MostlyFiction.com BOOK REVIEWS

 

Movies!

Visual Fiction

Recommending movies is a logical extension for MostlyFiction.com since most are just another form of fiction and many do start their lives as short stories and novels. As such, here is quick list of movies that I recommend. Be forewarned that I like anything written & directed by John Sayles, think Johnny Depp is the most versatile actor in Hollywood and I also like Billy Bob Thornton movies; on the other hand I can't sit through even a preview that features Jim Carey, nevermind the whole movie. Though I think Harrison Ford can't act and just plain don't like Tom Cruise and there is something about Tom Hanks that bugs me, I don't let them get in the way of seeing a movie I want to see. For the "fairer" sex, I think Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett are both credible actors and I like most roles they choose. I can't think of any female actress that I avoid, but let me think on that one a bit.

I do not distinguish those movies with subtitles from those without, because, in my experience, subtitles really don't detract from the movie and if you eliminate movies with subtitles then there aren't a whole lot of good movies left to watch. I also like Sci-Fi and Romantic Comedies, but am picky about what I recommend.

New movies will be added to the top of the lists as they are discovered. And hopefully, I can add in more pages of recommend movies from the other reviewers.
-- Judi Clark, MostlyFiction.com Editor


Stay - Absolutely brilliant reality bender written by David Benioff. NY Psychiatrist Sam Foster tries to stop troubled art student Henry Lethan from committing suicide. I'd watch this again just for the visuals.

Croupier - Struggling writer Jack Manfred lands a job as a croupier through a tip from his father. As Jack writes his book as he does his job and we are kept guessing until the very end as to how it all turns out.

The Illusionist - Excellent romantic thriller set in 1900s Vienna starring Edward Norton.

The Science of Sleep -A science fiction romance set in France. Probably best seen twice.

Dead Like Me - I'm so hooked on this series! George, "the toilet girl" is killed when she is 18-years-old in a freak accident. Now she's a grim reaper.

Weeds - I couldn't imagine how they could make a whole series out of a mom-turned-drug-dealer after her husband's sudden death. But Showtime did it is done quite well.

Lost -Since everyone raves about this TV show, we thought we'd give it a try, without commercials. Sorry, but this show "lost" me on Disc 2 when they have a Iraqi guy torture one of the survivors. Excuse me?! - Torture is not an acceptable way to get answers; moreover, I think they have the wrong nationality doing the torturing. And, since when would a doctor watch, without intervening? Put this in perspective that the Abu Ghraib story aired in April 2004 and this episode aired the same year. This series is off my Netflix queue.

Saved! - Dark comedy / coming-of-age story about a devout senior at a Christian high school. When I put this in the queue, I thought that the movie could be either really bad or really good. I am happy to recommend it!

The Night Listener -I have been a fan of the comic side of Robin Williams since the Mork and Mindy days, but when it comes to movies I like his serious stuff better. This is loosely based on a real life incident, which enforces the notion that truth is stranger than fiction.

The Last Time I Committed Suicide - A slice of Neal Cassady's (of Jack Kerouac's ON THE ROAD fame) early life.

Running With Scissors -- I can see why my sister recommended this book / movie but I'm not so sure if I'd recommend it. It's a quirky memoir for sure and the movies is done well enough. Just not my kind of story.

Shock to the System - Gay sleuth Donald Strachey is hired by his new client prior to his client's suicide. Like the best detective novels, the mystery is wrapped up in the characters and the issues.

All the King's Men - Corrupt Southern politician story. Good, but not great.

The Da Vinci Code - I debated about not seeing this movie, mainly because I couldn't imagine Tom Hanks in the role. But, hey, I've been wrong before! Turns out he's quite good. In fact, we watched the movie twice before sending it back.

Bones - Television show based off of Kathy Reichs' series character, Temperance Brennan. Interesting cases and methodology as well as fun characters.

Numbers - My current favorite. We feel smarter after watching one of these episodes.

Little Miss Sunshine - I liked this movie! I feared that it would disappoint me like Sideways did, which had the earmarks of what should have been a good movie, but just missed. But instead it pleased me something akin to American Beauty. Anyway, excellent cast, excellent execution.

A Scanner Darker - From the first of hearing that this film was being made, I looked forward to seeing it. It does not disappoint. Richard Linklater's style gives this story just exactly what it needs. Philip K. Dick would be proud.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Now that I have seen this one twice and the first one, once more. I can't tell you which one I like better. Davy Jones and his crew are great visuals. But, the dead crew of the Black Pearl walking under water and fighting in the moonlight can't be knocked. Anyway, these movies are the best the Disney has offered.

Superman Returns - It takes a bit to get used to the new Superman, Lois, and Jimmy. buth Luthor is just perfect. Anyway, it doesn't take long to adjust and new movie technology just makes this classic story better. Entertaining.

