Main Actors: Jude Hill (Buddy), Lewis McAskie (Will), and Caitriona Balfe (Ma)
Genre: Biography, History, Drama
Summary: Taking place in the late 1960’s, viewers witness a young boy and his working-class family from Belfast, truly experience the tumultuousness and constant struggle faced in the time period.
Belfast displays some amazing acting and cinematography, but that doesn't outweigh the harmful clichés and okay storyline. The monotone, old-timey cinematography wasn’t exactly my style, but it's understandable how one could like this movie. It really is a hit or miss, leaving some viewers, like me, split on how to view this film. On one hand, the drama and struggle this family faces is amazing to witness, but there are these slow, yawn-worthy aspects of it. In general, the movie does have some amazing moments that keep the viewer intertwined with the storyline, but personally I found myself struggling to stay awake during the less active moments.
Director: Sian Heder
Main Actors: Emilia Jones (Ruby Rossi), Troy Kotsur (Frank Rossi), Marlee Matlin (Jackie Rossi), Daniel Durant (Leo Rossi), Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (Miles), Eugenio Derbez (Bernardo Villalobos)
Summary: A hearing teenage girl in a family of deaf people explores her love for music and finds herself in this tear-jerking coming of age movie.
Coda is the epitome of a coming-of-age movie. The film follows Ruby, a teenage girl who is the only hearing member in a family of deaf people and has a passion for singing. Joining choir because her crush is in it, Ruby realizes her passion for singing and a very sweet, first-love-esque relationship progresses throughout the course of the movie. In addition to teen romance and powerful vocals, the film boasts positive representation for deaf people, which should be the bare minimum but is often poorly executed in the film industry. Complex family dynamics are explored, and the deaf characters are portrayed as strong human beings rather than victims or characters that need to be cared for. The conflicts within the movie are explored with tact, with Ruby feeling as though too much is expected of her, while her brother, Leo, feeling as though not enough is expected of him because of his disability. On top of this, Emilia Jones delivers a terrific performance as Ruby, making audiences feel the excitement, awkwardness, and overwhelming-ness of teenage years as if they were growing up themselves. In terms of flaws, there are very few. Towards the end of the movie, conflicts are resolved abruptly, which makes it feel a little bit rushed, but the film’s charm and the connection that audiences surely feel to the characters makes up for any plot holes.
Don’t Look Up
Director: Adam McKay
Primary Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Kate Dibiasky), Leonardo Di Caprio (Dr. Randall Mindy), Meryl Streep (President Orlean), Jonah Hill (Jason Orlean)
Genre: Political Satire, Dark Comedy, Disaster
Summary: A strong-willed astronomy grad student, Kate Dibiasky, discovers a comet heading towards Earth. She and Dr. Randall, her professor, must go on a giant media tour to warn the world that the comet will destroy Earth, but no one takes the comet’s threat seriously or believes them.
Don’t Look Up is packed with an explosive, powerful message that leaves audiences astonished and different than how they were before watching it. The movie revolves around two astronomers trying to warn the world about an incoming comet that poses the threat to wipe out all life on Earth, yet nobody, from politicians to regular civilians, seems to care or worse, many individuals hope to seek profit off of the comet. It is essentially an exaggerated metaphor and commentary on how the world, specifically the U.S, is dealing with the climate crisis and denying the science that proves the severity of the issue. In terms of performance and making a bold, eye-opening political statement, the movie is brilliant. Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep’s portrayal of their characters steal the show. It is also noteworthy that many other high-profile actors and celebrities make an appearance in the film. While the movie delivers a message that deserves to be heard, the dark-comedy had more darkness than comedy. There were definitely many humorous moments and overall it is a satirical film. However, it was frighteningly realistic considering how it is set in a world where individuals turn away from science to their own detriment, a world not unlike our own. With that, it was hard at times to watch the film because the subject matter was pretty serious and striking. Nonetheless, the movie is astonishing and absolutely brilliant.
Drive My Car
Director: Hamaguchi Ryusuke
Primary Cast: Nishijima Hidetoshi (Kafuku Yūsuke), Miura Tôko (Watari Misaki), Kirishima Reika (Kafuku Oto), Okada Masaki (Takatsuki Kōji)
Summary: A widowed actor and theatre director, struggling through the process of grief and regret, gets a new chauffeur, a young woman who moved to Hiroshima in search of her birth father. Despite the initial misgivings between the two, they eventually opened up to one another and formed an unlikely relationship, much like that of a father and daughter.
