My friend Gilbert G. and I compiled a list of movies from recommendations made by The Atlantic, Colider and Variety. They are on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Enjoy!
Atlantic Magazine recommends movies below:
ARCHIPELAGO (2010, DIRECTED BY JOANNA HOGG)
Joanna Hogg broke out in American art houses last year with her wonderful autobiographical work The Souvenir, but she’s been making terrific indie films for years. Archipelago might be her best. A quiet drama, it sees Edward (played by Tom Hiddleston, a year before Thor catapulted him to fame) gathering with his family on the remote British island of Tresco after quitting his job to travel the world. Many long-simmering tensions boil to the surface; Hiddleston (who is in most of Hogg’s movies) gives one of his best screen performances, and Hogg depicts subtle, polite infighting with humor and insight. No filmmaker has a better handle on the ridiculous foibles of the English upper-middle class.
DOWN WITH LOVE (2003, DIRECTED BY PEYTON REED)
This knowing throwback to the “no-sex sex comedies” of the late ’50s and ’60s (like the Doris Day–starring Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back) was too clever for its own good on release. But it’s a fabulous, entertaining, and singular creation, both celebrating and subverting the innuendo-filled rom-coms of yesteryear. An impeccably styled Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor star as lifestyle writers who form a friendly rivalry in 1960s New York. Sarah Paulson and David Hyde Pierce round out the cast, and Peyton Reed (who had just directed Bring It On in 2000) plays off the visual language of his source material in stylish, innovative, and cheeky ways. When you watch, be sure to stick around for the fantastic musical number over the closing credits.
KILLING THEM SOFTLY (2012, DIRECTED BY ANDREW DOMINIK)
Killing Them Softly is Andrew Dominik’s brutal follow-up to his painterly revisionist Western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Also starring Brad Pitt, Killing Them Softly takes George V. Higgins’s hard-boiled ’70s crime novel Cogan’s Trade and updates it to the present day, following a mob robbery that goes wrong and the assassin (Pitt) hired to clean everything up. Dominik turns the web of competing criminal interests into a broad metaphor for the quagmire of the Iraq War. Killing Them Softly may have been too weird and slow for general audiences (it’s one of the few movies ever to earn an F on CinemaScore). But it’s bleakly funny and impressively acted by a cast that includes James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and Ben Mendelsohn.
Watch it on: Netflix
PREMIUM RUSH (2012, DIRECTED BY DAVID KOEPP)
David Koepp’s bike-messenger thriller is far more robust than that description might suggest. Set on New York’s crowded streets, it follows Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a deliveryman who picks up a package that’s tied to a criminal conspiracy; soon enough, he’s being chased around town by a crooked cop, Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon), who’s intent on taking him down. The story is told with unrelenting silliness, and Koepp translates Wilee’s brash confidence about weaving in and out of traffic into a visual roller-coaster ride. The highlight, though, is Shannon’s performance—he turns Monday into a living Looney Toon, gnashing his teeth and bulging out his eyes in fury with abandon.
Watch it on: Vudu, Prime
WHAT IF (2013, DIRECTED BY MICHAEL DOWSE)
Also known as The F Word (its title was changed in America for obvious reasons), this extremely charming slow-burn rom-com was unfairly overlooked on release. It follows two people (Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan) who become friends but spend the entire time wondering if they’d be better off as lovers. Many relationship hijinks ensue, but the movie works because of the performances at its center, along with energetic supporting turns from Adam Driver and Mackenzie Davis, who were both on their way to bigger, franchise fame.
Watch it on: Prime
ADDICTED TO LOVE (1997, DIRECTED BY GRIFFIN DUNNE)
All of Griffin Dunne’s films (including the delightfully bizarre Practical Magic) deserve more appreciation, but Addicted to Love is a personal favorite of mine, a largely forgotten romantic comedy that satirizes gooey Hollywood storytelling tropes. It casts Meg Ryan and Matthew Broderick, two stalwarts of the rom-com genre, as a bitter pair united by a hatred of their respective exes, who are now dating each other. Ryan and Broderick spy on their former partners and, of course, eventually fall for each other, but the film never sacrifices its acidic tone, even as their relationship turns tender.
Watch it on: Vudu, Prime
Variety Recommendations on Netflix:
Once Upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone entered John Ford’s Monument Valley for parts of his fourth spaghetti western, a revenge tale that casts the all-American leading man Henry Fonda as a stone-cold killer and heavy Charles Bronson as his vengeful adversary. The sundrenched epic eulogizes the frontier on the brink of industrialization and features a gorgeous Ennio Morricone score.
Clint Eastwood turns San Francisco into a cop’s playground of criminal activity in this nasty classic. Two sadists on opposite sides of the law duke it out with a backdrop of magnificent location photography.
Lupin the Third: The Castle of Cagliostro
The Studio Ghibli catalog will be available on HBO Max when the service debuts later this year. For now, those looking to get their fix of Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki need look no further than this manga adaptation. The acclaimed filmmaker debuted with this fleet caper about charming rogues unraveling a counterfeit money conspiracy, slipping through secret passageways and running along rooftops of a mysterious medieval castle.