An Inconvenient Truth - A longtime advocate for the environment, Al Gore presents a wide array of facts and information in a thoughtful and compelling way.  Makes me glad I changed my lightbulbs and bought a Prius, but that's not enough.

Cars - This is an excellent movie for all ages. Good characters, good story, good moral to the story. I would see this one again. Or let my child see twenty times.

Note: Don't bother with Over the Hedge , it is decidedly stupid.

East is East - This is said to be an "award-winning comedy," some scenes are funny, but the topic as a whole is very NOT funny. Very memorable characters and highly recommended, though not as a comedy.

Brothers - Carl saw this one while I was China. He recommends it. Guy Savage also recommends it. I hope to see it one day.

Brick - A very unconventional film noir that is set in the halls of a modern day high school. Strange but worth seeing if you like this genre.

Ask the Dust - Two immigrants in 1930s Los Angeles, each armed with their own version of the American dream, set out to embrace a new culture. Good hardscrabble period film based on the 1939 book of same name.

A Good Woman - Gold digger Stella Erlynne, flees scandal in NYC and sails to Italy in search of a fresh prospects. Based on Lady Windermere's Fan.

Tristan & Isolde - Star-crossed lovers doomed by the forces of imperial politics. If you don't know the story (or even if you do), watch this movie. It's a good historical film.

Nanny McPhee - Requested this one because of the solid cast -- it's a kids movie but fun for adults too -- especially if in need of a Sunday night Disney-like move. Far better than Mary Poppins.

Oyster Farmer - Great slice of life movie set in New South Wales, Australia. Great scenery, nice story.

Emma - Good for the Jane Austen fix. We must have tired for the first time that we saw the movie because we hadn't remembered it. This time, we had great appreciation for Gwyneth Paltrow and, well everyone.

Syriana - George Clooney is good in this movie. He plays a CIA Operative with expertise in the Middle East. Gives a real sense of all that goes on behind the scenes and makes headline news look like window dressing. Highly recommended. I'd see it again. (2005)

Tsotsi - Set in South Africa, a ruthless thug shoots a woman and drives off in her car only to discover a baby is still in it. I liked it if the glimpse into South Africa and because the character does go through an interesting reformation. (2005)

The Girl in the Cafe - Very surprising movie. I knew it was a love story but was not aware of the political fantasy tightly woven into the plot. If only.... (2005)

Paradise Now - Two Palestinian suicide bombers are drafted for an assignment in Tel Aviv. Interesting look at life behind the wall. (2005)

A History of Violence - Taut thriller layered with an intellectual look at violence in America. (2005)

Capote - Fascinating story of the Truman Capote and the years in which he researched the book, In Cold Blood. (2005)

North Country - Based on real events (not real people) that took place in the 1970s and the first class action suit for sexual harrassment. Good cast. (2005)

The World's Fastest Indian - About New Zealander Burt Munro who set records with this customized Indian Scout. Lots of liberties taken but still a good story. Anthony Hopkins is excellent in this role. (2006)

The Libertine - The movie opens with 17th century Earl of of Rochester, John Wilmont, insisting that we will not like him. Johnny Depp is the actor,and yes, you can be assured that we do not like Mr. Wilmont (though we do pity him), but we do love Depp's performance. Also, interesting look at this period of history. (2006)

Good Night, and Good Luck - Docudrama that pits Edward R. Murrow against Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Impressive cast, good subject matter. I think we could use another Murrow in today's newsrooms. (2005)

The Legend of Zorro - Sequel to The Mask of Zorro , set in 1850 San Francisco. Not a serious movie, just lots of fun. If you are a Zorro fan (like me), then I highly recommend Isabel Allende's ZORRO if you want to spend more time with the legendary figure. (2005)

The Motorcycle Diaries - The incredible but true story of 23-year-old medical student from Argentina, Che Guevara who motorcycled across South America with his friend in 1951-52. (2004)

Tea with Mussolini - Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Cher and Lily Tomlin in one film? Of course, it is as good as it actors, set in 1930s Italy and based on the directors childhood. (1999)

Mrs. Henderson Presents - Another 1930s film based on real events and starring Judi Dench. This offers up a surprising bit of history (shocking for the times) and is the best one of the three recent Judi Dench films. (2005)

Ladies in Lavender - Still haven't tired of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith? This one is set in Cornwall in 1936 and centers on a mystery man who washes upon their beach. (2005)

Pride and Prejudice - Retelling of Jane Austen's story. Fun. Er... Judi Dench is in this one too. (2005)

Undertaking Betty - Not so serious movie about a Welsh funeral parlor owner and his chance to finally get together with woman he's wanted since childhood. His plan, however, involves killing her first. (2002)

The Perfect Crime - Humorous crime caper about a Don Juan in a cushy department store job who accidently murders his rival. (Only available through Netflix.) (2004)

Millions - Light movie about two brothers and a satchel filled with British pounds, but with the country just days away from switching to the Euro they must quickly find a way to spend the wealth. (2005)

Love Actually - An ensemble comedy that tells 10 separate (but intertwining) London love stories, leading to a big climax on Christmas Eve. My pick for a Valentine's Day movie.

