Anear-perfect movie about an imperfect family, “Pieces of April” (2003) could serve as a template for how to make a low-budget film. Writer-director Peter Hedges, who also penned 2002’s “About a Boy” but is too talented to have such a sparse resume, follows Thanksgiving-meal-cooking April (Katie Holmes), her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke), and April’s traveling family in a deceptively loose style, using a hand-held-camera. Yet the screenplay is a masterpiece of economy — a series of small moments that provide big insights.
Writer-director James Cameron shows he can do comedy – and Arnold Schwarzenegger adds another notch to his laugh belt – in “True Lies” (1994). Cameron’s relatively light entry between “Terminator 2” and “Titanic” offers good blockbuster fun, but it’s the fluffiest entry of his golden age and too long (2 hours, 21 minutes) for a film that’s not a sweeping social commentary or historical epic.
The Abyss” (1989) rarely tops rankings of James Cameron’s films, but that’s because the guy also helmed “Aliens,” “Titanic” and the first two “Terminators.” It’s no fault of “The Abyss” itself, which is a more intense, and equally beautiful, version of “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but set underwater.
The story of “The Martian’s” publication is as good as the book itself, maybe even better. Computer programmer and amateur author Andy Weir published it on his website as a serial novel starting in 2009, then as an e-book in 2011, and then – when a traditional publisher saw its success – as a printed novel in 2014. The Ridley Scott-directed film (more on that below) came out one year later.
With “No Time to Die” coming out in November, I’m looking back at the eight modern-era James Bond films from the perspective of a newcomer, from July 11-26. Next up is the 24th Eon-produced film and fourth starring Daniel Craig, “Spectre” (2015):
With “No Time to Die” coming out in November, I’m looking back at the eight modern-era James Bond films from the perspective of a newcomer, from July 11-26. Next up is the 23rd Eon-produced film and third starring Daniel Craig, “Skyfall” (2012):
Back to the Future Part II” (1989) is a master class in plotting, as Bob Gale tells the latest adventure of time-traveler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) within the nooks and crannies of his first 1955 journey in “Back to the Future” (1985). Meanwhile, director Robert Zemeckis and his team masterfully intersperse new footage with familiar shots from the first film; this must’ve been tons of fun for moviegoers at the time, and honestly, it still is.
Back to the Future” (1985) is one of the all-time great films, utterly fun and free-wheeling, yet it rewards film nerds’ deeper explorations with its flawless storytelling structure and genre balance. It’s adorable despite being about a teenage girl crushing on her future son, it’s smart despite being about something that’s impossible, and it accurately captures two out of three eras. Its 1955 and 1985 are pitch-perfect; the flying-cars version of 2015 not so much. But it does promise more time-hopping fun, teasing the possibilities of further adventures with that classic ending where Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) views his own actions from earlier in the film.
The job of lighthouse keeper, from the long-ago days when the lights needed to be manned, has a pure and simple grandeur. The keeper had his list of daily duties — mundane, monotonous and lonely, yet essential for the survival of ships at sea. “The Lighthouse” (2019) – now on Amazon Prime — taps into some of the job’s reality, but it’s mostly a grim mood piece chronicling Robert Pattinson’s Ephraim being driven crazy by Willem Dafoe’s farting Thomas in the 1890s at an offshore New England lighthouse.
Has anyone had a better three films in one year than Jim Carrey’s 1994? He broke into the mainstream with “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and later delivered my favorite comedy of all time, “Dumb and Dumber.” In between came “The Mask,” which is his best superhero performance/movie (sorry “Batman Forever” and “Kick-Ass 2”), even though it comes up in conversation less than other roles from his vintage period.