Monty Python’s Life of Brian
Galvanized by the Christian establishment at the time of its release, the British comedy group’s hilarious spin on the tale of the Messiah follows the misfortune of Jesus Christ’s nextdoor neighbor after he’s mistaken for our Lord and Savior. In the wake of Monty Python member Terry Jones’ passing, it’s good to heed the words “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Indiana Jones series
All four entries of Harrison Ford’s blockbuster franchise are available to stream on Netflix. Between the God-fearing awe of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the striking mean streak of “Temple of Doom,” the dad-loving buddy comedy of “Last Crusade” and the Atomic Age spin of “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” each film has a personality all its own, but they all share the elegance of Steven Spielberg behind the camera.
The Evil Dead
Few horror movies take as much pleasure in torturing their characters as Sam Raimi’s cabin-in-the-woods classic. Wiry camerawork and ear-splitting sound design set the tone before the bodies begin to dissolve in a bubbly blend of make-up and stop-motion.
Blade Runner: The Final Cut
Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece arrived on the platform earlier this month in its most renowned form. Burdened with obstructive narration and a reshot ending upon release, “The Final Cut” elides those unnecessary studio notes and calcifies the strengths. It remains one of the supreme sensory pleasures of the medium, filled with rain-drenched neon and waves of warm synths.
Prince’s star vehicle builds a drama about artistic determination out of a remarkable soundtrack, crescendoing with a moving, eye-popping performance of the titular power ballad.
She’s Gotta Have It
Spike Lee’s romantic comedy organizes the story of a woman happily juggling three sexual relationships around the ambiguity and contradictions between the characters’ differing perspectives. The vibrant and confident early work was the inaugural winner of best first feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. More recently, Lee adapted it into a Netflix original series.
Paris is Burning
This vital documentary chronicles the personal stories and cultural influence of the 1980s ball culture scene, featuring stunning drag performances and interviews with the African American, Latinx, gay and transgender individuals who were drawn to this community.
Jonathan Demme followed up his best picture-winning “The Silence of the Lambs” with this legal drama about a gay man suing his employer for firing him due to his AIDS diagnosis. Filled with arresting stylistic flourishes and steadfast in its compassion for its characters, the film earned Tom Hanks his first Oscar for best actor.
As Good as It Gets
It’s a testament to Jack Nicholson’s charm that he has secured a legacy as a beloved movie star while largely being cast as jerks and pigs. He’s at his most prickly here, playing a misanthropic author who instinctively insults anybody who gets too close to him. The transformation of this squirmy comedy about New York City oddballs into a captivating romance is pure sorcery.
The Talented Mr. Ripley
In a landmark performance, Matt Damon stars as Tom Ripley, a young man lying his way through Europe’s smug high society. As his aliases begin to contradict, his attempts to twist his identity in the hopes of finding a sense of belonging are utterly wrenching in their desperation and nail-biting in their blatant disregard for others. Co-stars Jude Law, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow and Philip Seymour Hoffman turn in equally delicious performances.
The Matrix trilogy
Lilly and Lana Wachowski’s ground-breaking sci-fi series looks like something of a miracle now. The dense alchemy of wire-work kung fu, anime compositions and cyberpunk grunge almost becomes difficult to fully appreciate in the moment since it’s so easy to get caught up in its imagination. Blockbuster filmmaking is rarely as optimistic and open-hearted as it is here. Catch up on the original trilogy now before Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss return for the belated fourth entry in May 2021.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Ang Lee’s stab at wuxia renders flying swordfights as romantically as its ripping love story. Twenty years later, it remains the highest grossing foreign language release at the domestic box office.
Kung Fu Hustle
Few movies are as enthused by the infinite possibilities of filmmaking as Stephen Chow’s slapstick comedy. With each successive superhuman duel, the movie continues to reinvent both its sense of humor and laws of physics.
Julie & Julia
Intercutting between the rising stars of legendary chef Julia Child in the 1950s and an aspiring food blogger who idolizes her, Nora Ephron’s final film rhapsodizes the beauty of reforming oneself through creative outlets. It also features plenty of mouth-watering cooking scenes.
Karyn Kusama spins an awkward dinner party into a nightmare in the Hollywood Hills in a high-wire act balancing grief, suspicion and deception.
The Edge of Seventeen
Hailee Steinfeld shines in this coming-of-age tale about a teenage girl who begins to spiral when she discovers her best friend and her older brother are dating.
Hot off of their holiday hit “Uncut Gems,” directing duo Josh and Benny Safdie’s previous work has been added to Netflix. Maintaining the same manic pinball energy of its successor, the wild ride stars Robert Pattinson as a hustler lying his way across the tristate area to make bail for his brother after their bank robbery goes awry.
Korean director Lee Chang-Dong returned to filmmaking after eight years with this tale of a frustrated farmhand’s envy and fascination for his crush’s cryptic new boyfriend. Beginning as a patient love triangle, the film becomes tense as it’s gradually overcome by the tunnel vision of its protagonist and his unhealthy fixation on the other two dominates his life.
