Little Nikita (1988)

Initially, this didn’t impress me, aside from a riveting car chase. I expected more tech(nology/nique); the Mission Impossible franchise set my expectations higher than I dared to admit. However, I was struck by the emotional component we civilians rarely think about– sleeper spies need family and friends just the same as anyone else. Still, I […]

American Fable (2016)

For this movie–which, on the surface may seem inconsistent– its apt title is key to managing expectations. While there’s not much difference between a fairy tale and a fable, this particular story happens to revolve around a particular incident experienced by a young girl but there’s no magical fairies or romance so speak of, royal or otherwise. To attempt to categorize it by a singular scene would only undermine its darkly fantastical/ enigmatic elements, thus reducing it to a meandering by-product of either a Boy Scouts’ campfire collaboration or the summary of someone’s choose-your-own-adventure book. It deserves consideration as an imaginative story that’s completely rooted in the present rather than a re-imagined folktale adapted for a modern context.

Spinning Man (2018)

There’s surprising depth to this Thriller that borders on Post-Modern Noir about a philosophy professor who lives in an endless loop of moral ambiguity rationalized by the principles that led him to push the limits of his questionable decisions in the first place.

Dave (1993)

There have been brief periods when movies were made strictly for entertainment; you weren’t forced to choose between getting hit over the head with an agenda and indulging an experimental hobby project. Who better to give a chance to showcase their range than Kevin Kline?

A small-town professor moonlighting as a POTUS impersonator faces the mother of moral dilemmas when he agrees to stand in for the real—and comatose—Chief of Staff to avoid wide-spread panic. He later realizes how much power and influence everyone around him wields when he tries to avoid getting tangled in the strings of the political puppet masters, who hired him.

Cameos galore (primarily political figures) are the sprinkles atop a sturdy sundae of seasoned actors, who portray earnest characters out of their element finding their way to a heartwarming crescendo.

Houseguest (1995)

It’s a beautiful thing to watch someone in their element, i.e. the shared enjoyment—even between strangers—of someone’s creativity channeled into a well-crafted project. The most complex humor seems effortless, which it may be in that moment, but is resultant of much practice. If a plot is strong enough to withstand a few deviations from its script, an actor with true improv ability will elevate the believability of his character by using natural true-to-life spontaneity to generate chemistry with his costars. This quick-on-their-feet cast collectively sets the essential stage that allows its lead to shine in this hilarious case of mistaken identity.

Hell or High Water (2016)

The Western genre, a long-standing movie staple, is characterized by a rough-around-the-edges hero, who musters his steely courage in order to exact vengeance. There’s always a small but hardy village standing tough in the middle of a harsh and desolate landscape. Despite its modern context, this movie does not disappoint; especially since, unlike traditional Westerns, the protagonists have realistic flaws. The stakes are high as two brothers, a divorcee and an ex-con start robbing banks out of desperation to save their family’s dying Texas ranch. Not far behind are a couple of old pros, a ranger and his partner assigned to what was expected to be a small time offense. As the lawbreaking escalates, everyone involved quickly realizes their lives are on the line.

City Island (2009)

Loyalty is tricky; eventually, everyone must choose between the bonds of family and their commitment to guarded secrets, whether fledgling, dark, or just plain odd. Though everyone wants to preserve their image, they need someone to come and pull the threads that are already unraveling. And sometimes that person, who has the most for which they should feel ashamed, turns out to be the only one who understands the freedom of truth.

Mildred Pierce (1945)

I liked this movie upon first viewing and have re-watched it since. I should clarify: the original version; while Kate Winslet’s talent is undeniable, remaking a classic film in color serves no purpose. I would, however, be interested in seeing this reinterpreted in a modern context as the themes (e.g. permissive parenting and familial loyalty) are still relevant and need revisiting. History repeats itself, especially when Society fails to pay attention to former generations when they tried to warn us. Some viewers will automatically assume an old movie—particularly one in black and white—is outdated. But its archetypical style is precisely what will induce the connotations necessary to see the film through, such as not being in a hurry to get to the action or the assurance that it won’t rely too heavily upon sequencing gimmicks to explain background information. Ultimately, its enduring legacy can be attributed to superior filmmaking, which includes everything from acting to editing.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988)

So much talent, so little time. One of the numerous highlights of this movie is its timing. Unlike many modern comedies, the actors serve the story, rather than use it to showcase their immature antics, which are only funny when given an equally outrageous context. In this setting, two con artists attempt to outwit each other but both end up getting played. Who gets the last laugh when real-life masters of comedy use their impersonation skills as their characters execute a plot to dupe a wealthy heiress out of her fortune?