The Great Beauty (The Art Theater Co-op): A man named Jep (Toni Servillo) has worked his way into Italy’s social circle for decades because he published one book that was a major success. Now older, Jep happens to meet someone from his past that causes him to take stock of the life he has led.
Why to Watch: I love the idea of this film because it illustrates to the audience who Jep decided to be as a human being and how those decisions affect him now. We all have moments in our lives that we look back on with fondness or distaste, and this movie perfectly illustrates how one man’s life is, to him at least, a work of art. I love the way the film is shot because it is not showing us Jep and taking us through key events. The film visualizes things that mattered to Jep at certain points in his life and explains why. The film transforms the idea of what a biography can be. Instead of asking what is your legacy and how do you want to be remembered, this film chooses to query why will you be remembered the way you are and what if anything do you want to do to change it. A powerful question for a fascinating movie.
The Broken Circle Breakdown (The Art Theater Co-op): This film is the Belgian version of 2010’s Blue Valentine with folk music as its mise-en-scene.
Why to Watch: I have to say what pulls me into movies like these are the fights the couples have. What they choose to argue over and why, to me, demonstrates how and why they love the other person. The passion they have for their own point makes all the difference in movies like these. The story revolves around two people who bond and fall in love because of their shared enjoyment of American folk music. A tragedy befalls them and, much like Blue Valentine, we see events from their marriage. I like snapshots of people’s lives, but I also fear this film may tread on already walked ground. Regardless, the film looks gorgeous, and both the story and its soundtrack are compelling. See it.
A Touch Of Sin (The Art Theater Co-op): This Chinese film involves the destinies of four people as they struggle to survive violence, blackmail, and forms of employment corruption in modern China.
Why to Watch: I’m going to be honest… the trailer of this film tells the audience very little about what the plot is. In this case, that’s a brilliant thing because the director is allowing the images to speak for themselves. We get maybe a sentence out of each of our protagonists, and all we know in the end is that whatever they choose to do causes bloodshed. I love films that tease me—not with a mystery but the lives of human beings. It makes me want to know them, and, at the very least, understand why they feel the emotions the story dictates for them to feel. This film is one that will stay in audiences’ heads for a while. See it, and unravel the human drama for yourself.
The Warriors (The Art Theater Co op): A powerful gangland leader is killed as he is about to foster unity, and an innocent group is targeted for the murder. The Warriors must fight their way from the Bronx to Coney Island. All out war indeed.
Why to Watch: This film is simply a classic. I love how young the actors are because it gives the audience a sense of the apocalypse these gangs live in. Sure the film is violent, but the violence has a purpose. The Warriors are fighting for their right to be human beings because they are mostly hated and feared. They are the best example of youths with a purpose. They want to survive, to be themselves one more day. Isn’t that something worth fighting for?
That Awkward Moment (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): Three male friends trying to decide where their respective relationships are headed.
Why to Watch: Despite the fact that Hollywood is continually refusing to come up with an original concept, this film looks promising. Rising stars Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) and Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now), and former teen heartthrob Zac Efron are three amigos working to understand how to move on to the next steps in their relationships. This film is the rare guy romantic comedy. There are funny moments in the trailers from Teller and Efron, but Jordan doesn’t get a showcasing moment. I think movies like this could be good as long as viewers can learn something from them while enjoying the film. A film worth watch even though you suspect all the guys will get their girls by the time the credits roll.
Labor Day (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet star in a film involving a single mom’s son befriending an on-the-run criminal.
Why to Watch: Kate Winslet. Not enough for you? Well, I like films like this one because it shows that, no matter what your background is, there is almost always someone willing to believe in the good in you. This concept was seen repeatedly in Pay it Forward, Down in the Valley, Monster, and many others. Belief in someone being good is a powerful thing that needs to be on our cinema screens more often. Winslet and Brolin seem to have great romantic chemistry.
I, Frankenstein (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): In the battle of gargoyles vs. demons, the one person who doesn’t take a side is Frankenstein’s monster.
Why to Watch: Aaron Eckhart’s makeup as Frankenstein’s monster looks phenomenal. The visuals are bleak and gothic, which help the films tone. My main problem is I’m not motivated to even like this film because Frankenstein’s monster is neutral in the fight. Will it look great in IMAX 3D? Without a doubt. Will teenagers enjoy it? Sure. Is there something in it for everyone? Not really. Nothing really gives this film any weight or makes me want to read the book this dismal movie is based on.
