hardened youngster is willing to go to maintain that much-desired family foundation.

Set against the mighty beauty of the Swiss Alps the small-scale story follows Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein), a capable and intuitive young boy trying to provide for himself and his irresponsible older sister Louise (Lea Seydoux, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), by pilfering skis, gloves, goggles, money and food from the rich tourists at the ski resort up the mountain. The invisible masked marvel slips within the vacationers, and hauls everything down the mountain remarkably inconspicuously. In the valley tower complex where they live he sells his stolen wares to the richer local kids, and swindles the seasonal workers. Louise comes and goes, jumping between men (but her upgrade from a jerk in a Volvo to a Mr. Red BMW suggests her taste is improving), but is grateful of anything he brings in. The money doesn’t last long and though the pair co-exists, they rarely connect. When Simon’s mountain missions get increasingly dangerous, and the family secrets begin to reveal themselves to others, this bleak and atmospheric drama hits emotional resonance.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Review: Jack the Giant Slayer (Bryan Singer, 2013)

Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, X-Men), working with a team of screenwriters (including regular collaborator Christopher McQuarrie, Jack Reacher), brings to the screen a new mammoth-budget 3D version of the fairy tales ‘Jack the Giant Killer’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. With battle sequences too violent for the little kids and a story far too silly to keep adults interested; Jack the Giant Slayer is likely to suffer from no-mans-land marketing odds.

Having been in various stages of development since 2005, it tells the familiar story of the farm boy, played by Nicholas Hoult (A Single Man, Warm Bodies), who acquires giant beanstalk-sprouting magic beans, faces off against a man-eating giant and makes several perilous ventures up and down the beanstalk to bring stolen wealth to his family. Here, a bedtime story passed from parent-to-child about a war that once raged between humans and giants becomes the catalyst for further exploring the giant’s realm, and establishing grounds for their descent on earth when free from human control.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

New Releases (14/03/13)

New to cinemas this weeks: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Mama, In The Fog, War Witch, Performance and Mt. Zion.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - Superstar magicians Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have ruled the Las Vegas strip for years, raking in millions with illusions as big as Burt's growing ego. But lately the duo's greatest deception is their public friendship, while secretly they've grown to loathe each other. Facing cutthroat competition from guerilla street magician Steve Gray (Jim Carrey), whose cult following surges with each outrageous stunt, even their show looks stale. But there's still a chance Burt and Anton can save the act-both onstage and off-if Burt can get back in touch with what made him love magic in the first place.

Mama - Guillermo del Toro presents Mama, a supernatural thriller that tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their mother was murdered. When they are rescued years later and begin a new life, they find that someone or something still wants to come tuck them in at night. The day their father killed their mother, sisters Victoria and Lilly vanished near their suburban neighborhood. For five long years, their Uncle Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his girlfriend, Annabel (Jessica Chastain), have been madly searching for them. But when, incredibly, the kids are found alive in a decrepit cabin, the couple wonders if the girls are the only guests they have welcomed into their home.

Review: The Paperboy (Lee Daniels, 2012)

The Paperboy, Lee Daniels’ follow-up to his 2009 two-time Academy Award winning drama, Precious, premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Adapted by Daniels and Pete Dexter from Dexter’s 1995 novel ‘The Paperboy’, this sordid Southern backwater murder mystery is set in South Florida in the late 1960’s. A conceptually trashy work, it poses a lot of challenging questions, and amidst dealing with wrongful justice, civil rights and racism, sexually charged assault, professional betrayal, cold-blooded murder and inappropriate relationships it harks back to sleazy 70’s exploitation films and surprisingly centres focus on a young man’s journey from a directionless paper delivery boy to our increasingly hardened hero.

When Jack Jansen’s (Zac Efron) older brother Ward (Matthew McConaughey), an investigative reporter for the Miami Times, returns to their hometown with his British associate Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo), he is hired to be their driver and assistant. At the behest of Ms. Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) they are investigating the murder of a sheriff and attempting to prove that Hillary Van Wetten (John Cusack), a repulsive swamp-dweller, was wrongly convicted. Charlotte has been in written correspondence with Hillary and has since fallen in love. Inexplicably, as they are yet to meet one another (her visits allow the others to tag along and make inquiries), they have made plans to marry as soon as he is released. But, as the investigation ensues, it is clear that there are some sinister secrets tied to this case and as tensions rise between Jack and Yardley and as Jack begins to fall in love with Charlotte, he finds himself immersed in a situation out of his depth.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: In the Fog (Sergei Loznitsa, 2012)

I first watched In the Fog at last year's Melbourne International Film Festival. This review first appeared in my diary coverage.

In the Fog, directed by Ukranian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa, is a sparse, minimalist war drama that premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, winning the FIPRESCI Prize. Set on the German occupied western frontiers of the USSR in 1942. The extraordinary opening shot sets the tone for the rest of the film and establishes that three men have been hung by the Nazis as punishment for being saboteurs. A fourth member of the railroad unit, an innocent man named Sushenya (Vladimir Svirskiy), is mysteriously let go, but not before being offered a deal to collaborate with the Nazis.