The Story of the Weeping Camel - A unique documentary that follows a Mongolian camel that's rejected her newborn white colt.

The Straight Story - Based on a true story (or else who would believe it?), Alvin Straight drives his tractor 300 miles on his tractor, to see his brother, whom he's not spoken to in ten years. David Lynch directed this Walt Disney movie.

Baran - When 17-year-old Latif loses his cushy job at a Tehran, Iran construction site to the illegally hired Afhan Rahmat, he starts out playing cruel pranks, until he glipses a secret about Rahmat.

The Perfect Crime - This is a very different murder story. Rafael wants the job as floor manager in his department store. His rivalry ends in accidental murder and his only Alibi demands a very high payback. Humorous.

The Interpreter - Silvia Broome is a translator at the U.N. She accidentally overhears details of a plot to assinate a high-ranking government official and her job turns epic.

Jackie Brown - Quentin Tarantino directed film based on Elmore Leonard's novel Rum Punch. Perfectly excecuted all the way around -- even though some things are changed from the book.

L.A. Confidential - 1950's Los Angeles is the seedy backdrop for this intricate noir-ish tale of police corruption and Hollywood sleaze. Three very different cops are all after the truth, each in their own style.

Children of Heaven - Zohre's shoes are gone; her older brother Ali lost them. They are poor, there are no shoes for Zohre until they come up with an idea: they will share one pair of shoes, Ali's. First Iranian film to earn an Oscar nomination.

Walk on Water - An unusual psychological spy thriller. Israeli agent Eyal tries to learn from a German brother and sister whether or not their grandfather, a Nazi commander, is still alive.

What to Do in Case of Fire - When a twenty-year-old bomb explodes in an abandoned mansion in modern-day Berlin, the evidence points to a notorious late-1980s anarchist group. As the police start looking for them, the six former rebels reunite for the first time in 12 years to come up with a plan to protect themselves.

A Very Long Engagement - Five desperate men shoot themselves in order to be relieved from the horrifying frontline at the Somme, in WWI. A court-martial decides to punish them by leaving them alone in no-man's land, to be killed in the crossfire. Then all hell breaks loose and they all die. Or not? The story of a young woman, relentless search for her fiancée.

Whale Rider - A contemporary story of love, rejection and triumph as a young Maori girl fights to fulfill a destiny her grandfather refuses to recognize.

The King of Masks - A true story. Wang Bianlian is an aging street performer known as the King of Mask for his mastery of Sichuan Change Art. Wang aches for a male descendent to learn is rare art. Then, one night a young boy is sold to him and "Grandpa" finds new joy in life.

Eat Drink Man Woman - Senior Master Chef Chu lives in Taipei with his three unmarried daughters. Life in the house revolves around the ritual of an elaborate dinner each Sunday, and the love lives of all the family members. Excellent food movie.

Babette's Feast - Babette serves as a maid for two religious older women, sisters, in a Danish village for 14 years; after winning a lottery, Babette decides to prepare a feast for the sisters and their congregation. Another excellent food movie.

The Fast Runner - The telling of an Inuit legend of an evil spirit causing strife in the community and one warrior's endurance and battle of its menace. Beats the Farley Mowat movie by a long shot (but still see that one as well).

Rabbit-Proof Fence - Based on a true story set in Western Australia in 1931.

The Red Violin - In present day Montreal, a famous Nicolo Bussotti violin, known as "the red violin," is being auctioned off. During the auction, we flash back to the creation of the violin in 17th century Italy, and follow the violin as it makes its way through history.

Maria Full of Grace - A pregnant Colombian teenager becomes a drug mule to make some desperately needed money for her family. A hard movie to watch at time but well worth it. Unforgettable.

Dirty Pretty Things - A riveting thriller about an illegal immigrants in London.

Frida - Salma Hayek plays the Mexican surrealist painter Frida Kahlo and her tempestuous life with her unfaithful husband, muralist Diego Rivera. Gorgeous visuals.

American Splendor - An audaciously creative biographical movie of the everyday man Harvey Pekar both the man and the comic book.

