Movies We Like
Handpicked By The Amoeba Staff
Films selected and reviewed by discerning movie buffs, television junkies, and documentary diehards (a.k.a. our staff).
A modernized take on the sort of old Hollywood ancient Roman epic that updates the sword and sandal genre with plenty of ass kicking spectacle and a powerful central performance from Russell Crowe as a Roman general who seeks vengeance after losing his family at the hands of a corrupt prince and is forced to fight as a gladiator in Rome’s coliseum. The film’s populist hero and themes went over big with audiences turning Crowe into a mega star in the process.
Based on legendary Frank Miller’s graphic novel, 300 is the story of King Leonidas of Sparta, who with only three hundred Greek soldiers faced off against the million man Persian army at Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Co-writer and director, Zack Snyder (The Watchmen), should be given a lot of credit. 300 is a very exciting action film, utilizing modern technologies to retell an ancient tale from antiquity. The direction captures the spirit of the source material, while adding great elements that coexist seamlessly within the paradigm of Frank Miller’s work.
The performances by the largely male cast are solid across the board. Gerald Butler (Phantom of the Opera) is commanding as the iron-willed King of Sparta, “Leonidas.” He chews on his rally-cry dialogue with verve and carries the weight of a true ruler in his body language. His performance gives Leonidas considerable reason and intelligent nobility, while believing that he could lay waste to both man and beast in the heat of battle.Continue Reading
First off, it is important to note that even horrible films can be hugely entertaining and Commando may be the most defining example of this. Structurally the film has no arc whatsoever. It is simply a few minutes of set up and then the rest is simply conclusion. But what a wonderfully cheesy journey it is as Arnold mows down hundreds of hired thugs single-handedly and seeks justice against the men who dare take his daughter.
Although Schwarzenegger hit his peak as an action star later in James Cameron’s True Lies, this and Predator are the most fun of his eighties films, following the huge success of The Terminator. As “John Matrix” (how’s that for a name?), Arnold is one beefy, mean fighting machine. Introduced to us in typical montage, we know him to be a hard worker (as he carries a log bigger than a man) and that he is a great dad (feeding fawns in the forest with his daughter). After that, through the blatant exposition by the cardboard “General Franklin Kirby,” we learn that he is no mere man. Matrix is as bad as they’ve ever had to come out of Special Forces.Continue Reading
Legend has it that if you witness the Wendigo today, sometime tomorrow someone will die. This, according to many beliefs held by several Native American tribes, is not necessarily the basis for this Larry Fessenden (Habit, Last Winter, No Telling) picture. But it sure provides a creepy overtone for the haunting tale.
George (Jake Weber), Kim (Patricia Clarkson) and Miles (Erik Per Sullivan) are headed to upstate New York from Manhattan so that George can escape the high strung atmosphere of his job as a professional photographer for an advertising agency. Things turn bleak when George accidentally runs into a deer which prompts a very uncomfortable encounter with three locals. The attention of the audience shifts to Miles. While his character is rather brooding and subtle, Miles is shrouded in innocence. George and Kim are very protective of their young son and this becomes evident as the prolonged contention between the family and the locals becomes more volatile, particularly with the character of Otis (John Speredakos).Continue Reading
Catch Me if You Can
Catch Me if You Can is the true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (DiCaprio) who, by the tender age of seventeen, cut over $2.5 million dollars worth of fraudulent checks and was one of the FBI’s most wanted. Frank travels the globe, taking on such identities as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and an attorney. Always on his tail is fraud expert Agent Carl Hanratty (Hanks) from the Bureau.
Although a story of a con man on the run from the law, the way this story is told, it comes across more like a fairy tale about the impetuousness of youth. Steven Spielberg’s direction is flawless in maintaining this tone throughout, telling a “crime story” that is amazingly playful. John Williams’ hip retro score and the great momentum of Michael Kahn’s editing add to this happy-go-lucky sort of attitude. The vibrant color palette, fantastic sixties costume and production design, and Janusz Kaminski’s cinematography, all contribute to make up this wonderful “true story of a real fake.”Continue Reading
From the surreal opening frames of “Max” (Jeff Bridges) wandering vacantly through a cornfield, that gives way to an inferno filled with plane wreckage, you know you’re in for a unique cinematic experience. The actor aptly described the film’s opening as if director “Peter (Weir) laced the popcorn with acid.”
Fearless is a tale of a San Francisco architect (Bridges) who is one of the only survivors of a downed flight headed for Houston. He loses his best friend and business partner and comes out of the flames feeling invincible. He is deemed the “good Samaritan” by the media, after helping lead people to safety. But he returns home to find himself emotionally isolated from his family. The only comfort he can find coming from helping a suicidal woman (Perez), after her baby perished in the wreck.Continue Reading
Children of Men
As much as science fiction films are maligned for being the playground of geeks and fanboys, the genre has a pretty stellar track record when it comes to reinventing what we as an audience expect from the cinema. To those that saw them in their original theatrical release, films like Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blade Runner are described as "experiences" more often than as "films;" drawing out the hyperbolic sides of people, phrases like "life-changing" aren't at all uncommon.
As soon as there's a generation of filmgoers young enough to have missed it, I imagine I'll be saying the same things to them about Children of Men.Continue Reading
Copland (The Director's Cut)
Garrison, New Jersey is a pleasant place to live. Just over the Hudson River from New York City, this calm suburb is home to many NYPD police officers. These men who spend their days fighting crime on the streets of the Big Apple built this community in order to provide a safe haven to raise their families. But thing are not always what they seem, when the cops are corrupt and the law in Garrison is whatever they deem it to be.
The story kicks off on the George Washington Bridge. Officer Ray Donlan (Kietel) decides it’s best to fake the death of his nephew, Murray “Superboy” Babith (Rappaport), to avoid what could be seen as a racially motivated murder at the hands of a cop. That decision begins the spiral what will unfold, spilling over into their humble little community.Continue Reading
Max (Foxx) is a taxi driver with big dreams. Vincent (Cruise) is a freelance killer on a business trip to clean house. Tensions mount up when Vincent steps foot in Max’s cab, using him as his chauffer on a nightlong killing spree.
Michael Mann (Heat, Miami Vice) is one of the true kings of crime cinema and Collateral may be his most precise and exact tale. With the best pacing of any of his films, Mann makes great use of High-Def cameras to give the nighttime cityscape of Los Angeles a unique and dream like aesthetic.Continue Reading
Recent attention to the children's situation in war-torn Uganda has been spoken about in art events and documentaries such as Invisible Children, and there's a reason for that – international events, especially in Africa, are becoming more and more cared for as history school books fail to cover these contemporary aspects of our global issues.
War Dance, Sean and Andrea Fine's documentary about children competing in the Kampala Music Festival, has been received ambivalent critical review. New York Times' Stephen Holden sums up the conflict: the film "is so gorgeous that its beauty distracts from the anguish it reveals… in spite of its slickness, is an honorable, sometimes inspiring exploration of the primal healing power of music and dance in an African tribal culture."Continue Reading