One actor whose films I’m always anxious to watch is Edward Norton. He is so gifted and versatile. The characters he plays are often intense and/or troubled, and always captivating and true-to-life. My favorite films are American History X (1998) and Primal Fear (1996), although I’ve also enjoyed many others. Here’s a selection of some of his movies that are available at IPPL:
Lie to Me. Seasons 1 & 2 (2009-2010)
This is a really interesting show about a guy who is a “deception specialist.” That is, he reads people’s facial expressions and body language to determine if they’re lying or telling the truth. He is hired by local and federal law enforcement agencies to help solve a variety of cases.
I like the way they occasionally show clips of famous people, such as Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, etc., to compare their expressions to the suspects in the show. I also enjoy the main character’s wry sense of humor, as well as his interactions with the supporting cast of characters.
You Don’t Know Jack (2010) TV-MA
Al Pacino is outstanding, and completely convincing, in his portrayal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian (known as “Dr. Death”) in this film that traces Kevorkian’s life from 1989, when he performed his first assisted suicide, up to the time he was sent to prison in 1999.
Most American adults have heard of Kevorkian, and many have strong feelings about him, one way or the other. Despite the delicate and controversial nature of the subject, I thought the film handled it with dignity, integrity, and fairness. This film brings us “behind the scenes” with a number of his patients and their families, as well as showing his legal struggles throughout the 1990s. Definitely thought-provoking!
City Island (2010) PG-13
City Island, like its location off the shore of the Bronx in New York, is a hidden gem. You know the saying, ”Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” That’s basically what this movie is about. It’s funny, charming, and touching. You get a glimpse into the life of a quintessential “close-knit” Italian family, where they’re all hiding something from each other. The mother and father of this dysfunctional family are excellently played by Andy Garcia and Julianna Margulies. Don’t read too much about what this film is about, or it will ruin the fun of it. Just watch it with no expectations, as I did, and I’m sure you will be glad that you did.
Check out IMDb.com for interviews with the cast.
Up in the Air (2009) R
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. George Clooney plays a guy whose job it is to go into companies and fire people. That is the basic premise, but this film is much more than that. It also focuses on his lifestyle: living out of a suitcase, with a practically unfurnished apartment that he “visits” only a few days a year, and no significant relationships to speak of. Both his professional and personal lives take drastic turns, and that is really what makes this movie appealing. This is a movie that evokes a wide spectrum of emotions, and that is truly what a good movie should do.
Written and directed by Jason Reitman, the film was nominated for six Oscars — including supporting actresses Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick. Check out reviews from Robert Ebert, Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, and USA Today.
Six Feet Under: The Complete Series (2001-2005)
I just love this series. I had never seen it when it aired on HBO, but always thought it was strange to have a series based around a funeral home. It is so much more than that! The characters are all so vividly portrayed and multi-dimensional; you can’t help but want to keep watching to find out what happens to them next. It covers so many issues, from death to homosexuality to bipolar disorder to drug abuse to infidelity to teen angst, and so much more. It is funny, moving, and above all engrossing! The strong language and some of the subject matter may not be appealing to everyone.
Check out the HBO website for behind the scenes looks at the show, character profiles, and more.
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (2009) PG-13
A thriller/mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat and engrossed until the end. The plot is based on an interesting premise – a journalist suspects a district attorney has been tampering with evidence in many of his cases in order to win convictions. He devises a plan to catch him in the act, with the hopes of winning a Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting. Michael Douglas is great as the D.A., and once again personifies the abuse and corruption of power.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009) R
I was initially drawn to this movie for several reasons. First, I like both Denzel Washington and John Travolta as actors. Second, I love films of suspense. It was indeed fast-paced and suspenseful, and both actors were great. Travolta was a very believable, demented criminal who hijacks a New York City subway train. I did not see the original film of the same title, released in 1974, but I definitely want to see that too.
Changeling (2008) R
Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie, this film is based on a true, horrifying situation that took place in 1928 Los Angeles. A mother (played by Jolie), discovers that her 8-year-old son is missing. The film depicts her unrelenting drive to find her son, while battling the corruption within the Los Angeles Police Department during that period.
Last Chance Harvey (2008) PG-13
I just had to see this film starring Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson – two actors I have always respected and love to watch. Yes, the story is predictable, but their gifted acting makes this a genuine film with a lot of heart, not overly dramatic or sappy. The scenes of London provide a charming backdrop throughout the film. Overall, it’s a wonderful “mature” love story that you can just sit back and enjoy.