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The Big Lebowski-Movie Review 04/20/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Action/Thriller, American, Berlin International Film Festival, Comedy, Dark Comedy, Empire Awards, European Film Awards, Joel Coen, Movies, Satellite Awards.
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The Big Lebowski (American) 1998

Written by Joel and Ethan Coen
Directed by Joel Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, and Julianne Moore

Among other awards and (mostly) nominations:
NOMINATED, Golden Berlin Bear (Coen), Berlin International Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Film (Coen), Empire Awards, UK
Nominated, Screen International Award (Coen), European Film Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actor-Comedy or Musical (Bridges); Best Supporting Actor (Goodman); Best Supporting Actress (Moore), Satellite Awards

The Dude (Bridges) likes his lifestyle on the casual side. For him, smoking pot and bowling with his friends describes a typical good day. But it turns out his real name, Jeffrey Lebowski, is the same as that of a very rich and powerful guy. Because of a mixup the Dude gets involved in a kooky kidnapping scheme, when all he wants is his rug back. It really ties the room together.

If you haven’t seen this movie–or haven’t seen it for a while–it’s definitely worth a look. The dialogue, while replete with foul language, is non-stop funny.

119 min. Rated R (Language, drug, sexuality, and violence)

 

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Broken Flowers-Movie Review 12/28/2013

Posted by Films to consider in American, Cambridge Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival, Comedy, Drama, Emotional Drama, Movies, San Diego Film Critics Society Awards.
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BROKEN FLOWERS (American) 2005

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton

Winner of the following awards and nominated for several others:
WINNER, Audience Award-Best Film (Jarmusch), Cambridge Film Festival
WINNER, Grand Prize of the Jury, NOMINATED, Palme d’Or, (both for Jarmusch) Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best Foreign Language Film (Jarmusch), Czech Lions
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (Wright), San Diego Film Critics Society Awards

Bill Murray gives an unexpectedly touching performance in this low-key drama/comedy. Don Johnston (Murray) is a man with little emotional connection to life. He receives an anonymous letter informing him that he has a nineteen-year-old son he knew nothing about, but no other details. From his past relationships, there are four possibilities. Urged on by his neighbor Winston (Wright), a family man with dreams of writing mystery stories, Johnston makes unannounced visits to his former girlfriends to see if he can figure out who might be the mother.

Some of the comedy falls flat, but somehow the overall story makes up for it.

106 min. Rated R for language, graphic nudity and brief drug use.

 

Much Ado About Nothing-Movie Review *** 11/25/2013

Posted by Films to consider in American, Black & white, Comedy, Joss Whedon, Movies, Romance, Romantic comedy.
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Much Ado About Nothing (American) 2012 ***

Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Nathan Fillion, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond, and Amy Acker

A very enjoyable, modern-day retelling of Shakespeare’s comedy about love and romance almost gone wrong. The script uses the Bard’s own words.

Not an award winner, the black and white film was apparently a labor of love for director Joss Whedon. Many cast members, such as Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, and Nathan Fillion, will be familiar from TV and movies.

Highly recommended, even for reluctant Shakespeare readers.
109 min. Rated PG-13.

 

Into the Wild-Movie Review *** 10/13/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on true story, César Awards, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Drama, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Highly recommended, Movies, National Board of Review, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Young Artists Awards.
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INTO THE WILD (American) 2007 ***
Based on the true story of Christopher McCandless
Adapted from the book by Jon Krakauer

Screenplay written and directed by Sean Penn
Starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, and Hal Holbrook

Into the Wild received many awards and nominations, too numerous to list here.

In the early 1990s, Christopher McCandless graduates from college but does not follow the path to law school that his parents (played by Harden and Hurt) expect. Instead, he takes all the anger he feels toward his dysfunctional family and escapes from civilization, intending to live totally in the wild, completely untethered to society. Renaming himself Alexander Supertramp, he does so – for a time.