Though he refuses, he is still let go, but once rumour spreads that he may have cut a deal with the Germans and betrayed his comrades, two partisans turn up at his house, prompt him to bring a shovel and escort him into the forest. A twist of fate leaves Sushenya alive and one of his escorts wounded, and faced with a moral dilemma he continues to save not only his own dignity, but also those in his company. We are privileged to flashbacks of the stories of each of the three central characters, and learn why Sushenya was hunted.

It is incredibly stark, grim and atmospheric, and comparable (though far less impacting) to Elem Klimov's 1985 masterpiece, Come and See, but it's a drawn-out slow burner which does begin to drain a viewer's attention. There are some very powerful scenes and the photography is absolutely sublime. The hypnotic, lengthy takes compel, and Sushenya's story - which includes him carrying death on his shoulders like his own cross - is the most haunting. Loznitsa's film is a powerful psychological study of murky moral decisions, being forced to come to terms with guilt and the decision on whether to maintain one's honour or simply give up. In the Fog is a film I will never ever revisit, because the narrative is so methodical and stretched out, but this is a language of filmmaking with plenty to admire.

My Rating: ★★★

Trailer: Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon)

Below is the trailer for Much Ado About Nothing, definitely my favourite trailer of 2013 so far. It is Joss Whedon's adaptation of William Shakespeare's play of the same name. It received positive reviews from TIFF last year, but no date for Australian release yet. My friend Tom Clift is quoted in the trailer. 

Check it out:

Friday, March 8, 2013

2013 Blind Spot Series: Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1955)

The great Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr), regarded by many to be one of the greatest filmmakers to ever work, returned to filmmaking following Day of Wrath (1943) and Two People (1945, later disowned by Dreyer, having made it during Swedish exile) the decade prior, to make Ordet [The Word], his second-to-last feature (preceding Gertrude) and his only film in the 1950's. Adapted by Danish pastor Kaj Munk from his own play, Dreyer was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and Ordet is now regarded as one of the most powerful films ever made about the themes of love, faith, spirituality and the presence of miracles.

Ordet centers around the Borgen family in rural Denmark. The devout widower Morten (Henrik Malberg), patriarch of the family, prominent member of the community, and patron of the local parish church, has three sons. Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen), the eldest, has no faith, but is happily married to the pious Inger (Birgitte Federspiel), who is pregnant with their third child. Johannes (Preben Lerdoff Rye), who went insane studying Kiekegaard, believes himself to be Jesus Christ, and wanders the farm condemning the faith of those around him, including the new pastor of the village, who pays the family a visit on several occasions. The youngest son, Anders (Cay Kristiansen), is in love with Anne Petersen (Gerda Nielsen), the daughter of Peter (Ejner Federspiel), the local tailor and the leader of of a Christin sect. Following Anders' refused proposition by Peter, Morton - formerly against the marriage - protests the refusal, viewing it as a dishonour to his family. Their conflict, Johannes disillusionment and the approaching birth of Inger and Mikkel's child culminates in a stunning finale.

Having seen The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr prior to this experience, my interest in Ordet was piqued when I was watching A Story of Film and saw Dreyer and this film feature heavily. What is extraordinary about Ordet is that for even a viewer with absolutely no religious beliefs, it presents the possibility that miracles can happen. The varying faiths, or lack of, present within these characters clash with one another, and it isn't until the conclusion where we see just how united a group of disparate people can become. I can't think of a film I have seen, perhaps with the exception of Ingmar Bergman's pair of Winter Light and Through a Glass Darkly, that deals with the power of spirituality and faith in such a profound way.

Monday, March 4, 2013

New Releases (07/03/13)

In what is not a particularly interesting week of films, we have six films hitting cinemas this Thursday - Oz: The Great and Powerful, 21 and Over, Broken City, Barbara, Great Expectations and Blinder. Barbara, which won a Silver Bear at last year's Berlin Film Festival, has been well received, while I quite enjoyed Sam Raimi's prequel to The Wizard of Oz. The rest remain unseen.

Oz: The Great and Powerful - Disney's fantastical adventure, directed by Sam Raimi, imagines the origins of L. Frank Baum's beloved wizard character. When Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics, is hurled away from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he's hit the jackpot-fame and fortune are his for the taking-that is until he meets three witches, Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams), who are not convinced he is the great wizard everyone's been expecting. Reluctantly drawn into the epic problems facing the Land of Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it is too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity-and even a bit of wizardry-Oscar transforms himself not only into the great wizard but into a better man as well.
Barbara - Winner of the Best Director prize at this year's Berlin Film Festival, the latest film from Christian Petzold is a simmering, impeccably crafted Cold War thriller, starring the gifted Nina Hoss - in her fifth lead role for the director - as a Berlin doctor banished to a rural East German hospital as punishment for applying for an exit visa. As her lover from the West carefully plots her escape, Barbara waits patiently and avoids friendships with her colleagues, except for Andre (Ronald Zehrfeld) the hospital's head physician, who is warmly attentive to her. But even as she finds herself falling for him, Barbara still cannot be sure that Andre is not a spy. A film of glancing moments and dangerous secrets, BARBARA paints a haunting picture of a woman being slowly crushed between the irreconcilable needs of desire and survival. Germany's official Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film.