The Other Side of the Wind
Perhaps the oddest of Netflix’s original projects, the streaming platform commissioned a restoration and completion of Orson Welles’ unfinished send-up of Hollywood, creating a final cut by drawing from the filmmaker’s notes and consulting star Peter Bogdanovich. Thought to be lost for many years, the result is a wily and magisterial addition to Welles’ body of work.
Last year, Mati Diop became the first black woman to direct a film in competition at the Cannes Film Festival with this debut feature. A young Senegalese girl loses her lover at sea when he attempts to immigrate to Spain. Before long, ghosts begin to appear in the town, taking possession of their loved ones to haunt the tycoon employer that withheld their pay for months. Diop’s command is formidable, as she convincingly synthesizes the material reality of the region’s impoverished population with the supernatural qualities of the romance.
Colider’s Recommendations for Best Movies Streaming on Hulu
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Writers: Bong Joon-ho and Jin Won Han
Cast: Sang Kang Ho, Lee Sun Kyun, Cho Yeon Jeong, Park So Dam, Lee Jung Eun, and Chang Haye Jin
The latest movie from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is an absolutely masterpiece from start to finish. Parasite revolves around a family of squatters that discover a wealthy family they can con their way into by passing themselves off as knowledgeable employees. To say any more would ruin the many twists and turns the films take as Bong dances a high-wire act of tones and genres yet never once loses his balance. The film is a wonder to behold as it incisively looks at income inequality and class differences. Bong has never shied away from complex social issues before (his previous films include Snowpiercer and Okja), but he’s never been more incisive and cutting than with this delectable satire. The film picked up four Oscars including Best Picture, so you’ve run out of excuses for avoiding this one. – Matt Goldberg
Director: William Oldroyd
Writer: Alice Birch
Cast: Florence Pugh, Cosmo Jarvis, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank, Paul Hilton, and Gold Rosheuvel
If you want to see the film where Florence Pugh gave her breakthrough performance, you’ll need to watch this twisted drama. The film takes place in 19th-century rural England and follows a young bride who has been sold into marriage, but begins a torrid affair with a worker on the estate. Although it has period trappings, Lady Macbeth is a delightfully nasty piece of work with an unforgettable turn by Pugh who lives up to the “Lady Macbeth” of the title even though the movie isn’t based on Shakespeare’s famous play. The film will keep you hooked as you see how far Pugh’s bride is willing to go to follow her desires in a world that would prefer she be treated as property. – Matt Goldberg
Support the Girls
Director/Writer: Andrew Bujalski
Cast: Regina Hall, Haley Lu Richardson, James LeGros, and AJ Michalka
Andrew Bujalski‘s terrific 2018 movie follows a day-in-the-life of Lisa Conroy (Regina Hall), a hardworking manager of a Hooters-like sports bar trying to get her staff the support they deserve despite all the indignities they have to face just being women in the modern world. The film is deeply empathetic towards its characters and people in the service industry in general, but handles its themes with a light touch so that the subject matter never comes off as preachy. Instead, Bujalski expertly taps into the emotional wavelength of these characters, turning them from subjects in a story about working class women into flesh-and-blood people that you deeply care about. Support the Girls is a funny and movie indie you won’t soon forget. – Matt Goldberg
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Writer/Director: Céline Sciamma
Cast: Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino
Were it not for the cultural powerhouse that is Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire would have certainly been the international film darling of 2019. And for good reason, Céline Sciamma‘s entrancing love story is a spectacular and transfixing drama that sweeps you up in a subtle, seductive affair with quiet ferocity and leaves you consumed by subtle secret glances and whispered confessions. It is a lovely movie; poetically scripted and sumptuously shot, transporting you entirely to its brief, beautiful world apart on a wind-swept island where two women might find a moment of true love in an era that demands it be kept a secret, and thus, ever more delicious. — Haleigh Foutch
Fighting with My Family
Cast: Florence Pugh, Nick Frost, Lena Heady, Dwayne Johnson, Vince Vaughn, Jack Lowden, Olivia Bernstone
Florence Pugh had a hell of a year in 2019, culminating in an Oscar nomination for her scene-stealing work in Little Women. But before the awards tour, and before the horrors of Midsommar, Pugh kicked the year off strong with the absolutely delightful wrestling comedy Fighting with My Family. Written and directed by Extras and Life’s Too Short co-creator Stephen Merchant, the film is inspired by the life of real-world wrestling star Paige and chronicles how she was raised in a family of wrestling fanatics and went from smalltown gigs with the fam to dominating the ring on an international stage.
