You’ve seen the superhero movies, but what about all the great films that didn’t have $50 million marketing budgets or didn’t attract much of an audience? There were plenty of sleepers in 2014, and many of them are now available on home video or on streaming services such as Netflix. Here are some don’t-miss films.
Chris Pine isn’t much of an actor to play the Tom Clancy take on James Bond, but in this origins story Pine isn’t expected to be Harrison Ford but merely the fresh-faced, slightly nervous young recruit just gaining his footing. A careful, methodical spy thriller that puts story over cheap thrills, Kenneth Branagh’s film features an able supporting cast including Kevin Costner as the mentor, Keira Knightley as a wily girlfriend and Branagh himself as a Russian terrorist with a plan to kneecap the U.S. economy.
Twenty-four percent of married couple families with children under 15 have a stay-at-home mom. Ninety-nine percent of stay-at-home moms in the movies get a really bad rap. Search “Best Movie Moms” and you’ll get lists that include Shirley MacLaine in Terms of Endearment, Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, Shelly Duvall in The Shining, and more than a few mentions of Psycho. The majority of movie mothers are either widowed or divorced, careerists or working class, alcoholics or impregnated by UFOs. The closest you’ll get to a stay-at-home mom in post-1940s cinema is Kathleen Turner playing the psychotic Serial Mom or Michael Keaton taking on the role so his wife can pursue her career in Mr. Mom.
In fact, outside of Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side there hasn’t been a truly admirable middle-class, white, stay-at-home mother on the silver screen in over 50 years. Which is probably why Mom’s Night Out received such a negative critical reception when it premiered last spring. We have been acculturated out of believing in the power and purpose of stay-at-home moms. Yet, the criticisms leveled at Mom’s Night Out for its “depressingly regressive” spirit and “archaic notions of gender roles” were not applied to a similar film about a stay-at-home mom released only two years prior. This Is 40 received mixed reviews, but praise for yielding “…some of [Judd] Apatow’s most personal observations yet on the feelings for husbands, wives, parents, and children that we categorize as love.”
So, what made This Is 40 palatable in a way that Mom’s Night Out wasn’t? Is there, perhaps, a culturally acceptable way to be a stay-at-home mom?
I don’t usually follow these things — I haven’t watched the Oscars I don’t think since E.T. lost to Gandhi — but apparently Sandra Bullock won everything at the People’s Choice Awards.
And I’m in total agreement.
Melissa and I watched The Heat last weekend, and it took us over four hours to watch a two-hour movie. It usually takes a while for the parents of small children to watch anything, especially anything R-rated. But it wasn’t the kiddos this time. Bullock and her costar Melissa McCarthy were so funny together, we kept having to pause the movie because we were laughing too hard to hear the next gag. And then we’d rewind to hear the last gag again, because it was so funny. It’s impossible to imagine seeing this movie in a theater without missing at least half of it. We’d have had to buy four tickets and sit through two showings.
I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard at a movie. At a guess, I’d have to go back to 1988 and A Fish Called Wanda.
So congrats to Sandra Bullock, but Melissa McCarthy deserved all that Sandra got and maybe more.
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
– Matthew 9:11-13
Because pompous judgmentalism feels good and loving forgiveness is difficult, it’s no surprise that some Christians come to sound suspiciously like the Pharisees. The guys who criticized Jesus for having dinners with sinners are alive and well, leveling charges of moral relativism at anyone who repeats the Christly injunction to judge not and has the bad manners to mean it. One trick to achieving the Pharisaical mindset is to take those portions of Scripture that condemn stuff and read them as broadly as possible, then take the lines calling for forgiveness and read them as narrowly as possible. Thus if you can find a 6th century BC verse in Leviticus demanding the death penalty for homosexuals, then by gum Neil Patrick Harris must die! Whereas when Jesus said, “Turn the other cheek,” he only meant if you happened to get slapped by a Roman Centurion. “Love your neighbor but…” “Judge not but…” “Forgive your enemies but…” If such people would take their buts out of their heads, they would discover that the interior task assigned to Christians is so difficult that it leaves very little time for condemning other people. Damn it.
All of which I mention on the way to explaining why I so thoroughly enjoyed and admired the raunchy, drug-filled, scatological comedy This Is The End and why I wish openly Christian filmmakers made films more like it.
The plot: a group of raunchy comedy stars — Seth Rogan, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill and so on — play themselves as shallow, backbiting, pot-smoking narcissists. They’re gathered at a party at Franco’s new mansion when the Apocalypse hits, complete with Rapture. At first, they can’t believe it because, if the good people are being taken up into Heaven, why would actors be left behind? They’re actors! They bring joy to people’s lives! But as things go from apocalyptic to worse, the sober truth begins to dawn.