Watching Hamaguchi’s latest film was like watching poetry unfold. There is a soft, graceful flow to the film and a poetic complexity to the characters. A majority of the film is shot in Kafuku’s old, red Saab 900, creating an intimate atmosphere in the car, perfect for the development of an unlikely friendship. A stillness that lingers throughout the movie, especially between Yūsuke and Misaki, which perpetuates this feeling of grief that connects the two characters and draws them closer. Stylistically and visually, the film is pretty simple, which I think works to its advantage since it draws attention to the complex characters and their lives. There is an air of sadness as the two main characters open up to one another about their lives. Yūsuke, while listening to the tapes of his late wife telling him stories in the car, reflects on his life with Misaki and how the loss of his children tore him and his wife apart, leading to her having an affair. Meanwhile, Misaki shares with Yūsuke how she moved to Hiroshima five years ago in a search for her birth father. It’s quite sweet and beautiful to see these two characters connect through their sadness and become the missing piece in either other’s lives, Yūsuke gaining a daughter, of sorts, and Misaki finally finding a father-figure. My only criticism would be that the film drags on for three hours and it was hard to pay attention at times. Overall, the film is a dive into the lives and memories of the characters, telling the story of love, grief, and renewal. It is essentially a visual metaphor where Yūsuke and Misaki drive forward, literally, despite all the pain of the past that seems to hold them back.
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Primary Cast: Timothee Chalamet (Paul Atreides), Zendaya (Chani), Rebecca Ferguson (Lady Jessica), Oscar Isaac (Leto Atreides)
Summary: The movie "Dune" is an emotional sci-fi phenomenon based on the original book series. This movie tells the story of a young fifteen year old protagonist who must travel to a very dangerous planet in order to secure the safety of his family and the people he looks over.
This movie is very cinematic and has many moments that are just jaw dropping and beautiful to look at, but it is intended for a certain audience. It is a slow paced adventure that some will enjoy, and others will not. The acting is spectacular and one can really feel what happens through the characters; however, many watching this tend to become bored or easily uninterested. In fact, I was so bored I fell asleep watching this movie. We are used to watching fast paced action Marvel movies with comedic value and action happening on the screen throughout the plot line 24-7. Mainstream movies focus more on entertainment value and are less thought provoking. The movie is different, the scenes aren’t made to catch attention, but as a complex commentary. If one is looking for a fun group movie to laugh and enjoy with others, this is not the best fit. “Dune” is only good if the people watching are sci-fi fanatics. The story isn’t a Star Wars type of adventure. It is a narrative told over hundreds of pages.
Director: Reinaldo Marcus Green
Primary Cast: Will Smith (Richard Williams), Aunjanue Ellis (Oracene “Brandy” Price), Jon Bernthal (Rick Macci). Saniyya Sidney (Venus Williams), Demi Singleton (Serena Williams), Tony Goldwyn (Paul Cohen), Mikayla LaShae Bartholomew (Tunde Price),
Genre: Biographical sports drama
Summary: This is a biographical movie that follows the childhood of Venus and Serena Williams. It discusses topics such as racism and discrimination in sports and how they overcame it. The movie is mainly focused around Venus, and when the movie ends, their lives continue.
This movie is a masterpiece and was made with the help of Venus and Serena Williams. This story really gives the inside view of their trivial life. It is filled with the realisms of racism and the Black hard earned respect they had to gain in a “white” sport. It shows how they had to push through race barriers in order to be recognized by the top players. The actors for Venus and Serena look so much like the actual stars when they were younger and were not chosen differently to look better on screen. It is all very accurate to their story and it shows how their father was the hero and the person that held him back. With a stern and final hand, he shows tough love to his children. It does not glamorize or glorify all it took to get to where they stand. Their manager had to show undeniable and almost unbelievable patience for their father in hopes for their success. The tennis coach that taught the two girls was not granted easily and their worth had to be proven to the privileged white man. They had to be twice as good as everyone else to get the same respect and opportunity. This is not just a showy Hollywood movie but so much more, it shows the tough reality of where they lived and the poorer means in which they had. The real dangers of who they had the audacity to be, themselves. The meticulous planning and paranoia of their father for everything to go right in his children's lives was evident: the plan, the plan, the plan. All the layers of the characters and complicated situations that they grew up in are shown. The realness of the movie is what makes it a stellar film. It deals with harsh topics and may be uncomfortable for some to watch, but that is what makes it an astonishing film.
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Main Actors: Alana Haim (Alana Kane), Cooper Hoffman (Gary Valentine)
Summary: I can’t sum up how much I hate this movie. However, set in 1970s Los Angeles, the film attempts to follow Alana Kane and Gary Valentine in their pursuits of success, self-discovery, and happiness.
