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Staff Picks: Movies

Crazy Train

If the snowy weather’s got you down and you want to watch people who are colder than you are, or if you’re in the mood to wallow in mankind’s devastating effect on global temperatures—or if you just like a good sci-fi action movie—check out the recent South Korean (but mostly English language) release Snowpiercer. Based off the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige and co-written and directed by Bong Joon-ho, best known for the rollickingly great rampaging monster flick The Host, Snowpiercer is set in a dystopian future where mankind’s attempts to reverse global warming have expedited a new Ice Age that has killed off most life on the planet. The few humans that remain live on the Snowpiercer, a massive train that continuously circumnavigates the globe. Within the train, people are divided into social classes, with the poor living in squalor in the rearmost cars, cruelly lorded over by the wealthiest passengers from the front cars. But a revolution is brewing, as man-with-a-past Curtis (Captain America’s Chris Evans) leads the impoverished on a car-by-car battle towards the engine, with hopes of overthrowing the Snowpiercer’s creator and authoritarian leader, played by Ed Harris.

Shot with cinematic grandeur, Snowpiecer succeeds on many levels: as suspenseful fight-laden actioner; as a dystopian fable; as a commentary on our environmental malfeasance; and, as an acting showcase—Tilda Swinton’s gonzo portrayal of a ministerial henchwoman is worth the proverbial price of admission alone. So check it out—the icy backdrop and chilly social undertones may just be the belly-warming tonic you need to make it through these first few frozen weeks of the season.

 


The Punk Singer

In 1992 I had the good fortune to have seen the punk band Bikini Kill play at a small club in Chicago. They blew me away with their loud, raw and unfiltered brand of punk rock feminism. Looking back now, I can see how necessary they were at that particular moment, that their commitment to empowering women within the punk scene and raising issues and consciousness was a much needed alternative to the mostly-male dominated culture that existed in the early 1990's. The group’s culture-changing anthems struck a chord (pun intended) with men and women alike (both negatively and positively), especially the lyrics and style of their brash singer Kathleen Hanna. Looking back with fond nostalgia for a time period and cultural milieu that I had experienced firsthand, I was eager to see The Punk Singer, an entertaining film that examines Kathleen Hanna's shape shifting contributions toward changing the punk scene's attitude toward women. Recommended for fans of underground punk music of the early 1990's and those wanting to learn more about the history of the Riot Girl movement.


Dramas with the White Stuff

Do you love snow and winter? Here are some serious dramas where winter or snow plays a significant role in the plot and setting.

Mon Oncle Antoine
Metropolitan
Fanny and Alexander
The Ascent
A Christmas Tale
My Night at Maud’s
All That Heaven Allows
Downhill Racer
Fargo
The Shining
Frozen River


About Time

Mixing Notting Hill-like romantic fantasy with time traveling tropes, About Time excoriates viewers to live life to its fullest in the most sugary of ways. The message throughout the film is crystal clear and delivered like a hammer slamming against your head and your heart--life is precious and always chockfull of peaks and valleys, therefore, even if your family has the capacity to travel backward to modify one’s choices and missteps, one should recognize and cherish the insignificant, every day moments that form one’s life. It’s a terribly obvious film with just enough melodrama and character to move the heartstrings while not embarrassing itself. What better way to spend a dreary, cold Saturday than inside with a bowl of popcorn and a movie with beautiful people romping about their romantic endeavors with time travel at their fingertips. For fans of treacly schmaltz like The Time Traveler’s Wife, Love Actually, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Vow.


Binge Watching ‘House of Cards’

Many of my friends have shared their enthusiasm for the series House of Cards. I had never seen an episode but knew from awards shows that it was highly acclaimed. This political season seemed like a good time to watch it.

As my husband and I have been saying to each other as we have been binge watching season #1…is there anyone to like in this show or is everyone a back-stabbing, double-crossing politician?? So far the answer is NO….there is no one to like BUT it is very compelling.

My friends tell me I will be appalled at how Frank Underwood becomes President without being elected. If we watch enough episodes tonight, maybe he will be President by the morning.

This is just one of many good series in our AV collection. I have several on my list for watching this winter.

 


Degrassi High

Degrassi High, the original, debuted on PBS in 1989, when I was seven-going-on-eight. The high school drama was a bit too old for me then, but boy, am I glad it’s out on DVD, because, as a 30-something, I love it. Its charm is multifaceted: there’s the 80’s fashion, the nostalgia for the smart-phone-free days of my youth, and actors who are actual teenagers and seem like normal kids. Although the show can seem a bit like an afterschool special, it addresses controversial topics in a way that teen programs just don’t do anymore. Kids today might not get the appeal, but I recommend  Degrassi High for any Gen-Xers who want to take a look back.