The Magdalene Sisters - A lacerating account of life inside a Magdalene Laundry, on f the dismal asylums for "wayward women" run by the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Amores Perros - It tells three stories connected by one traumatic incident; a man in love with his brother's pregnant wife, a perfume spokeswoman and her married lover, and a scruffy killer who sidelines as a paid killer.

Adaption - A self-loathing screenwriter has been hired to adapt Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. This is one of my favorite movies, but then, I thought Being John Malkovich was brilliant and this is from the same team.

Levity - Manual Jordan is serving a life sentence for murder. When he is unexpectedly and reluctantly released, he goes in search of redemption, hoping to get it from victim's sister. Along the way he accidentally gets involved with a preacher and a self-destructive girl who parties too much. All star cast, perfect script and excellent cinematography -- if you like the quiet kind of film. Too bad there aren't more like this one.

Billy Elliot - The setting is County Durham in 1984 and the miner's strike is in full swing; 11-year-old Billy's dad and older brother on the picket line. Billy's dad has scraped together money for boxing lessons, but Billy secretly discovers ballet, which he has a great aptitude.

Amelie - Charming movie; a single waitress helps other lonely people fix their lives. Also starring Audrey Tautou and just as good is Happenstance. In which a marvelous interlocking series of events leads to her finding her soulmate, as predicted by a woman on the morning train.

Monsoon Wedding - A delightful film, which spins a web of family relationships that knit and break during a wedding at a perfect pace. You won't be able to look at Marigolds the same way again after this movie.

Gosford Park - 1930s setting in opulent English country estate with a whodunit plot - that is when the murder finally occurs.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Period-perfect costumes and sets capture 1940 New York with splendid authenticity and are further enhanced by the burnished glow of Zhao Fei's cinematography in this vintage Woody Allen comedic story about a jewel-heist caper.

Mulholland Drive - This one is worth owning since it needs to be watched more than once to really "get" it. A David Lynch film that really is well done in his weird kind of way. Go here to find out what you saw.

Run Lola Run - A fast paced and aesthetically appealing film. In twenty minutes Lola and her boyfriend Manni have to come up with $100,000 deutsche marks to replace some money Manni incompetently lost.

Memento - Leonard has a strange neurological condition in which he can't form new memories. The last thing he remembers is someone attacking him and his wife and wife's death.

Insomnia - The Memento director, Christopher Nolan's second movie is a remake of a 1997 Norwegian film by the same name. Will Dormer, a revered veteran LAPD detective is sent to Alaska to head-up a murder case. Unable to sleep with the midnight sun, Dormer's behavior becomes erratic.

Cat's Meow - In 1924 the immensely powerful publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst held a yacht party that ended with a gunshot. Between Hearst's influence and that of his glitterati guests (including Louella Parsons and Charlie Chaplin), no satisfying account of what happened ever made it to the public.

The Mexican - This is fun romantic comedy with a thriller element. I'm probably taken in by Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts chemistry -- but it is fun movie.

Snatch - A diamond heist gone haywire launches gangsters, bookies and a dog on a rollicking ride through the rugged world of bare-knuckle boxing in search of the missing stone. Brad Pitt as a Pikey is my favorite role of his yet.

Band of Brothers - Based on Stephen Ambrose's book, it follows Easy Company during World War II. It originally aired as a 10-part mini-series on HBO. I'm not much for "war" movies, but this one is exceptional.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? - I'll take any movie directed by Joel and Ethan Coen (Fargo, Raising Arizona, etc), but this one is my current favorite. I even bought the soundtrack.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension - Banzai is neurosurgeon, car racer, rock singer and alien chaser in this insane sci-fi adventure from 1984.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - The disappearance of a magical sword spurs a breathtaking quest for a notorious assassin and the teenage daughter of a nobleman as two women's fates intertwine during a tumultuous period of the Ching Dynasty. Cool cinemetography.

Terminator 3 - If you want action -- this is it. Machine against machine with our hero, John Connor, finally fulfilling his prophetic future. As in the first two Terminator movies, remember to bring your cultist sense of humor and you'll be thoroughly entertained.

The Matrix - Set in the not too distant future in an insipid, characterless city, we find a young man named Neo, a software techie by day and a computer hacker by night, who discovers that reality is not what it seems. The Matrix Reloaded is missing something in the storyline that the first movie has, but special effects are worth sitting through it.

The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Rings - What can I say that hasn't been said? It's the fastest three hour movie I've ever sat through. And I have no further comments to add regarding The Lord of the Rings- The Two Towers. Just own it.

Minority Report - Based on a Philip K. Dick story where police utilize psychic technology to arrest and convict murderers before they commit their crime.

Shrek - A computer-animated film about a delightfully fractured fairy tale. It's a kids movie that has the same holding power for adults.

Shrek 2 - It's amazing how much computer-animated graphics evolve from movie to movie. Oh, and the plot is cute too.