Licorice Pizza has the quirkiness of a Wes Anderson film without the discernable plot. The storyline bounces between acting aspirations and a water-bed business and back to acting with little transition between the two focuses. It feels less like watching a movie and more like watching a reel of deleted scenes. It’s near impossible to follow, not to mention the central relationship, which is extremely off putting. It follows Alana, a twenty-five year old woman, and Gary, a fifteen year old boy who pine for each other throughout the movie. When it is not depicting problematic relationships, the film also features uncomfortable humor. Serving as periodic comedic relief, a restaurant owner (that is friends with Gary for some reason???) marries multiple Japanese wives throughout the film and speaks to them in English but with an “asian accent”. Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the movie is the pastel ‘70s world that is built through charming cinematography and set design, as well as top-notch costuming. Had they been given a compelling storyline to work with, actors Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman could have been brilliant. Instead, they were given a choppy spewing of nonsensical lines and a nonexistent plot. In all, Licorice Pizza is a frustratingly-confusing, uncomfortable film that seems to glorify problematic themes for the sake of being “artsy”. Anyone who claims to enjoy this movie is either lying to seem “cultured” or hasn’t seen it.
Main Actors: Bradley Cooper (Stanton Carlisle), Cate Blanchett (Lilith Ritter), and Toni Collette (Zeena Krumbein)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Summary: A carnival worker with some manipulative tendencies meets a psychiatrist who is even more ambitious and dangerous than him.
This remake of the original has an amazing cast which allows for the nail biting suspense we have all grown to love about thriller films. With that, some important questions are left unanswered leaving viewers thriving more. The design is brilliant but that may be the only remarkable part of the film. The only reason this is rated a four is because of the brilliant cinematography and excellent acting displayed by well-known stars like Bradley Cooper. Dr. Ritter, Cate Blanchett’s character is, throughout the movie, very one sided leaving viewers wanting more character development and depth to her character. For many movies on this list, the good outweighs the bad, but for Nightmare Alley, I, as well as many viewers, were just hoping for something more from this Oscar nominated film. To say the least, it was disappointing.
The Power of the Dog
Director: Jane Campion
Primary Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch (Phil Burbank), Kirsten Dunst (Rose Gordon), Kodi Smit-McPhee (Peter), Jesse Plemons (George Burbank)
Genre: Western, Drama, Romance
Summary: A domineering rancher, Phil, responds with cruelty and mockery when his brother brings home his new wife and Peter, her son, until the unexpected comes to pass and Phil takes Peter under his wing.
“The Power of the Dog” is brimming with tension, exploring the interesting dynamics between the complex characters. It was refreshing to see the film’s prime antagonist display humanizing characteristics. While such characteristics do not justify his cruelty, they provide insight as to why he is the way he is. Phil Burbank appears as a very stereotypical cowboy at first, but later in the film it is revealed that he has suppressed most of who he is in reaction to toxic masculinity and wanting to fit in. Not only are the characters in the film layered, but the film itself is layered with many subplots involving the characters’ different relationships. The relationship between Phil and Peter is the most notable, with audiences wondering how Phil went from tormenting Peter to opening up to him and forming a bond with him, acting almost like his mentor. While the film is visually stunning and watching the characters unfold is breathtaking, it also touches on some serious topics that make it stand out from most western films. It tells the story of toxic masculinity, repressed homosexuality, loneliness, and how this all contributes to the destruction of individuals. “The Power of the Dog” is impeccable between the writing, cinematography, and score. However, it may be hard to watch at times due to some graphic, morbid scenes and blatant cruelty of characters. Still, it completely transforms the western genre and is an exceptional film.
West Side Story
Director: Steven Spielberg
Primary Cast: Rachel Zegler (Maria), Ansel Elgort (Tony), Ariana DeBose (Anita), Mike Faist (Riff), David Alvarez (Bernardo)
Summary: The film is set in New York in the 1950’s amidst a raging turf war between the Jets and the Sharks. Chaos breaks loose as a Shark and a Jet fall in love in this Romeo and Juliet based tragedy.
With goosebump-warranting cinematography and lively dance sequences, West Side Story is wildly captivating and full of energy. Rachel Zegler’s voice is flawless, and her youth adds an air of wide-eyed innocence to her role. Ariana DeBose’s “Anita” is positively radiant and her charisma is abundant. Mike Faist and David Alvarez, as Riff and Bernardo, add humanizing layers to characters that could have been one-sided if not portrayed correctly. With this in mind, the movie should be virtually flawless. Ansel Elgort, however, detracts massively from the film. While Rachel Zegler absolutely nailed every number and every scene as Maria, Elgort’s performance left a lot to be desired. Part of the film’s appeal is bringing the experience of a Broadway performance to film in a more updated manner than in the 1960s film adaptation, but Elgort’s acting was much more similar to film acting than to theatre acting. Perhaps, if Tony’s character had been played by an experienced Broadway actor, there would be more congeniality between the characters and audiences would feel more connected to him. In all, the film was beautifully done, in spite of Elgort’s disconnection from his character and the Broadway world.