Frozen (Savoy 16 and Carmike 13): Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, the story involves a young woman who is chosen to be queen but is ostracized because she has the power to freeze things. Her sister is the only one capable of breaking the spell that froze the entire kingdom indefinitely.
Why to Watch: Frozen is the second feature by Disney to be a mixture between hand drawn animation and CGI (the first being Tangled). This new approach worked well for Disney, and it succeeds again here but only because the film has such a strong story to tell. Kristen Bell voices the heroine, Anna, who is out to rescue her sister, Elsa (voiced by Tony winner Idina Menzel). This film again harkens back to the 90s’ Disney feature catalog and reminds us why we love those movies so much. For me, it’s the fact that the characters stand for something and seem like people who could learn from if they existed in reality. Most of the film’s comedic moments are provided by a snowman named Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad). Olaf is a Disney supporting character treasure, and I’d be more than happy to see this film multiple times just for his antics. See this film with the whole family. You’ll have a great time.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): Jack Ryan, an analyst for the CIA is thrust into becoming an operative for the organization after being asked to stop a man who wants to cause the collapse of the American dollar and create a second Great Depression.
Why to Watch: The origins of the Tom Clancy character Jack Ryan that made Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford even more famous than they were in the 90s did not interest me. As I sat and watched Chris Pine’s vision for the character I thought about what connected me with the character. By the time the credits rolled on the screen all I could think of that I loved about the character was his vulnerability. We learn how Ryan got involved with the CIA, but we really only get one scene very early on the film that shows Jack Ryan going through any real emotional struggle. The scene in question involves Ryan’s rehab after an accident where he meets Keira Knightley’s Cathy. Kenneth Branagh, who directs and acts as the film’s villain, shows that he doesn’t know how to film action scenes without quick cuts every 5 seconds. And Branagh’s Russian villain is only a threat once in this film. The rest of his time is used moving the big terror plot along. Reading my review, you’d think this is a bad film. It’s not bad; it’s just I wanted the film to go deeper into Ryan’s emotional turmoil with the fact that he is thrust into being an operative. I wanted the villain to issue and possibly carry out more than one nasty threat. This film could be stronger, but it’s just okay. See it for Pine doing the best he can to make Jack Ryan cool for teenage viewers.
Ride Along (Savoy 16 IMAX and Carmike 13): This comedy centers around a man who goes on a ride along because he wants the approval of his girlfriend’s brother for her hand in marriage.
Why to Watch: Ice Cube and Kevin Hart can be funny. The reason is that their characters are written to play at every strength they have. Ice Cube’s specialty is his witty and biting examination of urban culture a la the Friday franchise. Hart’s strength lies in complaining about how women don’t understand men. The problem with Ride Along is that, while these two have chemistry, Hart is doing all of the comedic heavy lifting–and he’s short, so that’s a huge load on his shoulders. Nothing about this film feels unpredictable or surprising. Despite this fact, I know that it is almost impossible not to laugh at the one-liners Hart uses to deflate the ego of Cube’s tough cop. You know how the movie will end: Hart has to get the girl but the friendship he gains with her brother will be more important. See this film for the jokes told by Kevin Hart because, without them, this film would be dead on arrival.
The LEGO Movie: This movie looks hilarious and fantastic, if you ask me. All of the references to LEGO versions of our favorite characters are brilliant. Having Morgan Freeman as God? Genius. And Batman, voied by Will Arnett! Chris Pratt (of Parks and Recreation) voices the spastic LEGO everyman who has to save the day. All of the Lego characters make this a fun action/adventure movie for everyone, unlike adult swim series Robot Chicken.
The Monuments Men: The story of art experts who went into World War II to save great art from Nazis is notable for many reasons, most obviously because it’s directed by George Clooney. It also has a rock-star cast of supporting actors, including Bill Murray, John Goodman, Cate Blanchett, and Matt Damon. The mission of this team of men and one woman is interesting, but are the characters as strongly built? Only time will tell.
About Last Night: This remake of the 80s-era Edward Zwick classic that once starred Demi Moore and Rob Lowe as a new couple with disapproving friends is now directed by Steve Pink and features an all African American cast. I know this film will be funny because dating has changed so much in the last 28 years. This film is also aided by the fact that Kevin Hart is its lead.