Spiderman - The web-spinning superhero has a mission to save New York from his nemesis, the Green Goblin, and to win the heart of Mary Jane, the girl next door.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail - Probably the funniest, most irreverent movie ever made. And great one-liners.

Being John Malkovich - A movie that ponder the existential dilemma of a forlorn puppeteer who discovers a metaphysical portal into the brain of actor John Malkovich. A wild and creative movie.

Men in Black II - This is a funny Sci-Fi movie. We liked the first one, but we liked this one even more.

Farscape: The Complete Season One - Here's another one for Sci-Fi fans. John Crichton shoots through a worm hole and finds himself on a living ship that's inhabited by a bunch of escaped prisoners. Original aliens, plots, and weird slapstick humor is what I like about this Sci-Fi channel original series. If your hooked, here's Season Two, Season 3 and Season 4

A.I. Artificial Intelligence - The first time I saw this movie I thought the special effects were good but I wasn't keen on the movie. The second time I saw the movie I couldn't see what I didn't like. It's really a classic.

Ripley's Game - Oh, man! This guy is so... deadly cool. Ripley (created character created by Patricia Highsmith) is the godfather of all serial killers.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - A younger version of Ripley. I avoided this movie for years because I thought it was like a Music Man type of film. Boy was I wrong. It's quite creepy.

Bread and Roses - Mexican immigrant Maya arrives in L.A. and gets a job as a janitor and before she knows it, she's helping to organize a union. Realistic immigrant issues.

Blood Diamond - I am now a Leonardo DiCaprio fan, which I never thought I'd say. Heck, maybe now I'll see The Aviator. I like this story of the way it is told and about what it tells -- you will not look upon diamonds the same after this movie. My only disappointed was in the end they did not go far -- all diamonds should be boycotted.

The Departed - Excellent South Boston cop movie with two cops undercover, but on opposite sides of the mob and police force.

The Seagull's Laughter - Guy Savage recommended this one to me. Set in an Icelandic town, it is inriguing from start to finish.

The Black Dahlia - Based on James Ellroy's novel that is based on an unsolved 1947 movie that occured in Hollywood's darker side.

The Horseman on the Roof - Good period film aobut an Italian soldier-in-exile in Austria, during a cholera epidemic, in which he swears protection to a countess (Juliette Binoche) who is searching for her husband.

Russian Dolls - Set in Paris, London and someplace in Russia. A scene on the Street of Perfect Proportions made the whole film for me. I would see more by this director.

The Squid and the Whale - Disintegration of a family unit, well told. At times, too well.

The Good Thief - Bob le Flambeur is a middle-age gambler caught up in the seedy underworld of Nice, France. Stylish and good casting.

Cache - Set in France, this has the most original opening scene in any movie I've seen. Also, book readers will love the sets -- bookshelves everywhere. Slow in a fascinating kind of way.

Wicker Park - I can't pinpoint which genre to call this but it does have a bit of Hitchcockness about it. Interesting look at "love at first sight."

Scoop - This is Woody Allen movie, which means if you are fan, then you should see it. Woody Allen is a bit annoying in his role and could have toned it down a bit. Scarlett Johansson actually appears to be able to act, but I'd want to see her in another film before I go so far as to say this aloud.

The Ant Bully - Cute and good for one sit through. Far better than Over the Hedge (which I don't consider worth recommending at all. But, it does not come close to Cars, which I could watch again.

The Jacket - I'm quickly becoming an Adrien Brody fan. This is one of those weird out of sequence films that I enjoy, with time travel thrown it.

Reds (25th Edition) - Being cozy on the couch and watching this movie on two consecutive nights sure beat the original experience of sitting on a hard theater seat. However, as before the whole movie is worth seeing. Actually, it is even better now that I have 25 years of living behind me.

Thank You For Smoking - Based on Christopher Buckley's book, this movie is hilarious. How does a lobbyist for big tobacco really live with himself? And what does he tell his son about what he does?

Howard Zinn - You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train - The life and times of this historian, activist and author. How does this man still have energy to fight the good fight?

Open Hearts - A Dogme 95 style film about an engaged couple that is torn apart by an accident and the guilt from the woman who caused the accident.

Dear Wendy - Lars van Trier (Dogville) directs this stunning (but strange) film that takes a shot at American violence and Hollywood filmmaking.

The Princess and the Warrior - By now you probably have figured out that I like weird films. I like this one. So guess what? I saw it because it stars Franka Potente from Run Lola Run.

12 Monkeys - There are never enough good Sci-Fi movies so I've decided to see some again. This was worth it. It does have Terry Gilliam's mark all over it. Now that I've seen...

