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The Matrix (1999) R

51vpnbwfhrl-_sy445_Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker with a somewhat ordinary life…but all is not as it seems.  When government agents suddenly show up at his work looking for him, Neo is forced to enlist the aid of a mysterious man named Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who promises to reveal the true nature of reality—the Matrix.  Should Neo join Morpheus’s secret group?  The Matrix is full of amazing visual effects with a mind-blowing plot that will keep you on the edge of your seat right ‘til the end.

The Stranger (1946)

indexIt’s 1946 and the infamous ex-Nazi Franz Kinzler is living under an assumed name while teaching at an elite private school in small-town Connecticut.  He’s charmed the townspeople, including the headmaster’s daughter played by Loretta Young.  They marry, then Kinzler’s true identity is revealed to her, but is she too blinded by love to see the truth about her husband?

This post-WWII noir classic was directed by and stars Orson Welles.  Fabulous shadow effects, long camera shots, and dramatic angles are hallmarks of Welles’ style and make this movie a visual delight.  The Stranger was nominated for an Academy Award and was the first Hollywood feature film to include documentary footage of the Holocaust.  It’s a must see for lovers of classic noir and fans of suspense. Check out our list of other 1940s Noir Classics too!

Love, Simon (2018) PG-13

91uzbb9mbbl-_sy445_One of my favorite things in the entire world is seeing a book turned into a movie and comparing the two.  I am the girl in the theater who turns to her friend afterward and says, "But they didn't say who the Marauders are!" (Sorry, that's a Harry Potter reference.)  I almost always find the movie to be less than the book.  Love, Simon is the best movie adaptation of a book I've ever seen.  It gives such life to Becky Albertalli's novel, Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda (review here!).  Nick Robinson is perfectly cast as Simon. And any nitpicky things that I thought as I watched the rest of the cast announced (Leah's not how I pictured!) disappeared with Katherine Langford's performance.

Seeing the movie in theaters was like attending a giant slumber party where the whole audience was rooting for Simon and cheering.  At home, it feels comforting and like a true teen rom-com, you're just hoping it will end with a "happily ever after".

Make sure to check out Love, Simon from the library today.

 
 
 

Roxanne (1987) PG

26290332_saThis modern day retelling of Edmond Rostand’s classic Cyrano de Bergerac, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah, is satisfyingly funny. C. D. Bales (Martin) a fire chief in a small town, falls in love with the beautiful Roxanne (Hannah), a visiting astronomer.  Unfortunately, C. D. has an extraordinarily long nose, and Roxanne is smitten with Chris, one of C. D.’s new firemen.  C. D. agrees to help Chris woo Roxanne, even going so far as to feed Chris romantic lines through a one-way radio. But will Roxanne discover C. D.’s true feelings?  This romantic comedy will not disappoint.

Enjoy Roxanne?  We’ve created a list of rom coms (and more rom coms).

Your Name (2017) PG

Your NameIn this beautifully animated movie, city boy Taki and country girl Mitsuha embark on a life-changing journey after waking up one day in each other’s bodies. Both teenagers learn what is important to them as they attempt to deal with swapping back and forth in this vaguely familiar yet completely original coming of age story.

I would recommend Your Name to anyone who appreciates animation, as it is expertly done, blending traditional animation with beautiful hand-painted scenery. It will draw in those who are looking for a bit more in their teen romance stories.

The Death of Stalin (2017) R

deathofstalinOne of the most unique films I’ve seen in a long time is Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin. Fans of the horribly absurd (or the absurdly horrible) will find themselves cringing while laughing through this warped historical comedy. Nikita Kruschev (Steve Buscemi) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) jockey for the top Soviet position after the 1953 death of Joseph Stalin.

Jeffery Tambor sweats up a storm as Georgy Malenkov, Stalin’s nervous-wreck of a second-in-command. With each member of the Soviet politico watching over his shoulder for the other, this satire bites down hard on the realities of tyranny, cruelty, power, and fear. Given the truth underlying the farce, it sometimes felt wrong to laugh, but I found it impossible not to. This dark comedy will make you think and stays with you long after it ends.
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The Shape of Water (2017) R

shapeofwaterGuillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s masterpiece is as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. The cinematography is matched only by Alexandre Desplat’s score that captures and enhances the emotions in each scene. Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who has been mute since she was a baby, works as a janitor at a top-secret government research facility; there, she encounters something that changes the course of her life. At its core, The Shape of Water is a story that questions just what is it that makes us human.

The Shape of Water won four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Original Score, and Production Design) and was nominated in nine other categories.

The Miracle Season (2018) PG

miracleseasonBased on true story, The Miracle Season covers the 2011 Iowa City West High School women’s volleyball team and how they battled back from adversity after losing their team captain, vivacious and effervescent Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh) in an unfortunate accident.

Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) tags senior Kelly Flieher (Erin Moriarty), who was Line’s best friend since childhood, with leading the team after the loss of Line. Flieher battles her own doubts about her abilities to step into Line’s shoes as a setter, and lead the team to a consecutive state title, which they had won the previous year.

William Hurt turns in a strong performance (one of the best of the movie), as Line’s father, Dr. Ernie Found. Kelly is like a daughter to him, and he and she turn to each other and draw strength from each other, he grieving the loss of his daughter and wife and she looking for support because she is taking Line’s place on the volleyball court.

