2008

[6] After seeing trailers for this movie, I decided I didn’t want to feel stuck in a jelly bean tornado for a whole two hours and fifteen minutes. But for whatever reason, I finally decided to take a chance on Lilly and Lana Wachowski’s big-budget, big-screen adaptation of a Japanese cartoon. It’s just as ugly as I expected, but under that garish surface, there’s a …

[6] Liam Neeson stars as an ex-CIA operative who pursues sex traffickers in Paris to rescue his kidnapped daughter. Taken opens with twenty minutes of clunky, expository screenwriting before Neeson is allowed to kick things into high gear. He single-handedly rescues this formula potboiler with a performance of fierce determination. Not since the likes of Clint Eastwood has an actor threatened to find and kill …

[8] Angelina Jolie stars in this gripping true story about a woman in 1920s Los Angeles whose young son vanishes without a trace one afternoon. When the L.A.P.D. notify her they’ve found him, she’s shocked to discover the returned boy is not her son. Despite teachers and doctors agreeing with her about the new boy’s mistaken identity, the police won’t continue the search for her …

[7] Writer/director Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri) explores the human side of hit-men in his darkly comic, occasionally horrific feature film debut. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson star as hired guns waiting in idyllic Bruges, Belgium, for their next assignment. Farrell’s character is reeling from accidentally killing a child in his last assignment. He hates Bruges and bickers with Gleeson’s character, who is …

[7] Tom Hardy stars as Michael Peterson, one of Britain’s most notorious prisoners, in this film from director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives). The film starts in 1974 with Peterson’s attempt to rob a post office with a sawed-off shotgun. That stint begins his life behind bars where violent behavior prolongs his sentence. Thirteen years later, he’s released and gets into the world …

[7] Melissa Leo turns in a fierce, memorable performance in writer/director Courtney Hunt’s story of two women who strike up an unlikely partnership smuggling illegal immigrants to make ends meet. After a Mohawk woman from a nearby reservation steals her car to make a smuggling run, Leo decides to join the woman on her next trip. Both women hate what they’re doing, but the Mohawk …

[8] A young German man (an award-worthy David Kross) has an affair with an older woman (Kate Winslet), only to discover many years after the affair ends that she was a guard at the Auschwitz concentration camp. After she is found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison, the man (later played by Ralph Fiennes) still can’t get her out of his mind. …

[8] Frances McDormand and Amy Adams star in this ebullient female bonding flick set in the early 1930s, about a recently fired governess (McDormand) who ingratiates herself into the employment of a ditzy actress (Adams). This film, particularly in its first half, is a serendipitous comedy full of witty dialogue and a dash of slapstick. It moves quickly and I was completely caught up in its spell. When …

[7] The superhero film movement happened in spurts dating all the way back to Richard Donner’s 1978 film Superman: The Movie, but with Iron Man, Marvel Studios declared the genre was here to stay. Iron Man lays groundwork for a greater franchise effort, and indeed, nine years later (this review is written in 2017), that franchise shows no sign of slowing down. For better or for …

[7] Revolutionary Road explores the dark side of marriage, where husband and wife suffocate in the confines of traditional gender roles and start lashing out at one another. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (together again for the first time since Titanic) service the material very well. The movie wisely avoids too much pointed dialogue, which makes it more of an acting (reacting) showcase. I was …

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