Brazil: The "Love Conquers All" Version - Early Terry Gilliam movie. I couldn't remember much of this one except that it was dark. It's still dark and it doesn't matter what I remember because this take is not likely the one I saw the first time. No matter.

Fight Club -While we were on the classics, decided to see this one again, also. Edward Norton just shines and of course, let's not forget that Chuck Palahuniuk wrote the book.

Lucky Number Slevin - An identity mix-up places an innocent man in the middle of a mob war in this noir crime thriller. Fun to watch.

The Princess and the Warrior - A bank robber saves the life of a nurse who works at a mental institution. She decides that she must find him. He has reasons of his own as to why he doesn't want her attention.

Everwood - Rewarding TV show about top NYC brain surgeon who moves his family to Colorado after his wife is killed in an auto accident and he must learn parenting on the fly. We are truly hooked on this show.

Prison Break - Another TV show that we feel compelled to keep renting. An engineer robs a bank to purposely end up in prison -- the same one the houses his brother who is on death row for a crime he didn't commit.

V for Vendetta - We waited a long time for this one to finally be available on DVD and it did not disappoint. the enigmatic "V" is a masked freedom fighter who's taken up arms against the totalitarian government in a futuristic Britain.

Dot the I - You think it is a humorous romantic comedy, but its not at all. It is very much a thriller of the most twisted, and satisfying kind. Or maybe just a good movie about filmmaking.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada - A dark comedy set on the Texas-Mexico border. One of my favorites that I've seen recently. (2006)

The Secret of Roan Inish - John Sayles remains my favorite writer-director. This one is based on an Irish fable. (1995)

The Beautiful Country - The story of Binh, a shy Vietnamese man who embarks on a journey to find his estranged American father. Excellent movie. (2004)

Serenity - Don't see this movie until after you have rented the first and only season of the tv show FIREFLY . Set 500 years in the future, it is scifi western with the most diverse cast of characters and a unique storyline. This movie was created to satisfy all the fans that couldn't believe the show was cancelled. (2005)

The Chumscrubber -A frightfully honest portrait of suburban dysfunction. (2005)

11:14 - Five events intersect at exactly 11:14pm. I always like this kind of story. (2003)

Strangers in Good Company - A bus filled with eight elderly women breaks down in the wilderness. The script is largely improvised and thus gives a greater impact of how it feels to grow old. Nice movie.

TransAmerica - Bree gets the shock of her life when a week before her final sex change surgery (to go from a he to a she) she discovers a son she didn't know she had. The two end up on a cross country adventure. (2005)

Where the Truth Lies - I decided to rent this movie after posting our review of the book. Nice twists. I'm sure the book is better but sometimes it is o.k. to take a short cut. (2005)

Proof - A brilliant daughter (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes to terms with the death of her father (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant mathmatician after a long fight with mental illness. A mathmatical "proof" is found, which the daughter claims is hers. (2005)

Everything is Illuminated - Based on the Jonathan Safran Foer's novel about a young American Jewish man who begins a quest aided by a naive Ukranian translator. I like the book better (of course) but Carl thought the movie was great (he didn't read the book). I'd recommend it either way. (2006)

The Constant Gardener - Old-fashion tale of political intrigue that centers on a member of the British High Commision who is based in Africa, and his quest for the truth of his wife's murder. Adapted from the John LeCarre novel. (2005)

Match Point - A tennis pro gets mixed up with the darker side of high society in this Hitchcock style movie directed by Woody Allen. Neat ending. (2006)

Alfie - Self aware British cad played by Jude Law. Interesting remake, though I only vaguely remember the original movie. I can't give this my highest recommendation, but I still liked something about it. (2004)

MirrorMask - If you are a Neil Gaiman and/or Dave McKean fan, then you have probably already seen this one and have loved it. Based on Carl's experience, I can assure that new comers will enjoy this one, too. (2005)

Corpse Bride - Set in 19th-century Europe, Tim Burton's animated tale tells of a young man sucked into the underworld by a corpse bride. A different kind of love story. (2005)

House of Flying Daggers - Takes place near the end of the Tang Dynasty, which is interesting enough in and of itself. Similar film techniques (but even better) to Crouching tiger, Hidden Dragon. Story has a lot of surprises. (2005)

Chunhyang - The privilege son of a governor falls for the beautiful daughter of a courtesan. Set in Korea. (2000)

Memoirs of a Geisha - Set in 1929 Kyota and based on the novel of the same name. It did not meet my expectations but still worth watching. (2005)

Mysterious Skin - This is a hard movie to watch but still glad I stuck it out. It is based on a novel by Scott Heim about two boys - one who thinks he was abducted by UFOs and the other who sells his body to men.

Nobody Knows - A Japanese film about four children abandoned by their mother. The oldest, 12-year-old Akira does his best to take care of his siblings.