Review: Oz: The Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi, 2013)

Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spiderman Trilogy) makes a return to screens taking us back into the magical realm of Oz where a small time magician named Oscar Diggs (James Franco) plays a reluctant role in swaying a raging battle between good and evil. Inspired by L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this serves as a visually striking prequel to the events in Victor Fleming’s 1939 film, with Raimi successfully evoking giddy nostalgia while incorporating a winning collaboration of cutting edge CGI/3D technology while honouring ancient cinematic inventions and formats. It is not only colourful and inventive, but features some well-drawn characters and powerful performances and provides enough laughs to entertain the whole family.

Oz: The Great and Powerful opens in Kansas in stunning black and white imagery within the 4:3 ratio utilised during old Hollywood. We are introduced to Oscar as he prepares backstage for his magic show. He bullies his loyal technical assistant, Frank (Zach Braff), and flirts with a new female colleague. When his illusions impress the awe-struck crowd, a young girl requests he use his powers to cure her inability to walk. When he refuses, his goodwill is angrily challenged, leading to a hasty hot air balloon escape. Taken up in a destructive storm and tornado, he finds himself emerging into a fantasy realm – cue colour and format change to widescreen – later revealed to be Oz.

It is here that he learns about the Wizard prophecy and his foretold and expected arrival. Led along the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City by good witch Theadora (Mila Kunis), in the company of Finley (voiced by Braff), a flying monkey he rescues along the way, Oz is offered immense fame and riches by her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) if he destroys the wand of a banished wicked witch. When he meets Glinda (Michelle Williams) he learns that he has been the subject of manipulation and has to team up with the people of Oz and use every trick up his sleeve to stop the reign of evil.

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Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: Side Effects (Steven Soderbergh, 2013)

Believed to be the last Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Magic Mike) directed film to have a theatrical release before his now-announced retirement, his compelling new thriller Side Effects features Soderbergh’s recognisably clinical stylistic qualities, with the prolific filmmaker once again teaming up again with writer Scott Z. Burns (Contagion).

Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) has become clinically depressed during the four-year period her husband Martin (Channing Tatum, Magic Mike) has been imprisoned for insider trading. Seeming to struggle with Martin’s attempts to re-assimilate and start up a new business, Emily inexplicably drives her car into a wall in what is believed to be a suicide attempt. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law, Anna Karenina), a psychiatrist and pharmaceutical consultant, is assigned by the state to Emily’s case. His prescribed medication doesn’t work, and during their sessions he begins to realise that Emily is a very troubled young woman. On the advice of Emily’s former psychiatrist, Victoria Siebert (Catherine Zeta Jones, Chicago), Banks decides to prescribe her an experimental drug, Ablixa. When one of the unexpected side effects results in a violent incident it prompts a thorough investigation into all parties involved.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

Monthy Round-Up: February Viewing

 In February I watched a total of 32 films. A heap of French Film Festival screeners, and interestingly, a pair of John Hughes classics for the first time.  I also watched three Steven Soderbergh films - The Limey and his new thriller Side Effects for the first time, and Contagion for the second. Re-watching Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained were my top cinema experiences, along with West of Memphis and Cloud Atlas. The films I have written a feature review for have a link. For the others I have supplied brief thoughts (Tweet/Letterboxd reviews).

New-to-Me Films (In Order of Preference)

---------Essential Viewing---------

West of Memphis (Amy J. Berg, 2012)

Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

Cloud Atlas (Tom Tykwer, Lana and Andy Wachowski, 2012)

The Limey (Steven Soderbergh, 1999) - Stylish, moody revenge/crime drama edited to economical effect. Great dialogue and an intense performance from Terrence Stamp.

The Breakfast Club (John Hughes, 1985) - Five teens from different social circles confront their insecurities and find unexpected friendship in 80's Hughes classic. Found it substantially more dramatic than expected, with the character's individual transformations endearing. Great performances.

Sixteen Candles (John Hughes, 1984) - A forgotten birthday results in a less than memorable day for Sam (Molly Ringwald), but while desiring the attention of popular hunk (Michael Schoeffling), she catches the eye of a geek (Anthony Michael Hall) and over the course of a night - and a wild post-dance house party - their plights influence one another in unexpected ways. Genuinely hilarious, and featuring some great characters and dialogue, this rambunctious coming-of-age comedy was a lot of fun.

We Own the Night (James Gray, 2007) - Crime drama as focused on character/family as drug war. Gray constructs impressive set pieces (including stunning car chase). Joaquin Phoenix is terrific.

 La Jetee (Chris Marker, 1962) - Trippy, contemplative sci-fi about memory and the mechanics of time has a terrific idea and unique, innovative execution.

---------Essential Viewing---------