You don’t have to be into wrestling to dig the heck out of this movie (I’ve never seen a full match and I loved it — so did my mom and pretty much everyone else I’ve talked to for that matter), though you might find yourself inclined to watch some once its over, but Fighting with My Family is just a classic feel-good sports movie with a heck of a lot of charm and a knockout ensemble cast that includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson himself and Vince Vaughn giving his most charismatic performance in ages. — Haleigh Foutch
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Director/Writer: Angela Robinson
Cast: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, Oliver Platt, and Connie Britton
This 2017 true-story drama about the real-life inspiration for the character of Wonder Woman was kind of buried, but make no mistake: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is fascinating, emotional, and downright sexy to boot. Luke Evans stars as William Moulton Marston, a professor and researcher who works alongside his wife (played by Rebecca Hall) at Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges in the 1920s and 30s. The two enter into a controversial polyamorous relationship with a student, played by Bella Heathcote, and the intense femininity of both women inspire Marston to create the character of Wonder Woman—which he would also then use to further ideas of DISC theory and feminism. This is a surprisingly complex story for a biographical drama, and one you definitely have not seen before. – Adam Chitwood
The Cabin in the Woods
Director: Drew Goddard
Writers: Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Fran Kranz, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, and Bradley Whitford
The Cabin in the Woods is one of the most inventive and entertaining horror films ever made. The 2011 feature was basically Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon’s way of calling out the horror genre for being lazy, as they crafted a stereotypical story of a group of college kids who go to a remote cabin in the woods and are terrorized by supernatural forces. But there is much more than meets the eye here, as there also exists an underground bunker from which these terrors appear to be controlled. What do we consider entertainment and why? Why do horror tropes persist despite being tired and lazy? The Cabin in the Woods answers these questions full-on while also being incredibly entertaining, funny, and yes, genuinely scary. – Adam Chitwood
Knives and Skin
Writer/Director: Jennifer Reeder
Cast: Kate Arrington, Tim Hopper, Marika Engelhardt, Grace Smith, Grace Etzkorn, Kayla Carter, Alex Moss, James Vincent Meredith
The first time I saw Knives and Skin was on a screener link, and I sat in a hotel room cackling to myself, absolutely falling in love with Jennifer Reeder‘s surreal coming-of-age noir/musical/drama. The second time was in a crowded festival screening, and the chorus of laughs from the audience made me realize that while Knives and Skin may be a bit of bizarre film that’s not to everyone’s taste, it’s also one of the strangest little crowd-pleasers out there. The film follows the citizens of a small town as their lives, lies, and facades fall apart after a teenage girl goes missing, but Reeder takes a familiar logline and makes it entirely her own with her neon-soaked, hyper-feminine aesthetic and off-kilter, unforgettable characters. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, existentially heartbreaking, and sometimes it even sneaks in a capPella music breaks that will make you want sing-a-long and join Reeder’s singular, intoxicating song. — Haleigh Foutch
A Simple Favor
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Jessica Sharzer
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, and Andrew Rannells
One part Hitchcockian thriller, one part broad comedy, and one part full-on David Fincher, the 2018 movie A Simple Favor kind of defies categorization, but believe me when I say it’s absolutely delicious. Anna Kendrick plays a single mother with a habit for vlogging who suddenly gains fame and attention when her stylish and mysterious new friend, played by Blake Lively, goes missing. Bridesmaids and Spy filmmaker Paul Feig stretches his thriller muscles here but also laces the entire film with a biting wit and extremely dark comedic sensibility that makes it wildly entertaining as well as super engrossing. You’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next, but each twist is a darn delight. – Adam Chitwood
Good Will Hunting
Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won Best Original Screenplay for their 1997 feature that served as a breakthrough film for both actors. Damon stars as Will Hunting, a math genius with a dark past and a violent temper who works as a janitor at M.I.T.. As a condition of his probation and to work with a Harvard professor (Stellan Skarsgard), Will agrees to therapy with Sean (Robin Williams), a psychologist who helps Will deal with his baggage. While the film never met a monologue it could refuse, Gus Van Sant‘s movie retains its charm thanks to its strong performances (Williams won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor) and endearing characters. Over 20 years later, Good Will Hunting is still a solid drama that’s worth your time. How do you like them apples? – Matt Goldberg
The Art of Self-Defense
Writer/Director: Riley Stearns
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Alessandro Nivola, and Imogen Poots
Riley Stearns crafts a scathing satire about toxic masculinity with one of the best films of 2019. The story follows Casey (Jesse Eisenberg), a meek and timid man who gets mugged one night while walking home. Resolved no longer be a victim of the things that scare him, Casey takes up a local martial arts class taught by the enigmatic Sensei (Alessandro Nivola). However, the deeper that Casey gets into Sensei’s world, the more dangerous and violent things become. The Art of Self-Defense is a masterful and darkly comic examination of the appeal of violence, especially to men who may have good intentions but whose fears draw them to destructive acts. – Matt Goldberg
Director: Olivia Wilde
Writers: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, and Katie Silberman
Cast: Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, and Will Forte.
Don’t go into Booksmart expecting just Superbad but with teenage girls. Yes, the movie is hilarious and yes it’s surprisingly heartwarming, but Olivia Wilde’s directorial debut manages to speak with a voice all its own rather than just being an imitator. The plot follows best friends Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) on the night before graduation where they’re trying to find a party so they can prove to their classmates that just because they’re overachievers, that doesn’t mean they’re boring people. The cast is stacked with young talent who could easily prove to be the A-list stars of tomorrow, and Wilde proves she’s a directing talent to watch as she brings a sharp eye to the story and a lot of empathy for the characters. Don’t miss one of the best comedies of 2019. – Matt Goldberg
Director: Sean Anders
Writers: Sean Anders and John Morris
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, Isabela Merced, Gustavo Escobar, Julianna Gamiz, Octavia Spencer, and Tig Notaro.