Kinsey - Liam Neeson does a good job in this role portraying Dr. Alfred Kinsey who interviewed thousands of people about their sexuality. I'd also recommend T.C. Boyle's novel, on the same subject ( the movie is not based on the novel). The book is from the perspectiv of one of the researchers.

Secretary - Recently released from a mental hospital after treatment for self-mutilating tendencies, a young woman gets a job as a secretary for a successful attorney with a tendency toward angry disapproval.

Crash - A 36-hour period in the diverse metropolis of post-Sept. 11 Los Angeles is the theme of this unflinching drama that challenges audiences to confront their prejudices. (Thanks Janice for recommending it!)

Heights - Tracks a day in the life of a New York mother and her daughter both of whom are about to experience momentous change.

Angels in America - Tony Kushner's groundbreaking, Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play turned into a 6-hour movie by HBO.

Wit - After being diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Vivian is forced to reassess her life and decide what's really important. Wit also tells the stories of the people Vivian touches, including her healthcare team. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama.

Dogville - A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds that their support has a price. See the movie for its unnusual sparse set.

All About My Mother - A single mother in Madrid sees her only son die on his 17th birthday as he runs to seek an actress's autograph. She goes to Barcelona to find the lad's father, a transvestite named Lola who does not know he has a child. The rest is happenstance.

Talk To Her - Two men share an odd friendship while they care for their girlfriends who are both in deep comas.

Sling Blade - Karl Childers, a simple man hospitalized since his childhood murder of his mother and her lover, is released to start a new life in a small town. This is my favorite Billy Bob Thornton movie.

Finding Neverland - The movie details the experiences of "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie, which lead him to write the children's classic. Surprisingly excellent movie (with my favorite actor).

The Quiet American - Set in Vietnam in the early 50's; based on Graham Greene's novel of the same name which foreshadows the events that happen later.

The Station Agent - When his only friend dies, a man born with dwarfism moves to rural New Jersey to live a life of solitude, only to meet a chatty hot dog vendor and a woman dealing with her own personal loss. 2003 Sundance Winner.

Frank Miller's Sin City - This is a highly stylized movie that captures the essence of a graphic novel; but be forewarned there is lots of violence.

Cold Mountain - In the waning days of the American Civil War, a wounded soldier embarks on a perilous journey back home to Cold Mountain, North Carolina to reunite with his sweetheart.

Road to Perdition - Mike Sullivan works as a hit man for crime boss John Rooney Sullivan views Rooney as a father figure. However after his son is witness to a killing he has done, Mike Sullivan finds him self on the run trying to save the life of his son and at the same time looking for revenge.

Head in the Clouds - A sweeping romantic drama set in 1930's England, Paris, and Spain about three friends and the choices they make as war gathers over Europe. It tells another side of the story told in Charlotte Gray.

Charlotte Gray - This one isn't perfect, but it is a good period film and we do see a bit about the French resistance fighters.

Deadwood - The Complete First Season - An HBO show set in the late 1800's, revolving around the characters of Deadwood, South Dakota; a town of deep corruption and crime. It's not 100% factual and some people will have a problem with the language. But this is the best western I've seen and reminds me of Cormac McCarthy's writing.

A Home at the End of the World - An intimate film based on a novel by Michael Cunningham about three friends who form an alternative family.

Silver City - Grammatically challenged, user friendly gubernatorial candidate Dicky Pilager has just launched a rosy campaign for the citizens of the New West. But things take an unexpected turn when the taping of an environmental political ad ends up with Pilager reeling in a corpse. Written and directed by John Sayles.

The Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl - A sweeping action-adventure story set in an era when villainous pirates scavenged the Caribbean seas. This is a movie that's easy to see more than once because it is so much fun.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - I tried to finish this book several times and was relieved when a movie was made! This is the movie in which I decided that Johnny Depp was a very talented actor. The story is still bizarre but you should see it to appreciate my favorite actor's talents.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory- I didn't like this movie when I was a child. I saw it in sixth grade, the year I was introduced to George Orwell's Animal Farm. Obviously I wasn't a kid that liked kid books or kid movies. If Johnny Depp wasn't in this remake, I would not have seen it. I think the remake is pretty good -- it's dark, just the way I like it!

Secret Window - A writer is accused for plagiarism by a strange man, who then starts haunting him for "justice." Stephen King like horror.

Closer - An intriguing story of passion, drama, love, and abandonment involving two couples, which only gets more complicated when the man from the first couple gets acquainted with the woman from the second coupling.

Secondhand Lions - A coming-of-age story about a shy, young boy sent by his irresponsible mother to spend the summer with his wealthy, eccentric uncles in Texas.