“This means there’s a God,” says Rogan, in one of the movie’s best exchanges. “Who saw that coming?”
“Like… 95 percent of the world,” answers Baruchel.
Worf wants back into your living room. Michael Dorn, the veteran actor who portrayed Star Trek’s most beloved klingon in two series and five films, has been telling fans of his desire to bring the character back to television. Hollywood.com shares Dorn’s belief that Worf has more to give to the galaxy.
Once I started thinking about it, it became obvious to me that I wanted to at least put it out there, which I have, and the response has been pretty amazing. We’ve been contacted by different individuals… about wanting to come on board and be part of this.
I was on a movie not too long ago, where one of the producers was basically lobbying to be part of it. He was like, “Michael, I’d love to write it, if you haven’t.” So, at this point, my agents and my manager are looking at all the avenues and trying to figure out which is the best one.
The itch to bring Trek back to the small screen has Rolling Stone clawing as well. A recent article calls for the re-launch of Star Trek: The Next Generation, arguably the most popular and successful series in the franchise. Author Andy Greene explains why the time is right:
With Star Trek Into Darkness hitting DVD this month and a third film in the rebooted series roughly slated for 2016, it’s pretty safe to say the Star Trek movie franchise is in the best shape it’s been in years, possibly all the way back to the days of The Wrath of Khan and The Voyage Home. Prior to these recent J.J. Abrams movies, there were never even two great Star Trek movies released back-to-back, and Paramount is obviously thrilled by the box office results.
Unfortunately, no Abrams-like figure came around to save the Star Trek TV franchise. It’s been off the air ever since Star Trek: Enterprise got yanked in May of 2005 after just four seasons. Audiences never warmed to Scott Bakula’s Captain Archer, and the idea of a show taking place 100 years before the original Star Trek was better in theory than actual practice.
In the last eight years there hasn’t even been any serious attempts to put Star Trek back on the air, and everyone seems entirely focused on the movies. This is a horrible mistake. At its core, Star Trek is a television series…
Indeed, Trek thrives in its native format. However, Green’s call to revive The Next Generation sinks with the same nostalgic weight that Enterprise did. The fourth and final season of that last Trek series was actually quite good, but hit its pace too late to save the show. Viewers tend not to suffer through three seasons of meh waiting for a cast and crew to get their act together. A new show would have to make it so from the start.
Trek should return to television. The time is right. However, it needs to arrive with a new perspective. It needs to progress. The Next Generation did not succeed by its emulation of the original series. It made its own mark, building on the original’s legacy and advancing in creative new directions.
A new series would signal a new era of Trek – a next, next generation. And would need to set a new tone for a new time. To do that, it would have to go where no Trek has gone before. Here are 7 possible directions.
There are some films in which style triumphs over content. Stoker is a film in which style overpowers content, hurls it to the ground then chokes the life out of it. Directed by Park Chan-wook, the South Korean who did the entertaining Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Stoker is so full of mysterious symbols, portentous glances, and cinematic and literary references that when you find out what it’s all about, you think, “That’s it??? That’s what all the fuss is for?”
A girl’s father dies. A mysterious uncle shows up (named Uncle Charlie, so everyone who’s seen Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt knows what we’re dealing with). The girl, her mother and Uncle Charlie begin to form a romantic triangle. So far, so good. But then we find out the underlying secret. We’ve seen it before. And the theme, involving nature and nurture and freedom and inheritance and so on, has been done much better and deeper on Dexter.
Well, it’s not boring, just thin. And all the acting’s good — Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. And if the style is too much, at least it really is stylish. The whole picture looks like an Edward Gorey sketch. All in all, I’d say you might enjoy the pretty pictures, but don’t expect too much from the story itself.
Why Do Only French Actresses Have the Ability to be Mind-Shatteringly Beautiful While Still Looking Like Real People?
Basically, this monster French hit is a Magic Negro movie: you know, a warm/wise/passionate person of color brings warmth/wisdom/passion into the lives of stuffy old white folk. But it’s elevated above its shudder-inducing genre by a vastly charming script and two performances of such brilliance they would have elevated the phone book. Francois Cluzet is so unbelievably good as a quadriplegic millionaire, he brings the guy completely to life from the first scene using nothing but the expressions on his face. Omar Sy is delightful as the street tough who gets hired to help him out. And Audrey Fleurot — why is it only French actresses have the ability to be mind-shatteringly beautiful while still looking like real people? No wonder French guys never want to do any work! Anyway, it’s definitely worth watching all the way and the scene at the opera is classic. I like opera, and it still had me in stitches. Based on a true story. A real pleasure.