pick of the week Articles
Genre: Fact-Based Drama
Director: Ryan Coogler
Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Melonie Diaz, Octavia Spencer, Kevin DurandThe Story: Based on the true story of Oscar Grant — specifically, the final day of his life — a young, black Oakland resident who was gunned down by a police officer on New Year’s Day 2009. The Lowdown: Despite verging a bit too much on ham-fisted melodrama, the film works on a purely emotional level, but isn’t an especially deep look at race, profiling or the use of excessive force.
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror Comedy
Director: Joe Cornish
Starring: Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Luke Treadaway, Alex Esmail, Paige MeadeThe Story: A teenage gang in a London public-housing building team up with a nurse they recently mugged to fight off an alien invasion. The Lowdown: An absolutely perfect film of its kind -- tense, suspenseful, exciting, very funny -- and with an undercurrent of something more.
Genre: Fact-Based Comedy-Drama
Director: Randall Miller (Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School)
Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodríguez, Dennis FarinaThe Story: A Brit wine snob with a failing shop in Paris arranges a blind wine-tasting competition between French and California wines -- with an all-French panel of experts. The Lowdown: Based on fact and drowned in TV-movie level dramatic embellishments, this little indie offering has one thing going for it -- Alan Rickman -- and he may be enough.
Director: Cristian Mungiu
Starring: Anamaria Marinca, Laura Vasiliu, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru PotoceanThe Story: Set in 1987 Romania, a college girl helps her roommate get an illegal abortion. The Lowdown: Bleak, damning social commentary about a repressive society, with compelling drama in the relationship of its two leads.
Director: Paulo Morelli
Starring: Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen, Rodrigo dos Santos, Camila MonteiroThe Story: Two young men living in the slums of Rio find themselves at odds with warring factions of drug lords. The Lowdown: A frequently intense and powerful drama of friendship and becoming an adult under the worst possible circumstances.
Director: Alex Gibney
Starring: Alex Gibney (narrator), Mozzam Begg, Jack Cloonan, Tim Golden, Clive Stafford SmithThe Story: A documentary about U.S. government use of torture and human-rights violations. The Lowdown: A thoroughly cogent, researched and relevant treatment of a hot-button topic that should be seen by everyone.
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Director: Bharat Nalluri
Starring: Frances McDormand, Amy Adams, Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, Shirley HendersonThe Story: An unemployable governess finds a life-transforming position as a social secretary. The Lowdown: Style, wit and likable characters carry the day in this generally lightweight, but not brainless, comedy.
Genre: Black Comedy/Crime Thriller
Director: Martin McDonagh
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, Ralph Fiennes, Clémence Poésy, Jordan PrenticeThe Story: A pair of hit men hide out in the picturesque Belgian village of Bruges while awaiting further orders from their boss. The Lowdown: Blisteringly vulgar and frankly brutal on occasion, In Bruges is both blackly funny comedy and compelling drama.
Genre: Animated Fanciful Biopic
Director: Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi
Starring: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, Gabrielle LopesThe Story: Animated coming-of-age story of a young Iranian woman. The Lowdown: An almost completely successful, wildly creative, funny and moving film that offers many surprises and rewards.
Director: Andrew Wagner
Starring: Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Adrian Lester, Jessica HechtThe Story: An aging writer finds himself the object of an enthusiastic literary student's attention -- both professionally and personally. The Lowdown: A remarkably astute and penetrating character study with fine performances by all and a brilliant one by Frank Langella.
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