Don’t be fooled by the milquetoast marketing: Instant Family is a movie that will honestly pull at your heartstrings and still make you laugh with some edgy humor. Based off the experiences of director and foster parent Sean Anders, the movie follows married couple Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) who decide they need to pull themselves out of a rut by fostering three children. What makes Instant Family work so well is that it doesn’t shy away from how hard fostering can be and how hard parenting can be. And yet it never becomes so in love with its own message that it can’t make time for some sharp jokes and observations. It’s a magnificent balancing act that also brings awareness of fostering to a more mainstream audience. – Matt Goldberg
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Writer: Jack B. Sowards
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kirstie Alley, and Ricardo Montalban.
The good news about The Wrath of Khan is you do not need to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy it. If you’re a Trek fan, it certainly enriches the experience, but the stakes are simple: Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) feels old and out of place in the universe, and then an old foe from his past, Khan (Ricardo Montalban) resurfaces with a weapon that could wipe out the galaxy, so it’s up to Kirk to stop him. It’s a story about the sins of the past, learning how to lose, and making the ultimate sacrifice. Wrath of Khan is not just a great Star Trek movie. It’s a great movie, period. – Matt Goldberg
The Skeleton Twins
Director: Craig Johnson
Writers: Craig Johson, Mark Heyman
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson, Ty Burrell, Boyd Holbrook
Here’s the first thing you should know about The Skeleton Twins — despite a cast line-up that includes Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ty Burrell, and Luke Wilson, and despite the wildly misleading poster touting “Very Funny” in bold, enlargened letters, it is not a comedy. It is, on occasion, very funny, but for the most part, the film is an honest look at the pits of depression made bouyant by the talent of its leading actors. Wiig stars as a woman on the verge of choking down a handful of pills when she’s interrupted by a call informing her that her twin brother (Hader) has been admitted to the hospital for his own suicide attempt. What follows is the process of watching two very broken people try to heal together in a film that eschews conventional portrayals of mental illness in favor of something much more sincere. – Haleigh Foutch
If you like your superpowered stories on the serious side, you should definitely give Fast Color a shot. Julia Hart’s movie takes place in a near-future dystopia where water is scarce and it hasn’t rained in eight years. Into this picture, we see three generations of women who have the power to deconstruct and reconstruct matter, which becomes a potent symbol for trying to repair the broken bonds between them.
While serious superhero movies like Logan and The Dark Knight earn acclaim, Fast Color is equally worthy of recognition as it uses the mold of an indie family drama to explore initiate bonds that we feel may be broken beyond repair but just need work to heal. Anchored by three excellent performances from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint, and Saniyya Sidney, Fast Color is a movie that you shouldn’t let fly under your radar. – Matt Goldberg
The Nightingale Writer/Director: Jennifer Kent
Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Damon Herriman, and Sam Claflin.
I imagine a lot of viewers won’t make it past the disturbing and harrowing first act, which is a shame, because director Jennifer Kent isn’t going to dark places simply to get a rise out of her audience. She’s doing it to explore the depths of vengeance and if there’s any way out other than a cycle of violence where everyone ends up dead. Thankfully, her critique avoids simple reduction and makes clear that, as per usual, white men are usually the cause of such a cruelty and violence. At some point the film is practically screaming at the audience, “NEVER ROMANTICIZE COLONIALISM!” But this is the world of white supremacy–casually cruel, vicious, and incapable of any empathy except for itself. Kent knows how to traumatize her audience, but her world still contains depth and empathy, which makes The Nightingale such a powerful experience, especially when you have phenomenal performances from leads Aisling Franciosi and Baykali Ganambarr. – Matt Goldberg
Director: Todd Douglas Miller
Todd Douglas Miller marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing with a riveting documentary that takes you right back to 1969 as the world watched the pinnacle of human achievement. Obviously, everything was documented extensively at the time, but Miller and his team did an incredible job of restoring the footage to make it look pristine and immediate. He then weaves it all together by doing away with talking heads and narration and instead relies solely on editing and time stamps to bring you as close to the mission as possible. Apollo 11 is a riveting ride from start to finish that may not be as extensive as other documentaries but is perhaps the most immediate look at NASA’s historic accomplishment. – Matt Goldberg
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Writer/Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Cast: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, and Vanessa Kirby
The Mission: Impossible franchise has solidified itself as—pound for pound—the best franchise running right now, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout marks the greatest installment yet. Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie crafts not just one of the best action films ever made, but one of the best films of 2018 bar none. This film delivers everything you’ve come to expect from the Mission franchise—a dynamic team, jaw-dropping action, and plot twists and turns—but also mixes up the series in a unique way by going internal. For the first time, audiences are invited inside the heart and mind of Ethan Hunt, which results in a surprisingly emotional viewing experience that’s all the better for it. Henry Cavill is magnificent, Rebecca Ferguson continues to thrill, and Tom Cruise has never been better. See this big and loud. You won’t regret it. – Adam Chitwood
