One of the most unique films I’ve seen in a long time is Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin. Fans of the horribly absurd (or the absurdly horrible) will find themselves cringing while laughing through this warped historical comedy. Nikita Kruschev (Steve Buscemi) and Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) jockey for the top Soviet position after the 1953 death of Joseph Stalin. Jeffery Tambor sweats up a storm as Georgy Malenkov, Stalin’s nervous-wreck of a second-in-command. With each member of the Soviet politico watching over his shoulder for the other, this satire bites down hard on the realities of tyranny, cruelty, power, and fear. Given the truth underlying the farce, it sometimes felt wrong to laugh, but I found it impossible not to. This dark comedy will make you think and stays with you long after it ends.
In Pacific Rim, we’re introduced to a world plagued by monsters called “kaiju,” which are breaking through a dimensional rift and seem intent on destroying all life on Earth. The world’s militaries have found the only logical way to fight back against the kaiju: giant robots (“jaegers”). Former jaeger pilot Raleigh (Charlie Hunnam) is called out of retirement to help in the war and gets teamed up with a young recruit, Mako Mori (Rinko Kinkuchi), the adoptive daughter of the Marshal, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba). The two are able to mentally bond through a process called “drifting,” which is required to operate a jaeger. Meanwhile, two scientists Newton Geiszler (Charlie Day) and Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) study the kaijus and find a way to drift with a kaiju brain, giving them inside information on the coming attacks. Battles ensue as the humans fight for the fate of their planet and try to close the rift. Come back next month for my review of the sequel, Pacific Rim Uprising.
Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor’s masterpiece is as beautiful as it is heart-wrenching. The cinematography is matched only by Alexandre Desplat’s score that captures and enhances the emotions in each scene. Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who has been mute since she was a baby, works as a janitor at a top-secret government research facility; there, she encounters something that changes the course of her life. At its core, The Shape of Water is a story that questions just what is it that makes us human. The Shape of Water won four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Original Score, and Production Design) and was nominated in nine other categories.
Based on true story, The Miracle Season covers the 2011 Iowa City West High School women’s volleyball team and how they battled back from adversity after losing their team captain, vivacious and effervescent Caroline “Line” Found (Danika Yarosh) in an unfortunate accident. Coach Kathy Bresnahan (Helen Hunt) tags senior Kelly Flieher (Erin Moriarty), who was Line’s best friend since childhood, with leading the team after the loss of Line. Flieher battles her own doubts about her abilities to step into Line’s shoes as a setter, and lead the team to a consecutive state title, which they had won the previous year. William Hurt turns in a strong performance (one of the best of the movie), as Line’s father, Dr. Ernie Found. Kelly is like a daughter to him, and he and she turn to each other and draw strength from each other, he grieving the loss of his daughter and wife and she looking for support because she is taking Line’s place on the volleyball court. Overall, this was a good, not great, sports movie. I can’t think of any movies that have been made with volleyball as the featured sport, so this film helps to fill that hole. Like most inspirational sports movies, this one tugs at the heartstrings, so if you get emotional do have a box of tissues ready. You are going to need them.
With an overabundance of superhero films, especially in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it can be easy to assume if you’ve seen some, you’ve seen them all. Thor: Ragnarok is the movie that can fix all that. Infused with humor, side eye, and some tongue-in-cheek references, the third Thor movie is a breath of fresh air that is enjoyable for all viewers, not just those deep in Marvel lore. This film can even be watched reasonably easily without having seen the two previous movies or any of the Avengers tie-ins. 20 and 30-something adults can join us for a free viewing of Thor: Ragnarok on Friday, August 3rd at 6:30 p.m. as part of our #LibSocial Popcorn & Pop Culture series. We’ll laugh along to the jokes and admire Jeff Goldblum at his most Goldblum while munching on snacks and meeting new friends. For more information, visit http://libsocial.ippl.info or follow us on Meetup.
Charlie Lang (Nicholas Cage) is a New York cop who doesn’t have enough money for a tip. Yvonne Biasi (Bridget Fonda) is a waitress who can’t catch a break. And yet when a cop offers her the choice of a regular tip or half of the winnings of a lottery ticket, she ends up with $2 million. It Could Happen to You is a delightful feel-good romantic comedy. In the mood for other rom coms? Check out our list.
From start to finish, The Greatest Showman mesmerizes—from the kaleidoscope of colorful costumes and sets to the catchy musical numbers. It portrays the musical story of P.T. Barnum, magnificently played by Hugh Jackman. The extravaganza starts when he is a poor orphan who falls in love and then marries a girl from a well-to-do, snobby family, Charity (Michelle Williams) and starts a family. Then, he sets out to fulfill his dream of building the greatest show on earth. Barnum hires a dwarf, Tom Thumb, and others with physical abnormalities, such as a giant to attract audiences, but treats them with respect. The moving song, “This is Me”, performed by the bearded lady, Tony nominee Keala Settle, won the 2018 Golden Globe for Best Original Song. Also, “Rewrite the Stars” sung by Barnum’s business partner (Zac Efron) and an African-American trapeze artist (Zendaya) while performing their own aerial stunts reflects their budding romance in the face of prejudices. The Greatest Showman is pure entertainment for school-aged children and adults. There is also a sing-a-long version. Check out The Greatest Showman: original motion picture soundtrack to listen to the incredible songs again.
LAPD officer Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) has gone undercover to take down a team of street racers, but his loyalties are tested when he has to choose between his job and his love of racing. Throughout the eight movies (so far) in the Fast & Furious series, O’Connor and Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) sometimes race against each other and sometimes with each other, but always in the most tricked out cars possible. While the series may look like just a bunch of fast cars, it actually has a strong message about family and loyalty throughout—but there’s definitely fast cars, heists, shootouts, and everything else you could want from an action flick. My personal favorite is Fast Five, which brings together all of the best characters from the series and sets them on an Ocean’s Eleven style heist and has the best visual tricks. Tokyo Drift (third in the franchise) is a great movie if you don’t want to dedicate yourself to eight movies, but be warned, it’s going to pull at your heartstrings. F&F is infamous for its complicated naming sequence, so here’s a list of the movies in order, including the upcoming 2019 spin-off. Click on the titles to view them in our catalog.
A visually stunning original movie musical, The Greatest Showman stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, and Zendaya. The story follows P. T. Barnum and the origins of the circus, but at its heart, the film is about acceptance and relationships and dreams. Oscar-winning lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul wrote the show stopping Oscar-nominated anthem "This is Me" along with so much other memorable music (such as redemption song “From Now On”). After you watch the movie, you’ll definitely want to check out the soundtrack on Hoopla. Check in next month for Mary S.’s take on the film.
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.