If you're a sucker for a good movie soundtrack, this film is for you. Wright's use of diegetic sound is extremely clever, putting a new spin on the classic car chase film. And, the all-star cast does not disappoint.
Although François Bégaudeau's performance falls a bit flat as he is no professional actor, the reality of the story still shines through. Based on Bégaudeau's real life, I admire his courage in being unafraid to make himself the bad guy. While it's definitely not a "feel-good" film, it's worth the watch for those up for a challenge.
My Life in Pink
1997 Belgium, France, United Kingdom
Quietly revolutionary for its time, Ma Vie en Rose is an inspirational film about finding yourself in the midst of a world that wants to deny you the right to be who you are. Berliner's masterful use of colored lighting highlights Ludovic's duality of self in a subtle, yet purposeful way. If you ever question a child's understanding of themselves and who they want to be, watch this film for a new perspective.
The Way He Looks
Written with the heavy-handed metaphor of Leonardo's blindness, Ribeiro's coming-of-age love story is refreshing and light-hearted. Tackling the subjects of disabilities and coming out with grace, the young actors transport viewers into their world, a world where being who you are isn't as easy as many think.
2015 Ireland, United Kingdom, Greece
In typical A24 fashion, you may walk away from this film unsure of what you have just witnessed. Filled with deadpan humor and morbid absurdity, The Lobster protests society's ideal for relationships. Although the film isn't for everyone, if you're found of the style, you'll leave with a new perspective on how we as a society treat love and loneliness.
2003 United Kingdom, USA, France
My all-time favorite guilty pleasure movie. It's everything you love about the holidays: Christmas parties, surprise love, and happy endings. But don't be fooled---between affairs and forbidden loves, Christmas joy isn't as easy for these couples to find as it seems. If you need a light-hearted rom-com that won't suffocate you with triteness, give Love Actually a chance.
A Simple Favor
2018 Canada, USA
With its star-studded cast who knows what they're doing, A Simple Favor is full of twists and turns. The class oozes out of the film, from Blake Lively's outfits to the copious gin martinis, but the climax itself is certainly no classy affair. Its Gone-Girl-esque nature will leave viewers asking "what did I just watch?" but enjoy it all the same.
2010 United Kingdom, USA
Its Sherlock Holmes as you've never seen him before. Cumberbatch breathes new life into the classic character with his sociopathic, addictive tendencies, Freeman's Watson is more vulnerable and human than ever, and Scott, although shorter on screen time than I had hoped, is the ultimate villain you love to hate and hate to love in what I can only call my favorite acting to date. Each feature-length episode is sure to break your heart but then mend it back together in Gatiss's brilliant way (as he also stars as Sherlock's know-it-all brother). I can see no better way to update this classic into modern times and create characters that force viewers to love them, no matter how flawed and broken they are.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
2000 Taiwan, Hong Kong, USA
Although its nothing like your typical Hollywood combat movie, it is so much better: elegant, visually stunning, and awe-inspiring. The mix of martial arts and mortality creates a cinematic dream that will be left in your mind for weeks to come.. Despite the cinematography's central role, the character development does not disappoint, as the lines between good and evil are blurred. A must watch for any foreign film fanatic.
2012 United Kingdom
Featuring an utterly unrecognizable Jude Law and set inside a theater mimicking the real-world, the absurdity of court performance is highlighted. While it is difficult to unpack an entire Tolstoy novel into a mere 2 hour film, this update is no stranger to the tragedy central to his plot. Although the film may drag on a bit for those who are not period piece lovers and Kitty and Konstantin's love story feels a bit thrown away, the tragic heart of Tolstoy's story remains.
2007 France, USA
I'm not usually one for this style of animation, but something about Persepolis just works; the animation captures everything from her youthful exuberance to her intense loneliness with masterful use of color. Although it features poignant moments from Iranian history, the story is so achingly universal: we have all been Marji. It's definitely a must see.
The Imitation Game
2014 United Kingdom, USA
Benedict Cumberbatch gives a masterful performance, bringing to life the story of a complex man in the world that broke him. Although the focus on Turing's intelligence and the story behind how he cracked the code is intriguing, both the complexities of being a gay man in England at that time and his ultimate demise felt like an afterthought when they were actually the most compelling parts of his story. Maybe Alan Turing's life was simply too intricate to fit into a 2 hour film, but what the film does cover is well-executed.
There are no flashy, over-done moments in "Monsieur Lazhar"--it is a sublimely human drama, more like a character study than a feature film. The simplicity of the film makes it all the more heart-breakingly beautiful. Although the ending is melancholy and even somewhat unresolved (much like our own lives), the viewer feels more hope than sadness as the credits roll.
Unlike many of the necessarily dour documentaries about climate change, "Demain" takes a refreshing approach, focusing on large-scale changes individuals can make to reverse this deadly trend (and yes, we're talking about much bigger fixes than eliminating plastic straws and single use plastic). Although it is a French film, much of the discussions are held in English as Dion and Laurent look for solutions all over the world, making it a must watch for American viewers no matter their level of interest in foreign film. Optimistic yet practical, "Demain" inspired me to lead the charge in climate activism at my own school with its focus on bottom-up decision making. With concrete solutions presented for a variety of causation factors, "Demain" makes me hopeful for the world to come.
2005 New Zealand, USA, Germany
In classic Peter Jackson fashion, the cinematography and special effects reign supreme in this remake. Although I appreciate Jackson's desire to make Kong more than just a maniac beast, adding touches of true emotion and human-like tendencies, the film is still dragged down by the problems of the original film: the giant gorilla is merely a veiled attempt at getting away with portraying the "Buck" stereotype. Until the racial origins of the original film are addressed, there can be no remake that doesn't simply further that narrative, no matter how pretty the picture may be.
The dynamic duo of Cluzet and Sy work together so well in this film. Although it definitely has the characteristics of a buddy film, it sticks fairly close to the true story it's based on and in my opinion, both characters save each other equally. If watched with a critical eye, it still makes for a feel-good film.
2000 United Kingdom, USA
Although somewhat lacking in depth and development, "Chocolat" is a feel-good film that is pleasing to all your senses. Depp and Binoche live up to their superstar names, but in a much more subtle and soft-hearted fashion than usual. Overall, it is a pleasant film filled with charm----not a must-watch, but a good film for a light-hearted afternoon.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2004 United Kingdom, USA
"Prisoner of Azkaban" has a certain charm and edge to it that make it a fan-favorite for unexplainable reasons. The first two Harry Potter films obviously share a similar darkness, but Cuarón embraces that more fully in this film. As always, Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson are incredibly impressive for their age. Plus, who doesn't love watching Hermione punch Draco in the face? Even if you've never watched a Harry Potter film before, whet your appetite with this one (a film that could easily be a stand-alone) and then dive in to the rest of the series if you like it.
The Jungle Book
2016 United Kingdom, USA
This isn't the Jungle Book you watched as a child. In a much more grown-up, complex take on the Disney classic, viewers who grew up with the story will love the background and depth given to the story. Adding to the story's new darkness are the visually stunning effects and animation that immerse you in the same world you remember, but a world that grew up with you.
2001 Australia, USA
It's the movie that spurred a music mash-up phenomenon (yes show choirs, I'm looking at you). The film is filled with excess and chaos but in a way that makes it impossible to look away. Most viewers will leave wondering what in the world they just watched, but will still be thankful for the ride.