Up in the Air
Director: Jason Reitman
Writer: Sheldon Turner and Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, Vera Farmiga, and Danny McBride
Filmmaker Jason Reitman made waves with his debut feature Thank You For Smoking and followed that up with a Best Director Oscar nomination for Juno, but his 2009 film Up in the Air remains one of his best. The film arrived in the midst of the U.S.’ economic recession and taps into the zeitgeist in a very real way with the story of a man (George Clooney) who works for a Human Resources firm and travels the U.S. to enact employee terminations. He’s shadowed on his travels this time around by a wide-eyed idealist (Anna Kendrick) and strikes up a relationship with another frequent traveler (Vera Farmiga). The drama digs deep into issues of impermanence, fear, and empathy, as Clooney’s character prides himself on never creating lasting relationships, only to find that’s the thing he desires most. It’s moving and quite handsome in its craftsmanship, and it earned Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, and Screenplay. – Adam Chitwood
The Sisters Brothers
Director: Jacques Audiard
Writers: Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Riz Ahmed, and Jake Gyllenhaal
The new movie from Jacques Audiard (A Prophet) follows brothers Charlie and Eli Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly), who are hired guns in the old west who must kill off a prospector (Riz Ahmed) that has a valuable formula for mining gold. I caught The Sisters Brothers at TIFF 2018 and it was easily one of my favorite movies of that year’s festival. It’s tough to make a genre like the western feel fresh, but Audiard pulls it off by jumping between tones without ever losing the thread of his movie. The film is as turns silly, somber, strange, and reflective, but it all feels cohesive rather than jarring. The performances are all excellent with Reilly serving as the standout with his melancholy turn as an assassin who just wants a quiet, simple life. – Matt Goldberg
Writer/Director: Ike Barinholtz
Cast: Ike Barinholtz, Tiffany Haddish, Nora Dunn, Chris Ellis, Jon Barinholtz, Meredith Hanger, Carrie Brownstein, Jay Duplass, Billy Magnussen, and John Cho
With this directorial debut, Ike Barinholtz crafts a sharp satire of America during the Trump Era with all the political divisions that entails. The film takes place in an America where everyone has until the day after Thanksgiving to sign a loyalty oath. Liberal couple Chris (Barinholtz) and Kai (Tiffany Haddish) push back against such an oath, but they’re more concerned with having to deal with a politically fractious family during Thanksgiving. The holiday becomes even more chaotic when two federal agents (Billy Magnussen and John Cho) come to the house asking questions.
What makes The Oath such a delight is that Barinholtz isn’t trying to hold up his liberal character as the one who has all the answers, but rather showing a spectrum of beliefs that inevitably leads to heated arguments with no easy answers. Although the movie gets progressively darker as it goes along, Barinholtz never loses sight of the comedy that makes The Oath a scathing satire. – Matt Goldberg
A Quiet Place
John Krasinski seriously upped his game as a director with the terrifying A Quiet Place. But what makes the movie work so well isn’t the monsters or even the scares, but that Krasinski is really telling a story about a family dealing with grief and survival. The plot centers on a family living in a post-apocalyptic dystopia where the Earth has been ravaged by creatures who track their prey by sound. The family has learned to live in silence, but the emotional tensions threaten to rip apart their safety. A Quiet Place is certainly scary and uses silence and a lack of dialogue brilliantly, but it thrives thanks to the strength of the relationships and how the cast is able to wordlessly show their bonds and conflicts. – Matt Goldberg
The 2018 Oscar winner for Best Documentary demands to be viewed on the biggest and best TV you have available. Directors Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi chronicle Alex Honnold’s attempt to become the first person to ever free solo El Capitan. What “free solo” means is to climb without the assistance of a rope, special equipment, or a partner. It’s incredibly dangerous, difficult, and requires perfection from the climber. Aside from the breathtaking shots the directors are able to capture, the film gets into some interesting questions about mortality and what it means to live life. Is Honnold being reckless with his assumption that if we could all die at any time, he should at least risk his life at something he loves? And if so, what does he owe to his friends and loved ones? He’s a fascinating figure at the center of a heart-pounding documentary where one false move could mean the difference between life and death. – Matt Goldberg
Writer/Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac
Annihilation is not a sci-fi action movie, but it’s so much better than that. The new film from Ex Machina director Alex Garland is a cerebral, horrifying look at self-destruction, decay, and coming to grips with both. Natalie Portman plays a biologist who, along with a team of fellow scientists, goes to investigate an unexplained phenomenon called “The Shimmer” in order to find out what happened to her husband (Oscar Isaac). The imagery in the movie is stunning, and it features some truly horrifying creatures. At times the film plays like “What if Kubrick and Tarkovsky had a baby, and that baby made The Thing?” It’s riveting, mesmerizing, and an experience you won’t soon forget. – Matt Goldberg
Sorry to Bother You
Writer/Director: Boots Riley
Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover, Steven Yuen, and Armie Hammer
It’s best to go into Sorry to Bother You as cold as possible, but if you need to know the brief synopsis, it follows Cassius Green (Lakeith Stanfield), a young black man who discovers he’s a wiz at telemarketing when he puts on his “white voice”, but as he starts becoming more successful, he begins to compromise his values. But that’s just the basic premise of Boots Riley’s scathing satire on race, capitalism, art, masculinity, and commerce. It’s not a film that works 100% of the time, but its ambition is undeniable and the film is at turns hilarious, damning, and completely bonkers. – Matt Goldberg
The Prince of Egypt
Directors: Brenda Chapman, Steve Hickner, and Simon Wells
Writer: Philip LaZebnik
Cast: Val Kilmer, Ralph Fiennes, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, Jeff Goldblum, Danny Glover, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren, Steve Martin, and Martin Short
The reason why Prince of Egypt isn’t a bigger film have nothing to do with the quality of the film, since the movie is excellent. The problem is that it awkwardly landed in the space when animated movies were moving from 2D to 3D (and 2D movie released after Toy Story had a hell of a battle) and the hype was at the level of The Lion King, which probably set an unreachable bar. But taken on its own merits, The Prince of Egypt is a lovely film that wonderfully tells the Exodus story of Moses (Val Kilmer), who must turn against his adopted brother Ramses (Ralph Fiennes) by demanding the freedom of the Jewish people. Filled with great music and stunning animation, it’s worth giving The Prince of Egypt a second chance. – Matt Goldberg
Director: Michael Lehmann
Writer: Daniel Waters
Cast: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker, Penelope Milford, Glenn Shadix
Before Heathers: The Musical introduced a new generation to Veronica Sawyer and the dangers of Jason Dean, Michael Lehmann’s 1998 high school comedy took a deep dive into the murky, murdery depths of teen nihilism. Winona Ryder stars as Veronica, a quick-witted student desperate to escape the vapid clique of “Heathers” destroying her teen dream, who winds up in deadly territory when she teams with the stone-cold gorgeous school sociopath (Christian Slater) to get rid of them. Heathers is raucous and provocative, not to mention endlessly quotable, with depth of commentary on social hierarchy and the high school experience that make it such an iconic film. You don’t have to look too hard to see how Heathers changed the teen move genre and inspired a wave of comedies to come; from Jawbreaker to Mean Girls, plenty of films carried on in the tradition of sharp-mouthed adolescents who play rough, but no one did it better or with more venom than Heathers. — Haleigh Foutch
Minding the Gap
Director: Bing Liu
Bing Liu crafts a personal, heartbreaking, and revelatory documentary that follows him and his two friends in their rust belt town of Rockford, Illinois. Bing, Zack, and Keire bonded over their love of skateboarding, but through Minding the Gap, we see the toll that abuse and limited options have taken on their lives. It’s not an easy movie to watch, and yet I wouldn’t categorize it as a “downer” since it’s done with such honesty and unflinching approach even as the friends start to break apart and go down their own separate paths. It’s a true coming-of-age story with all the turmoil and hope that entails, and it makes Minding the Gap an absolutely engrossing experience. – Matt Goldberg
Director/Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, and Dan Stevens
Nacho Vigalondo sneakily made a brilliant movie about alcoholism and toxic masculinity, and then hid it in a giant monster movie. Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, a woman whose life has pretty much fallen apart due to her drinking problem, so she goes back home to try and piece everything back together. But she discovers when she goes to a local playground at a specific time of day, a kaiju appears in South Korea and start wreaking havoc. If you can get on board with the concept, you’ll find Colossal to be a pretty ingenious movie about destructive behaviors. Hathaway and Sudekis, who plays Gloria’s childhood pal who now runs a bar, are tremendous, and while it may seem like a strange movie, it plays perfectly with some wicked twists and turns. – Matt Goldberg
Ingrid Goes West
Director: Matt Spicer
Writers: David Branson Smith and Matt Spicer
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Elizbaeth Olsen, Wyatt Russell, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Pom Klementieff, and Billy Magnussen
Hilarious and surprisingly moving, Ingrid Goes West stars Aubrey Plaza as a lonely, unstable young woman who, after fixating on “lifestyle guru” Taylor Soane’s (Elizabeth Olsen) Instagram, models her social media life after Sloane’s and moves to California to become her best friend. While the premise may sound like it gets worn out fast, Spicer keeps twisting and turning the plot in fascinating directions, and the performances from Plaza and Olsen are spectacular, with O’Shea Jackson Jr. stealing scenes left and right at a Batman-obsessed landlord. Plaza in particular delivers the best performance of her career, a turn that’s hilarious, terrifying, and deeply sad. – Adam Chitwood
Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Director / Writer: Taika Waititi
Cast: Sam Neill, Julian Dennison
Taika Waititi’s delightful film Hunt for the Wilderpeople is full of quirky humor, but it is never glib in the face of its often intensely emotional material. Instead, it’s a beautiful dance between the two, as the New Zealand-set story follows something of an inverted Anne of Green Gables, as the young Ricky Baker (Dennison) is taken in by foster parents to help out on their farm. Though he starts to connect with the more overtly loving “Aunt” Bella (Rima Te Wiata), he ends up spending most of the movie with “Uncle” Hector (Neill), as part of a mutual and begrudging acceptance that they need each other more than they care to admit.