And without further ado, here’s Joey and the Zits, Degrassi’s very own rock stars:


You Ransom, You Lose Some

Life of Crime is not an official prequel to Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, but it’s okay to pretend it is. Both films are based on Elmore Leonard books (The Switch and Rum Punch, respectively) and feature two of the crime novelist’s recurring characters, ex-cons and criminal cohorts Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara. Mos Def and John Hawkes take over these roles—originally played by Samuel L. Jackson and Robert De Niro in Jackie Brown—and give you a glimpse at the earlier days of their illegal antics.

Set in Detroit in the late 1970s, Life of Crime follows Ordell and Louis as they hatch an ill-fated plan to extort money from corrupt real-estate developer Frank Dawson (Tim Robbins) by kidnapping his wife, Mickey (Jennifer Aniston), while he’s away on business. Unfortunately for the kidnappers—and for Mickey—Frank is actually off in Florida with his mistress (Isla Fisher), and when he hears that his wife is in mortal peril if he doesn’t pony up a million dollar ransom, Frank sees this as an opportunity to escape what was a failing marriage without having to face a costly divorce and steep alimony payments. Things are further complicated as Frank’s mistress hijacks the hostage negotiations, the white supremacist-slash-gun nut harboring Mickey grows dangerously unstable, and Louis begins to develop feelings for Mickey even though he may be forced to kill her.

Directed by Daniel Schechter and co-starring Will Forte and Mark Boone, Jr., Life of Crime deftly captures the pulpy crime and oddball humor of the best Leonard adaptations and would make for a great double feature with Tarantino’s masterpiece, even if the two are related only in spirit.

 


Still Walking

The Japanese film Still Walking is a beautiful portrait of a strained but loving family whose complicated history unfolds over a single day under the specter of death and grief. While this may turn away those who seek out escapist fare in their movie-watching experience, the film avoids the trappings of being too grim. With its un-rushed lyricism and thoughtful pacing, the wonderful dialogue unpacks our characters’ anger, regret and nostalgic yearning for what could have been and what never will be. The film never feels preachy or heavy handed. It simply explores how each family member deals with loss and conflict, often through aloof and insensitive ways that only deepen long-standing wounds. Catharsis is depicted as problematic, messy and much more difficult to bring about than any self-help manual would suggest. The message here is that Hollywood endings have no place in the real world and that’s what you’re going to get with this highly personal work from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. Set in a hilly, coastal town, the Yokoyama family meets each year to remember their son and brother who died in a drowning accident some 15 years before. It’s an opportunity to eat (and eat they do), catch up on gossip, visit the grave and introduce the parents to new family members. Fathers and sons will spar over legacies, husbands and wives will recall past infidelities, and a young boy will begin to understand his own heartache within a broader context. Fans of films like Tokyo Story and Yi Yi will enjoy Still Walking’s intelligent slice of life approach to exploring the dynamics of family drama.


Palo Alto

Palo Alto is based on the book Palo Alto: stories by James Franco. The stories are based on James Franco's high school days. Basically a story of kids in high school defining who they are, dealing with issues that come up in high school; drinking, drugs, girls. Jack Kilmer son of Val Kilmer is the star. It is his first movie and he kind a looks like Val Kilmer just a little especially in the face. Val Kilmer's is also in the movie as the stepdad of Emma Roberts who is the other major lead. You can tell it's a low-budget film but it's entertaining and really talks to the raw emotions of highschooler's.
The main theme for this is that April (Emma Roberts) has a crush on her soccer coach James Franco. Teddy (Jack Kilmer) and his buddy Fred do things together, smoke weed. go to parties. Teddy has a crush on April. Now one thing I did notice in this movie is the lack of parental supervision. Not until Teddy gets in trouble and has to go to court do you see the mom. Other than that you don't see a lot of the parents, mostly if you do see them it's the kid saying “Hey I'm going out”. That's just my view was as a parent.
Come on down to KPL and check it out.

 


Need for Speed

Need for Speed the movie is based on the video game. Usually you see a video game developed due to the popularity of the movie. As the title suggests there are a lot of fancy expensive very fast cars racing each other and the law. Many car crashes with explosions. Part of the movie was getting from the East coast to the West Coast in time for the race. It reminded me of the movie Smoky and the Bandit. This is an enjoyable movie if you like car chases, car crashes and cool looking cars. 

Check it out at KPL.