Monday, September 15, 2008

30 More Movies You Might Have Missed: 16-20

Continuing Saturday's list. In no particular order, just as they occurred to me.

16. Regarding Henry

In one of his best performances, Harrison Ford plays Henry Turner, a top notch lawyer who is selfish and cold in his personal life with his wife and daughter. He goes out for some cigarettes and when displaying his trademark self-centeredness to a convenience store thief, Henry gets shot in the head. As Henry begins to struggle through recovery we see that his personality has undergone a distinct change. He is now human and humane although also slow mentally. Watching him unravel the mystery of why he always paints Ritz crackers as well as adjust to where he does and doesn't fit in at home and at the office are the heart of the story as we also reflect upon true humanity and how the truth often comes in ways we don't expect.

17. Pan's Labyrinth

This definitely is a fairytale for adults. Do not let the kids watch this one.

During the Spanish civil war in 1944, a young girl and her mother move to their new home with the mother's new husband, cruel Captain Vidal. In the midst of a risky pregnancy, the mother can't do much more than rest in bed while the girl, Ofelia, wanders the grounds and countryside. She soon discovers an entire underground world and is guided by the persuasive Faun in his labyrinth. He offers to help her if she'll complete three treacherous tasks. As Ofelia begins her tasks the viewer is left with the question of whether this alternate reality really exists or is imaginary. Del Toro leaves that up to the viewer. I know what I think ... but I've seen the movie! (Warning: the Captain is a extremely violent and cruel character. If you think that he is going to do something terrible, just figure that he will. I didn't watch when violence threatened and didn't miss any important dialogue in the subtitles.)

18. Reign Over Me

Don Cheadle is dissatisfied with his life. His marriage could be better, as could his dental practice in which he is being stalked by a patient. Trudging along through his routine he is surprised to see his college roommate (Adam Sandler) who he lost touch with long ago. Cheadle had heard that his roommate lost his family in the September 11 attacks and it is soon clear that Sandler welcomes his old roommate's friendship precisely because Cheadle never knew his family. Although this movie has the potential to be a real downer as it examines grief from several angles, it does not fall into that trap. Thanks to the strength of friendships and comedy the movie wound up being uplifting.

19. Howl's Moving Castle

19-year-old Sophie has resigned herself to a drab life in her family's hat shop ... until she is cursed by an evil witch to have an 90-year-old body. She leaves home and goes searching for a way to break the spell. In the countryside she comes upon Howl's strange moving castle which walks about on large chicken legs. Howl is the young wizard who owns the castle and Sophie soon becomes part of the household as the housekeeper. As she gets to know the members of the little household, we also see that their land is under attack from flying ships dropping bombs. Not only must Sophie find a way to break the curse upon her, but she soon wants to help the others that she has met along the way. Naturally, Sophie eventually discovers her hidden potential in the magical castle through her honesty, determination, and bravery. This is a complicated story and my summary is extremely simple. It is a pure delight but be prepared to pay attention.

20. The Dish

In 1969, viewing the Apollo moon landing depends on a satellite dish in Australia that is smack dab in the middle of a sheep pasture. Along with everything else, the local technicians must deal with their natural annoyance at having a NASA man foisted upon them to make sure everything goes ok while the locals feel understandable pride at being in the center of an international spotlight. Based on a true story, The Dish brims with understated wit that shows the differing cultural attitudes between Australia and the U.S. while taking us back to the true wonder of what it meant to watch a man walk upon the moon.

Coming Tuesday (hopefully):
Next: 21-25

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