The story is part adventure tale and part family drama, yet even in its wilder moments it balances these disparate parts in a wonderfully entertaining way (including a national manhunt, a faked death, and an almost New Wave-like series of vignettes within the story itself). Waititi’s sensibilities as a writer and director here lean towards the bombastic and comedic, but the movie does its best work in the quiet moments. Even the most bizarre turns never distract us from how deeply we end up feeling about this weird little kid and his surly new father-figure out in the New Zealand bush. — Allison Keene
Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo
Writers: Katsuhiro Ôtomo, Izô Hashimoto
Cast: Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama, Mitsuo Iwata, Tesshô Genda, Yuriko Fuchizaki, Johnny Yong Bosch, Cam Clarke
If you’re looking for a gateway anime feature, Akira’s about as good as it gets. It’s a strong introduction, for sure, owing to the manga adaptation’s mature themes and animation, so if you’re making a transition from Disney or Pixar … hold onto your butts. This thing grabs you by the optic nerve from the get-go and never lets go.
This cyberpunk/biopunk pic is set in the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo in 2019. Ôtomo’s anime adaptation of his own work is a more focused effort than the manga, shortening the timeline and narrowing the range of characters to just a few. The story follows biker gang leader Shōtarō Kaneda and his efforts to prevent his newly super-powered pal Tetsuo Shima from reawakening the massively destructive psychic, Akira. The title character takes on more of a background role in the film but the mystery surrounding his history is a powerful force throughout. Akira is a seminal entry in the trend that brought Japanese anime to the West and helped to establish the art form internationally. Its raw power, unmistakable nods to Japan’s tragic history, and incredible artistry make Akira a must-watch for movie fans everywhere. – Dave Trumbore
Director: Craig Gillespie
Writer: Steven Rogers
Cast: Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, Sebastian Stan, Julianne Nicholson, Paul Walter Hauser, and Bobby Cannavale
Biting and acerbic, I, Tonya is a powerful, thoughtful, and surprisingly funny look at how notorious figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) never got a fair shake. Best viewed with the 30 for 30 documentary The Price of Gold so you can see how accurate I, Tonya really is, Craig Gillespie‘s movie zeroes in on the fact that Harding didn’t make herself a victim, and yet she was abused throughout her life, first by her mother LaVona (Allison Janney in an Oscar-worthy performance), then her husband Jeff (Sebastian Stan), and finally by the public at large.
What’s refreshing about I, Tonya is that it doesn’t make Harding out to be a martyr or a saint. She’s not exactly “likable”, but what the film asks from us is to understand where she came from and how she got a raw deal. It’s the kind of story we weren’t telling in the 90s because we were too busy ridiculing Harding, and the great well of empathy the movie has for her is astounding. Thankfully, the movie never becomes sappy thanks to the electric performances, a sharp tone, and Coen-esque humor. I, Tonya may not give Harding a “second chance”, but it shows she never really had much of a chance at all. – Matt Goldberg
Director: Travis Knight
Writer: Christina Hodson
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendenborg Jr., Pamela Adlon, Jason Drucker, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux
After six installments of all-out Bayhem, the Transformers franchise got a revamped spinoff from LAIKA boss Travis Knight with Bumblebee and it’s charming as all get-out, giving everyone’s favorite sweetheart Autobot his own solo adventure with a retro flourish. Hailee Steinfeld stars a teenage grease monkey in the 80s, who’s desperate for her own car and happens to wind up in the possession of one decommissioned Bumblebee. Naturally, the pair set out on a mission to save the world when some pesky Decepticons come into play, along with a hyperpatriotic agent (the always welcome John Cena) who wants the otherwordly menace gone. Heavily riffing on the Amblin films of the era its set in, Bumblebee is sweet as could be, with a healthy balance of well-constructed action scenes to keep the Transformers spirit alive. — Haleigh Foutch
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Writer/Director: Dean DeBlois
Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Craig Ferguson, F. Murray Abraham
The How to Train Your Dragon trilogy comes to a bittersweet conclusion with How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. The final entry in the best series produced by DreamWorks Animation has Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless facing off against Night Fury hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), but the real conflict is with Hiccup wrestling with what leadership means and what he’s prepared to sacrifice to protect both his people and the dragons. The Hidden World is about the hard choices we face with growing up and falling into the gulf of what we want to happen and what needs to happen. Paired with gorgeous animation and another rousing score from John Powell, The Hidden World is a fond farewell to a lovely story. – Matt GoldbergPrevious ArticlePrevious Article The One-Minute Cure: The Secret to Healing Virtually All Diseases by Madison Cavanaugh