Bad Times at The Royale (2018)

Murder and mayhem are in store for deep characters based on historic figures devoid of characature, set in rich tones inspired by a real locale, steeped in the iconic style of Vintage era without a hint of kitsch, in which music is fully integrated into intricately layered secrets anchored by immaculate cinematography.

The Imposter (2012)

How does a foreign man suddenly end up a U.S. citizen, welcomed into the family of a long- missing child? While it’s impossible to fully understand the grief of those keeping vigil by the window, waiting for a phone call that may never come, it is curious that every expert agrees there are many loose ends. Is it merely that hindsight is 20/20 (as the old saying goes) or is there a more sinister explanation? Though the testimony of an identity thief certainly isn’t everything, it seems to corroborate the suspicion of at least one specialist…

Masterfully crafted, the details of this publicly documented incident are recounted chronologically by a rotation of several family members, some government employees, a smattering of friends/ neighbors and one relentless private investigator. During the lengthier portions of each person’s story, voiceover serves as narration for actors’ portrayals of the events being described. By the end of the film you have about as much information as everyone involved to decide for yourself what you think happened.

Pure Luck (1991)

Could there be anyone with worse luck than otherwise ordinary accountant, Eugene? Actually, yes: the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Valerie who recently went missing. With a chemistry that embodies cinematic fixture, the buddy comedy, detective, Raymond is unfortunately paired with the hapless klutz. Together they endure a series of mishaps, each more wacky than […]

Candyman (1992)

The poster’s striking similarity to Silence of the Lambs led me to believe this was a spoof. At first glance even the premise seems unimpressive: a skeptical person accidentally summons a monster– the tortured soul of a slave, who fathered the child of a powerful man’s daughter. *eyeroll* The more I read– hook for a […]

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.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

Director, Tim Burton’s name alone should give away the tone of this movie, which is an adaptation of a young adult novel inspired by some odd vintage photos its author found at a flea market. It reminds me of Stephen King, not only because it’s a dark fantasy (Burton considers it “a scary Mary Poppins”); the author admits the movie version of his story is better. Screen writer, Jane Goldman tightened it with various character modifications/ amalgamations and plot elucidations.

Perhaps vaguely similar to the founder of Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngster or Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Miss Peregrine nurtures and protects a unique troop of children stuck in a time loop. They’re discovered by an unsuspecting young man on a research trip with his scientist, father. The beauty of this film is both in its minimal use of digital effects as well as in the infusion of subtle details, which are either foreshadowing, references to aforementioned history, or homages to Burton’s prior work, none of which distract from the plot or compromise its consistency.

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.

The Station Agent (2003)

Describing this gently layered story is like recounting an interaction with traveling companions: you kind of had to be there. No explosions or car chases; just a lonely man with dwarfism, who inherits an defunct train station where he is bombarded/ befriended by a succession of neighbors, each of whom arrives in their own way at their own time. The recurring tall and talkative snack vendor, the grieving mother struggling to figure out who she’s supposed to be and the pretty librarian, who might be more trouble than she’s worth each disrupt his solitude until he’s forced to accept they’ve forged a path through his previous meticulous social landscape.