Outstanding cinematography and performances by respected actors make this a film definitely worth seeing. Hirsch does a superb job of balancing anger toward his parents and openness to life. Hal Holbrook plays a kindly grandfatherly type who is one of several interesting people who cross Alexander’s path. A young Kristen Stewart, who appears as a brief romantic interest, shows her singing ability.

Author Jon Krakauer has authored other bestselling books about the wilderness, including Into Thin Air, about climbing Mt. Everest. McCandless himself left behind photographs and journals. For a wealth of related information and links, check here.

Highly recommended. (#170 on IMDB’s Top 250)

149 min. Rated R.

 

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day-Movie Review *** 09/07/2013

Posted by dbinder in American, Comedy, People's Choice Awards, Romance, Romantic comedy.
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MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY (American) 2008 ***

Directed by Bharat Nalluri
Starring Frances Dormand, Amy Adams, and Lee Pace

NOMINATED, Favorite Independent Movie, People’s Choice Awards

Set in pre-World War II London, the hapless Miss Guinivere Pettigrew (Dormand) loses her job as a governess and has little hope of finding new work. Threatened with life on the streets, she uses her wits to find a new position and ends up being mismatched as social secretary to the flighty, social-climbing Delysia (Adams). Delysia teaches her what’s most important in life.

Frances Dormand, an actress I admire, makes the movie as Miss Pettigrew. It’s not an award winner, but I found the film surprisingly charming, funny, and enjoyable!

Highly recommended.

92 min. Rated PG-13

 

Bernie-Movie Review 06/09/2013

Posted by dbinder in American, Based on true events, Comedy, Crime, Golden Globes, Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
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Bernie (American) 2011
Based on actual events

Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy (Black), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Ensemble Cast (McConaughey, Black, MacLaine; Best Film, Gotham Awards
NOMINATED, Best Feature; Best Male Lead (Black), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Top Ten Independent Films, National Board of Review
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (McConaughey); Second Place-Best Actor (Black), New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Bernie Tiede (Black) moves to the small town of Carthage, TX and finds work at a funeral parlor. He proceeds to impress the entire town with his engaging and caring personality. He even wins over Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine) the wealthy, curmudgeonly widow of the bank president, a task that was thought to be impossible. But Mrs. Nugent gradually shows her true colors, and Bernie concludes that the way she treats everyone, including himself, is just not right.

A funny, documentary-style telling of events that surely fall into the category of “truth can be stranger than fiction.”

Jack Black especially amazes with his singing voice (who knew?), and Shirley MacLaine’s facial expression is spot on for her character.

99 min. Rated PG-13.

 

The Descendants-Movie Review 10/07/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Young Artists Awards.
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The Descendants (American) 2011

Directed by Alexander Payne
Starring George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, and Amara Miller

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Writing; Best Adapted Screenplay (Alexander Payne et al.); NOMINATED, Best Director (Payne); Best Picture; Best Leading Actor (Clooney), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Drama; Best Actor-Drama (Clooney), NOMINATED, Best Director (Payne); Best Supporting Actress (Woodley); Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Screenplay; Best Supporting Actress (Woodley); NOMINATED, Best Director (Payne); Best Feature, Independent Spirit Awards

WINNER-tied, Best Young Actress in a Feature Film (Miller), Young Artist Awards

When his wife has an accident that leaves her on life support, Matt King (Clooney) has to get more involved with the day-to-day lives of his two daughters (Woodley and Miller) while also dealing with the discovery that his wife had an affair.

The story takes place in Hawaii and ties in with Matt’s attempts to make a profitable land deal for his extended family members, who are heirs to a large parcel of beautiful and unspoiled land.

Despite its overriding premise, the film does have humorous moments. It was very well received at awards ceremonies (what I’ve listed above doesn’t begin to cover them). I thought it was very good (not great) and worth watching, especially for the scenery (which includes Mr. Clooney).

115 min. Rated R.

