One of the best movies of 2014! Great acting from all, especially Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall, in a very compelling story from beginning to end about the messiness of life and the complexity of family relations. Downey, a young, cocky, but successful Chicago lawyer goes home to small town Indiana to attend his mother's funeral. Reconnecting with his estranged father (Duvall), the town's judge, proves a challenge. The aging judge is accused of murder in a hit-and-run of a biker on a dark, rainy night and Downey ends up representing his cantankerous father. One surprise after another unfolds and we are drawn into the drama hook, line, and sinker. Well written, excellent acting, The Judge is a winner you should see.
Set in 1937 Nanjing, China, as the Japanese invade and pillage the city during the Sino-Japanese War, The Flowers of War is a heart wrenching but very emotional story of the evils and atrocities of war. Thrown together as a means of survival, Christian Bale, an American mortician, a group of young Chinese school girls, and a band of courtesans hide in an old Nanjing church. With nothing in common, the three groups learn to pull together as death and destruction surrounds them. Bravery, romance, and wonderful acting from the entire cast make this Golden Globe nominated movie one not to miss. Even though this movie is listed as a foreign film, it is primarily in English, with small portions in Mandarin.
After the sudden death of her husband, Agnes Browne’s life is set in turmoil and she tries to survive with her seven children in 1960s central Dublin. With an Irish gleam in her eye, perseverance, and support from her children and a few good friends, Agnes sets her sights on attending a Tom Jones concert and going out with a handsome French baker. Anjelica Huston shines as strong willed Agnes and also directs this warm, funny story, beautifully set in the streets of Dublin’s close knit neighborhoods.
Here’s a perfect movie to watch when you feel like you need a “romantic comedy.” This sleeper-of-a-movie stars Pierce Brosnan as a wealthy but grumpy widower who travels to Italy for his son’s marriage to a young Danish girl. As the two very different families meet to prepare for and celebrate their children’s wedding, love and hope for a wonderful future materialize. Quirky but warm and funny, Love Is All You Need just might fit the bill.
Based on a true story, Something the Lord Made is a moving HBO film starring Alan Rickman as Dr. Alfred Blalock, a renowned surgeon at Baltimore's John Hopkins Hospital, and his black lab technician (played by Mos Def) who for the very first time (in the 1940s) attempt to do heart surgery. Their historic surgery will save "blue babies" from certain death and start the field of cardiology. Jim Crow attitudes about Vivien Thomas, the black, brilliant assistant, play out in this emotional story as man attempts to tamper with the human heart for the first time. Be sure to listen to the director's comments after viewing this film because it adds a lot of interesting info. Especially great viewing if you have read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, which is also set at John Hopkins Hospital – in the early 1950s – when racial discrimination still played a huge role.
One of my favorite romantic comedies. Anna follows her heart to Dublin to propose to her perfect cardiologist boyfriend. She actually finds out what’s the most important thing to save if you’re in a fire. Shows the true Irish spirit and the photography of the Irish landscape is wonderful. Check the catalog to see if this film is on shelf -- and celebrate leap year with Amy Adams and Matthew Goode.
Outsourced (2006) PG-13 Funny, right on target, and certainly a "hidden gem"! See India through the eyes of a middle management American fellow who's job and department has been outsourced to India and travels there to train his replacement. Culture shock is everywhere and his life is forever changed, but not in the ways he expected. A delightful, endearing comedy. I liked it better than Slumdog Millionaire.
Flash of Genius (2008) PG-13 Greg Kinnear gives a superior performance as Bob Kearns, an electrical engineering professor who fights Ford Motors for stealing his patented invention, the intermittent windshield wiper. This good family man with a sense of right and wrong wants justice at any cost. His family and their story will rip your heart out. It's more than a David and Goliath story and this "sleeper" of a movie will get you talking afterward! Read about this true story in articles from the New Yorker (1993) and the Los Angeles Times (2008).
Freedom Writers (2007) PG-13 Based on a true story about first year teacher Erin Gruwell (played by Hilary Swank). This is a powerful story that pulls at your heart as you watch naïve but stubborn Erin try to survive and reach her students in a racially violent school after the Rodney King episode in Southern California. With little support, except from her ambivalent father, she takes on the establishment and changes the lives of her students forever. As always, Hilary Swank’s performance is top notch and makes the movie spectacular. Danny DeVito produced this movie...who would have thunk! Read the basis for the movie -- the real The Freedom Writers Diary, written by Erin Gruwell and her 150 students. Also check out Gruwell's 2007 memoir, Teach with Your Heart. And for more on the Freedom Writers and their mission, visit their website -- Freedom Writers Foundation.