Overall, this was a good, not great, sports movie. I can’t think of any movies that have been made with volleyball as the featured sport, so this film helps to fill that hole. Like most inspirational sports movies, this one tugs at the heartstrings, so if you get emotional do have a box of tissues ready. You are going to need them.

It Could Happen to You (1994) PG

couldhappentoyouCharlie Lang (Nicholas Cage) is a New York cop who doesn’t have enough money for a tip. Yvonne Biasi (Bridget Fonda) is a waitress who can’t catch a break. And yet when a cop offers her the choice of a regular tip or half of the winnings of a lottery ticket, she ends up with $2 million.

It Could Happen to You is a delightful feel-good romantic comedy. In the mood for other rom coms? Check out our list.

The Greatest Showman (2017) PG

greatestshowmanFrom start to finish, The Greatest Showman mesmerizes—from the kaleidoscope of colorful costumes and sets to the catchy musical numbers. It portrays the musical story of P.T. Barnum, magnificently played by Hugh Jackman. The extravaganza starts when he is a poor orphan who falls in love and then marries a girl from a well-to-do, snobby family, Charity (Michelle Williams) and starts a family. Then, he sets out to fulfill his dream of building the greatest show on earth. Barnum hires a dwarf, Tom Thumb, and others with physical abnormalities, such as a giant to attract audiences, but treats them with respect. The moving song, “This is Me”, performed by the bearded lady, Tony nominee Keala Settle, won the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Also, “Rewrite the Stars” sung by Barnum’s business partner (Zac Efron) and an African-American trapeze artist (Zendaya) while performing their own aerial stunts reflects their budding romance in the face of prejudices.

The Greatest Showman is pure entertainment for school-aged children and adults. There is also a sing-a-long version. Check out The Greatest Showman: original motion picture soundtrack to listen to the incredible songs again.
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The Greatest Showman (2017) PG

greatestshowmanA visually stunning original movie musical, The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, and Zendaya. The story follows P. T. Barnum and the origins of the circus, but at its heart, the film is about acceptance and relationships and dreams. Oscar-winning lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the show stopping Oscar-nominated anthem "This is Me" along with so much other memorable music (such as redemption song “From Now On”). After you watch the movie, you’ll definitely want to check out the soundtrack on Hoopla.

Check in next month for Mary S.’s take on the film.
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Phantom Thread (2017) R

phantom_threadIn 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) creates dresses for high society women. He is talented, self-centered, controlling, and oftentimes abusive. His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs his empire and does his dirty work (dismissing his latest muse).

After Reynolds meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), she becomes his assistant, muse, and lover. What he doesn’t count on is that she has an iron will, and will do anything to get her own way. Alma makes a plan to gain the upper hand in their relationship. To make him more vulnerable and needy, Alma laces his tea with poisonous mushrooms. She makes him reliant on her, nursing him back to health.

Phantom Thread won an Academy Award for costume design. The film was nominated in five other categories, including best picture.
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The Florida Project (2017) R

Featuring a cast of mostly amateur actors, and a powerful performance from Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project tells an affectingly real and heartbreaking story.

Taking its title from the original name for Walt Disney World, the film focuses on a six-year-old girl named Moonee and her mother Halley, who live just outside the confines of the amusement park. Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the run-down motel that Moonee and her mother call home (a role that earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards).

While there are moments of levity and humor throughout The Florida Project, the film is, at times, an uncomfortable watch. Not because of any poor directing, acting, or writing; in fact, it is uncomfortable for the exact opposite reasons. The Florida Project presents an unfiltered and amazingly true-to-life look into the effect poverty and dysfunctional family situations can have on young children. Audiences looking for realism, heart, and drama need look no further than The Florida Project, one of the best films of 2017.
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Coco (2017) PG

coco_posterCoco is Disney/Pixar's newest movie out on DVD/Blu-Ray and it is spectacular!

The animation is crisp and immediately grounds the story in modern-day Mexico before whisking viewers away to the Land of the Dead. The colors and details in the Land of the Dead were vibrant and truly captured the celebratory spirit of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos.

And this wouldn't be a true Pixar movie without its heart -- family and love and dreams. And bonus -- soaring music! Seriously, check out the CD (or Hoopla). If you're looking for a family movie, add Coco to your list.

[Fair warning to those who get teary during movies, this was definitely a two-tissue movie for me!]

 

Whale Rider (2002) PG-13

whaleriderShot on location in New Zealand, Whale Rider is a beautiful film about a young girl and the deep love and commitment she has for her family, heritage, and community. Paikea, as it turns out, is prophetically named after the mythical whale rider in one of the legends of her people, the Maori.

In her small village, Pai is being raised by her grandparents, and she has an especially strong bond with her grandad, her beloved Paka. She admires him greatly, and wants to make him proud. Sadly, her Paka, who is also the village chief, desperately wanted a grandson he could train to become chief—someone who will carry on tradition. In the absence of a grandson, he settles for a boy from the village, setting out to find one he can groom. Paka is very reluctant to see that the next chief can be his own granddaughter—until she becomes a whale rider.
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