 

Winter’s Bone-Movie Review 03/31/2012

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on a novel, Emotional Drama, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Sundance Film Festival, Suspense, Thriller.
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Winter’s Bone (American) 2010

Adapted from the novel by Daniel Woodrell
Directed by Debra Granik
Screenplay by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, and Dale Dickey

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Picture (Rosellini and Alix Madigan); Best Supporting Actor (Hawkes); Best Leading Actress (Lawrence); Best Adapted Screenplay (Granik and Rosellini), Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress-Drama (Lawrence), Golden Globes
WINNER, Best Supporting Female (Dickey), Best Supporting Male (Hawkes), NOMINATED, Best Cinematography (Michael McDonough); Best Feature; Best Director (Granik); Best Female Lead (Lawrence); Best Screenplay, Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic (Granik); Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (Granik and Rosellini), Sundance Film Festival

In a poor backwoods area of the Ozarks, seventeen-year-old Ree (Lawrence) is forced to care for her two younger siblings when her mother goes into a depression and her father goes missing. Despite warnings to leave matters alone, she sets out to find her father.

Although it received critical acclaim and many awards (above is just a small selection), Winter’s Bone is one of the lower grossing films nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards. Here’s a chance to see a gripping performance by young actress Jennifer Lawrence before her new release, The Hunger Games.

100 min. Rated R for drug use, language, and violence.

 

Half Nelson-Movie Review 12/21/2011

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Drama, Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Movies, Screen Actors Guild Awards, Sundance Film Festival.
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Half Nelson (American) 2006

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Leading Actor (Gosling), Academy Awards
WINNER, Best Female Lead (Epps); Best Male Lead (Gosling), Independent Spirit Awards
NOMINATED, Grand Jury Prize-Dramatic (Fleck), Sundance Film Festival
WINNER, Best Film (Fleck); Breakthrough Award (Epps); Breakthrough Director Award (Fleck), Gotham Awards
NOMINATED, Outstanding Leading Actor (Gosling), Screen Actors Guild Awards

Directed by Ryan Fleck
Starring Ryan Gosling and Shareeka Epps

Ryan Gosling stars as Dan Dunne, an inner-city public school history teacher with a significant drug problem. When Drey (Epps), one of his tough and street-smart female students, discovers her teacher’s secret, they develop something of a friendship.

Both Gosling and Epps received several well-deserved awards for their performances in this film, as did director Ryan Fleck. This was Fleck’s first feature film.

 

The Station Agent-Movie Review *** 12/13/2011

Posted by Films to consider in American, BAFTA Awards, Comedy, Drama, Highly recommended, Independent Spirit Awards, Movies, Sundance Film Festival.
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The Station Agent (American) 2003 ***

Among many other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Original Screenplay, BAFTA Awards
WINNER, John Cassavetes Award; Best First Screenplay Award (McCarthy); Producers Award; NOMINATED, Best Male Lead (Dinklage), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Clarkson), National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA
WINNER, Audience Award-Dramatic (McCarthy); Special Jury Prize-Dramatic (Clarkson); Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award (McCarthy), Sundance Film Festival

Written and directed by Thomas McCarthy
Starring Patricia Clarkson, Bobby Cannavale, and Peter Dinklage

A funny and emotionally engaging film about three people living in rural New Jersey. Olivia (Clarkson), who is separated from her husband, moved away from her previous town so she could deal with her little boy’s death. Joe (Cannavale), a friendly and easygoing guy from New York, is there to care for his ailing father and look after his food truck. Fin (Dinklage), a dwarf, is a loner obsessed with trains. When he inherits a train depot building on the outskirts of a small town and decides to move there, he meets up with the other two. The three form an unlikely friendship.

Patricia Clarkson has appeared in many films and television series; she often plays quirky characters. Cannavale is especially known for his roles in television series such as Third Watch, Law & Order, and Cold Case, among others. Dinklage has appeared in stage, film, and television productions.

Highly recommended.