Garden State - Andrew Largeman has shuffled through life in a lithium-induced coma until his mother's death inspired a vacation from the pills to see what might happen. He's a moderately successful TV actor living in Los Angeles, and hasn't been home to the Garden State in nine years. One of those movies to make you feel good in the end.

Napoleon Dynamite - A deadpan comedy about a nerd. The movie is so stupid, it is ripe for cult status..

Bend it Like Beckham - The daughter of orthodox Sikh rebels against her parents' traditionalism by running off to Germany with the girl's soccer team.

Waking Life - Animated meditation on what separates dreams from reality. Very weird, very original, and quite poignant.

Open Your Eyes - The original Spanish language version of Vanilla Sky is a highly complex psychological thriller and considered far better than the remake.

Mystic River - Sharply adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane, this chilling mystery revolves around three boyhood friends in working-class Boston.

Finding Nemo - What can I say if you haven't heard of this latest and most successful Pixar animated adventure? Obviously one for any family's DVD collection.

Holes - Based on Louis Sachar's book (which we also recommend), is a surprisingly faithful adaptation. Great movie for the whole family -- one in which the adults will enjoy (even without the kids).

Phone Booth - The "action" of this film evolves around the phone booth. A hot shot advertising guy picks up a ringing telephone and is then held hostage to the booth by a vigilante sniper who is trying to fix his corrupt soul.

Two Weeks Notice - This is a light romantic comedy that we both enjoyed. It's not too cute or obvious -- just right for easy feel good entertainment.

About a Boy - Another Hugh Grant movie based on Nick Hornby's bestselling humorous novel.

Life or Something Like It - Here's another easy romantic comedy that Carl and I both enjoyed.

Shakespeare in Love - Romantic comedy set in London in the late 16th century.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding - Toula Portokalous lost in a big and crazy Greek family is the devoted and dependable daughter who works in her father's restaurant. In this family woman get married (to Greek men) and raise families. They don't go off to college. And they especially don't date non-Greek men. A real heartwarming and authentic kind of film - makes you wish you had this family.

White Oleander - Astrid Magnussen is forced to live in a series of foster homes after her mother is convicted of murder. Surprisingly artistic movie -- not the total tear jerker that I feared. Though mommy is mean. And adults are dysfunctional. Based on the book by Janet Fitch.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - I liked the movie version better than the book version - doesn't happen often but in this case it's true.

Ocean's Eleven - Less than 24 hours into his parole from a New Jersey penitentiary, wry, charismatic thief Danny Ocean is already rolling out his next plan: In one night, Danny's hand-picked crew of specialists will attempt to steal over $150 million from three Las Vegas casinos. You don't get more all star than this! Ocean's Twelve is typical sequel in that it is just o.k., we didn't really need the sequel after all.

Iris - A memoir of Iris Murdoch and a good look at how Alzheimer's can destroy a life.

City by the Sea - Vincent LaMarca is an NYPD police detective whose father was executed at Sing Sing Prison in the 1950s for kidnapping and murdering a child. Now, while investigating the murder of a surfer on Long Beach, Vincent discovers that his own son, Joey, is the primary suspect. Big stars, good story but to me, France McDormand makes the movie.

Blood Work - As I hadn't read the book (just our review), I didn't have any idea about the twists and turns, which there are quite a few. Also nice sailboat.

Cider House Rules - Carefully based on John Irving's novel about an orphan who leaves the orphanage.

The Hours - Based on the pulitzer winning novel by Michael Cunningham, which looks at three women's lives, including Virginia Wolf who is writing Mrs. Dalloway.

Gangs of New York - A historical film about New York city in the mid-1800s and the hostility between the Irish American and the "Nativist" gang. Not a perfect film and very brutal, but its feel is authentic.

Men with Guns - John Sayles is one of my favorite directors. Whenever I'm stuck and feel like I haven't seen a good movie in awhile a seek out one of his. That always fixes things. This one is shot in Spanish in an unnamed Latin American country. Sayles as also directed Limbo, Passion Fish, Lone Star to name a few . The great thing is that he doesn't shoot the same movie twice.

The Shipping News - Based on the Pulitzer Prize novel by E. Annie Proulx and not bad for a movie version of a book, though there are some very obvious rewriting to make the script work.

Girl, Interrupted - Based on Susanna Kaysen's acclaimed memoir about her time in a mental institution.

Riding in Cars with Boys - The story of a girl who does it all wrong (teenage pregnancy with a loser boyfriend) but finds a way to make it right in the end, especially with her son.

Life as a House - An architect with terminal cancer reaches out to his estranged son and ex-wife --- not a maudlin movie, instead it is positive and uplifting with the metaphor well used. I'll admit I was surprised by this one.

 

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