In 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) creates dresses for high society women. He is talented, self-centered, controlling, and oftentimes abusive. His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs his empire and does his dirty work (dismissing his latest muse). After Reynolds meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), she becomes his assistant, muse, and lover. What he doesn’t count on is that she has an iron will, and will do anything to get her own way. Alma makes a plan to gain the upper hand in their relationship. To make him more vulnerable and needy, Alma laces his tea with poisonous mushrooms. She makes him reliant on her, nursing him back to health. Phantom Thread won an Academy Award for costume design. The film was nominated in five other categories, including best picture.
Featuring a cast of mostly amateur actors, and a powerful performance from Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project tells an affectingly real and heartbreaking story. Taking its title from the original name for Walt Disney World, the film focuses on a six-year-old girl named Moonee and her mother Halley, who live just outside the confines of the amusement park. Willem Dafoe plays Bobby, the manager of the run-down motel that Moonee and her mother call home (a role that earned him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Academy Awards). While there are moments of levity and humor throughout The Florida Project, the film is, at times, an uncomfortable watch. Not because of any poor directing, acting, or writing; in fact, it is uncomfortable for the exact opposite reasons. The Florida Project presents an unfiltered and amazingly true-to-life look into the effect poverty and dysfunctional family situations can have on young children. Audiences looking for realism, heart, and drama need look no further than The Florida Project, one of the best films of 2017.
Imagine an extremely dark, adult world where Harry Potter meets Narnia, and you'll pretty much have The Magicians. Based on Lev Grossman's book series of the same name, follow a handful of young adults at a magical graduate school of sorts hidden in upstate New York. Their story is not for the faint of heart! In between classes, homework, and bizarre magical field trips, Quentin and his friends learn the fantasy world of a childhood book series is real, along with a bloodthirsty beast who has it in for not only them, but also the rest of humanity. Watch Season 1 of The Magicians on DVD or borrow a Roku to stream it via Netflix.
When Jamie McAllan, a WWII fighter pilot, returns home to his family’s Mississippi Delta farm, he cannot leave the horrors of war behind. Ronsel Jackson also returns to the Mississippi delta to resume sharecropping with his family on the McAllan farm. A decorated war hero, Ronsel struggles as he must readjust to life in the Jim Crow South. Ronsel and Jamie become friends, and it is this friendship that lends an uneasy tension to the film. Jamie drinks too much, and Ronsel chafes at the rules that make him a second-class citizen. Superb acting and cinematography make Mudbound a challenging and enriching film to view. Based on novel Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Watch on Netflix by checking out one of our rokus.
Shot on location in New Zealand, Whale Rider is a beautiful film about a young girl and the deep love and commitment she has for her family, heritage, and community. Paikea, as it turns out, is prophetically named after the mythical whale rider in one of the legends of her people, the Maori. In her small village, Pai is being raised by her grandparents, and she has an especially strong bond with her grandad, her beloved Paka. She admires him greatly, and wants to make him proud. Sadly, her Paka, who is also the village chief, desperately wanted a grandson he could train to become chief—someone who will carry on tradition. In the absence of a grandson, he settles for a boy from the village, setting out to find one he can groom. Paka is very reluctant to see that the next chief can be his own granddaughter—until she becomes a whale rider.
Award winning actors Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper have costarred in four movies: Silver Linings Playbook, Serena, American Hustle, and Joy. The interaction between these talented stars is amazing. In Silver Linings Playbook, Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano, a man suffering from bipolar disorder and has an obsession with his ex-wife, Nikki, who has a restraining order against him. Through a friend, Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), an unbalanced widow. He latches onto her when he learns that she knows Nikki. This poignant and sometimes comedic film has a colorful cast of characters, including Robert De Niro as Pat’s father, who is fanatical about the Philadelphia Eagles. Browse Best On-Screen Couples for other couples you might enjoy watching.
Baby Driver is a heist movie, but shown from a different perspective than usual: a reluctant getaway driver. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the eponymous driver of this adventure drama, tasked with helping criminals escape their crimes as fast as possible. He’s paying off a debt to their ringleader and has plans of getting out as soon, but things aren’t as easy as he thinks. The most interesting thing about Baby is that his tragic past has given him tinnitus and a need to score his life with a constant background of noise, giving the audience one of the best soundtracks in the process. Baby Driver is a film for fans of high-speed chases, bank heists, double-crosses, Bonnie & Clyde romance, and great music. Check out our list of films featuring Criminals We Love.
5 out of 5 stars for me. Not knowing the story kept me engaged and absorbed. The ending took me by surprise--a very good surprise--and totally unexpected. The actors were top notch, intense and mysterious, but still believable. The scenery was spectacular. The photography, especially the close-ups of the characters' faces, helped the mystery develop. Check out the most recent adaptation of Agatha Christie’s classic Murder on the Orient Express. Looking for a review of the book? Check out Jennifer’s take on Current Picks from December.
Graham—formerly Reverend Hess—is a grieving husband, who has lost not only his wife but his faith too. He hasn’t by any means fallen apart, though, or stopped caring about the people around him. Graham is a good dad to his two young kids, and the people in his small town can’t help still calling him “Father.” When crop circles appear on his farm and then around the world, Graham reasons that there must be a logical explanation, and he struggles to hold on to this—even as his kids and his younger brother, who lives with them, jump on the alien-theory bandwagon. Signs is one of those quiet films that rings true to life, often feeling more like a family drama than a supernatural thriller. And yet true to form, writer and director M. Night Shyamalan injects just enough oddity and suspense into the film to make you feel that things are not quite right—and that there’s something creepy lurking just around the corner.
As England moves into the 1960s, Elizabeth comes into her own as queen. We saw this beginning to take form at the end of season 1 (read my review here or Katie’s take here), but after almost a decade and three prime ministers, she’s grown up quite a bit. Royal life is not without its troubles, though, and season two continues with the rocky marriage of Elizabeth and Philip, the scandals of Princess Margaret, and balancing her role as queen and her role as a woman. New conflicts arise with the threat of war in Egypt, public backlash against Elizabeth’s reign, plus the war between progress and tradition. Tune in to season two of The Crown on Netflix by checking out one of our rokus to see the Kennedys, a bad haircut, Matt Smith’s brilliant beard, and a whole lot of period drama.