Blog

The Good Lie (2014) PG-13

goodlieInspired by the Sudanese civil war that began in the 1980s and the Lost Boys of Sudan, The Good Lie is a beautiful movie. The story begins in Africa, focusing on three noble children—the sons and daughter of the village chief. When Northern Sudanese soldiers kill most of the people in their village, only a small group of children survives. It is then up to their new chief, himself a child, to lead them hundreds of miles across Sub-Saharan Africa to the safety of a refugee camp in Kenya.

Thirteen years later, four young people from this group are happily sent to the U. S. as refugees. They soon discover though that this country is a totally alien place, with its strange customs and mystifying technology. The film then centers on their struggle to adjust, while still maintaining their sense of dignity and humor, their unity and faith. Reese Witherspoon is brilliant here as the put-upon job agency rep, who is assigned to find this odd and skill-less group gainful employment. A bittersweet treat.
Tags:

The Ref (1994) R

refIt’s Christmas Eve and Gus (Dennis Leary) is a burglar whose partner abandons him when their latest heist goes south. He is forced to take hostage Lloyd and Caroline Chasseur (Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis) – who are on their way home from marriage counseling – making them drive him to their home. Slowly, the rest of the family begins to arrive for their annual holiday celebration and Gus pretends to be Lloyd and Caroline’s marriage counselor. Little does he know that he will become the “counselor” for the entire dysfunctional family while he figures out a way to elude capture by the police.

The Ref is a dark comedy that takes the idea of a holiday movie and turns it on its head. The script is biting and sharp. Leary is best known for his sarcastic delivery and shines in the role of Gus. Spacey and Davis also are outstanding as the bickering couple who eventually realize they do love and care about each other. The rest of the cast is top notch and there are a number of well-known actors in cameo or supporting roles: B. D. Wong (Oz; Law & Order) as Dr. Wong, the Chasseur’s original marriage counselor; Christine Baranski (Cybill; The Good Wife) as demanding sister-in-law Connie; and J. K. Simmons (Law & Order; The Closer) as Siskel, the commander of the military school Lloyd and Caroline’s son Jesse is attending (little do they know that Jesse is blackmailing Siskel).

Granted, I know this movie isn’t for everyone. But, if you like dark comedies, a sharply written and delivered script, and something a little different to supplement all the maudlin and saccharin holiday fare that comes on this time of year, give this one a chance. It may just win you over.
Tags:

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

anatomymurderSet in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, this classic courtroom drama features a winning cast of small town characters. Jimmy Stewart plays Paul, the ex-District Attorney who would much rather be fishing or playing jazz piano than practicing law. He is perfectly content with getting by on the odd legal job, but his perpetually tipsy (yet surprisingly astute) sidekick, Parnell, has other ideas. At Parnell’s urging, Paul takes on a local murder case that brings them both out of their semi-retirement.

Other engaging characters abound, including a visiting judge, Paul’s secretary, and of course, the defendant and his wife. These characters along with a well-placed plot, the almost light-and-breezy tone—despite its dark subject matter—and the hip music of Duke Ellington make Anatomy of a Murder just plain fun.

Check out our list of Lawyers in the Movies for other films.

Joyeux Noel = Merry Christmas (2005) PG-13

noelBased on the true series of unofficial ceasefires that occurred along the western front during World War I, Joyeux Noel portrays a truce by Scottish, French, and German troops on Christmas Eve 1914 in the midst of a bloody battle. This is a poignant human interest tale of men at war with each other coming out of the trenches to exchange greetings, sing Christmas songs, and play soccer.

Depending on the nationality of the soldiers, they are speaking in French, German, or English. English subtitles are available.

For other World War I movies see our list of recommended titles.  If you like Christmas movies, see our lists of Christmas Movies and Family Christmas Movies.

Love Actually (2003) R

loveactuallyAlthough this is a movie you can watch any time of year, I always seem to revisit Love Actually in December. Set in London, the film follows eight loosely related couples in the month leading up to Christmas. It’s not all happy endings in this romantic dramedy, but I’d still call this one a feel good movie. One of my favorite moments is Hugh Grant’s dance scene through 10 Downing Street (he plays the prime minister). You’ll see lots of other familiar faces including Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, and Martin Freeman.

In the mood for a Christmas movie? We’ve got a whole list.

Atonement (2007) R

atonementIn 1935 England, 13-year-old Briony witnesses her sister and a young man interact and misinterprets it. Later she tells a lie about a rape and Robbie, the son of a family servant, is sent to prison. Her older sister Cecelia loves Robbie, but the lie changes their lives forever and the consequences are devastating. Three years later, England is at war and the two lovers try to reunite.

Atonement has an excellent cast. Kiera Knightley (Cecelia) has never been better, and James McAvoy (Robbie) is perfect as the wronged lover and soldier. Saoirse Ronan plays Briony. The war scenes are realistic, and the story based on the novel by Ian McEwan is superb.

I’ll See You in My Dreams (2015) PG-13

seeyouinmydreamsBlythe Danner portrays widow Carol Petersen, who is grieving multiple losses. She survives her daily struggles with a little help from her friends (played by Martin Starr, Mary Kay Place, June Squibb, and Rhea Perlman). In I’ll See You in My Dreams, 70ish Danner creates a very warm and realistic character in this first leading role of her career. She proves "tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all."

There Will Be Blood (2007) R

therewillbebloodWritten and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood was inspired by Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil! Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis, who won an Oscar for his leading role) is a self-made oil baron in the booming California oil industry of the early 1900s. Daniel is a cold man with morals that only serve his best interest, success and money being the only two things he cares about.

When Daniel discovers a large oil deposit underground in the small town of Little Boston, conflicts arise, both with his family and the citizens of the town, including a very devout and self-serving preacher boy named Eli (Paul Dano).

There Will Be Blood is a very dark film, as Daniel Plainview’s road to the top of his industry is littered with immorality and dishonesty. Despite the darker tones of the movie, the film itself is gorgeous. It’s no surprise that it won the Oscar for Best Cinematography, as the beautiful shots and sequences in the barren desert landscapes help to tell the story just as much as the wonderful writing.
Tags:

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) PG-13

savingmrbanksSaving Mr. Banks is an engaging drama about Walt Disney's quest to win the movie rights to the classic children's fantasy Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers. Inspired by his daughters' love of the series and motivated by his determined personality, Disney will not relent. Travers (portrayed by Emma Thompson), just as stubborn as Disney, refuses to let her masterpiece succumb to the big screen and most of all, transform into a musical with animated figures. She ignores her grim financial outlook and the encouragement of her agent and remains in seclusion for years.

Finally, she agrees to a short trip to the Disney studio offices in California. Once there, Walt Disney tries everything in his business arsenal to win her over, including a trip to Disneyland. It is finally a very personal insight into both characters that seals the deal. Tom Hanks does an excellent job portraying the many sides of American icon Walt Disney.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015) PG-13

missionimpossibleOnce again, Tom Cruise is great in this fast-paced action adventure movie where he has to save the world. What is different in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is the high suspense situations: Tom and his crew find themselves in trying to save lives and make the world safe again.

Story of G. I. Joe (1945)

storygijoeBased on the columns of popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith), Story of G. I. Joe was released in 1945 at the very end of WWII. The movie follows “C” Company of the 18th Infantry as it fights across North Africa and up through Italy, focusing on a handful of ordinary soldiers and the well-liked Lieutenant Walker (Robert Mitchum). Actual veterans of the Italian campaign, waiting on the west coast for deployment to the Pacific, played extras in the movie.

Check out our spotlight of director William Wellman for reviews of his other war movies. You’ll notice his war films avoid unrealistic heroics in favor of poignant stories of ordinary men under hellish circumstances.

http://ippl.info/showsntunes/?p=2272

The Book Thief (2013) PG-13

bookthiefA wonderful story of a young girl living in Germany during World War II. The Book Thief is a story of how her adoptive family teaches her to read and also teaches her the meaning of what is truly important in life.

Also check out the Markus Zusak novel of the same name, which provided the basis for the movie.

And if you enjoy movies set during WWII, we’ve got you covered: find foreign films, the home front, spy movies, and more.

 
Tags:

Whiplash (2014) R

whiplashIn Whiplash, an intense drama, promising young drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), newly accepted into the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City, is determined to rise to the top of the jazz world. He soon finds himself working under the Conservatory's notoriously tough instructor, Mr. Fletcher. Fletcher (J. K. Simmons) is a dedicated teacher and musician, but is openly abusive towards his students. Andrew must decide the price he is willing to pay to succeed at Shaffer Conservatory and break into the music industry.
Tags:

Jurassic World (2015) PG-13

jurassicworld2In this action movie that is full of adventure, two boys go to visit their aunt who works at Jurassic World, a theme park. When a carnivorous dinosaur escapes, it causes other dinosaurs to run from their territories—which results in huge mayhem. An animal expert (Chris Pratt) takes charge and uses his special skills to save two brothers and all the tourists from the assault of the dinosaurs in Jurassic World.

Honeymoon in Vegas (1992) PG-13

honeymoonvegasI thoroughly enjoyed this madcap comedy starring award-winning actors Nicholas Cage, Jessica Parker, and James Caan. Jack (Nicholas Cage) promises his mother on her deathbed that he won’t get married. After his longtime girlfriend Betsy (Sarah Jessica Parker) gives him an ultimatum, he decides to elope in Las Vegas. Jack loses a high stakes poker game to gambler Tommy (James Caan) and agrees to let Betsy spend the weekend with Tommy to wipe out the debt. He whisks her off to Kauai. There happens to be a convention of Elvis impersonators at the hotel that adds to the wackiness of the film. The Elvis songs played throughout Honeymoon in Vegas add to the enjoyment.

If you like watching Nicholas Cage, you might like Moonstruck.
Tags: