A true movie expert is taking charge of curating the Movies section, so it's still a work in progress. Movies will be added as the summaries are done.
While we wait, here are a few of my favorites for you to consider and/or re-watch again.
C'mon, C'mon (2021)
Directed by Mike Mills. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffman and Woody Norman.
This was my favorite movie from 2021. Filmed in black and white, it forces you to focus on the relationships between the characters, their conversations (both spoken and unspoken) and mental illness. The three main actors are phenomenal - funny, overwhelmed, scared, tender and every other emotion you can imagine. Phoenix's job in the movie is to question and record children in various cities about their thoughts on the future and their communities. The kids are not actors, and their comments are unscripted and from the heart. They will make you laugh and break your heart. Let me know what you think after you watch this movie.
The Red Violin (1998)
Directed by Francois Girand. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Carlo Cecchi and Sylvia Chang.
Shot in Austria, Canada, China, England and Italy, it is a film for the senses and travelers will love it. The movie follows the mysterious history of, and the people who owned, a rare red Stradivarius violin made in 1681 that shows up at an auction. The soundtrack, featuring the incomparable Joshua Bell on his own Stradivarius, will instantly take you back to each scene in the movie as the violin passes through the hands of various ethnic people with their own unique music. I love this movie.
The Untouchables (2011)
Directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Starring Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy.
Based on a true story, this movie became one of my favorites almost as soon as it started. It is laugh-out-loud funny in one scene and can bring me to tears in the next. It's about grief, acceptance, second chances, friendship and love - and not necessarily in that order. The two actors are extraordinary in this movie. Without giving anything away, just watch it and fall in love with it.
The Bookshop (2017)
Directed by Isabel Coixet. Starring Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, Honor Kneafsey and Patricia Clarkson.
Set in the 1950s, a recent young widow moves to a small village in Suffolk England and decides to open a bookshop in a long-abandoned and decrepit building. Her decision infuriates the richest woman in town, who does everything she can to make the widow's life miserable and to run her out of business and town. This movie addresses bullying, grief, loneliness, perseverance, friendships and knowing your limits. The bookshop owner forms unique friendships with Nighy's character and that of the wonderful young actor, Kneafsey, and their relationships and conversations will leave you laughing and teary-eyed. This is a great movie.
Directed by Garth Davis. Starring Dev Patel, Sunny Pawar, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara and David Wenham.
Based on a true story, this movie follows a young man from India to Tasmania who tries to find his family in India after being separated from them for 25 years. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't tell you how that happened, but it will definitely strike a chord with parents everywhere. Patel and the child actor Pawar are so talented and incredible to watch. This movie will make you laugh, cry, and appreciate your family and those you love more than you do now. Watch it soon. It's fantastic!
The Monuments Men (2014)
Directed by George Clooney. Starring Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett.
Based loosely on a true story, this movie follows a group of men in 1943 who are tasked with finding and saving pieces of art and other culturally-important items before the Nazis destroy or steal them. If you love WWII movies or art (or both!), you will love this movie.
The Woman in Gold (2015)
Directed by Simon Curtis. Starring Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Daniel Bruhl.
This is a biographical movie about an elderly Jewish woman who, with her young, inexperienced lawyer, fought the Austrian government for almost a decade to reclaim Gustav Klimt's painting of her aunt (Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I), which was stolen by the Nazis from the family's home in Vienna just before WWII started. The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Did she get the painting back? You'll have to watch the movie to find out. You will be glad you did.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) and The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2015)
Directed by John Madden. Starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton.
Take a group of recent retirees who all want to find a more affordable place to live out their retirement years, send them to beautiful but chaotic India, and throw in a young man trying to make a go of a retirement hotel, and both of these movies will make you laugh hysterically one minute and bring you to tears the next. These are two of my favorite movies ever. Go watch them for the first time or watch them again.
The Hundred Foot Journey (2014)
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom. Starring Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal and Charlotte Le Bon.
When an Indian family leaves Mumbai, moves to France and opens a restaurant across the street from a nasty French chef with a Michelin Star restaurant of her own, trouble starts soon after. This movie is funny, poignant, and has great messages about acceptance and love. This is a great movie.
Directed by Yojiro Takita. Starring Masahiro Motoki, Ryoko Hirosue and Tsutomu Yamazaki.
There is a reason this film won the Oscar in 2009 for Best Foreign Language Film and another 10 awards at the 2009 Japan Academy Prize ceremony. This understated, but extremely powerful movie, has a lot of great messages, including learning to adapt to change when your long-held dreams die, respecting others, finding your passion in life in unexpected places (especially when it is something completely unknown to you before then and when the people who love you most don't initially support you), and the sacred and beautiful rituals associated with death. I never expected this last one to be the most important lesson I needed to learn, but it was. All of this, set to a background of gorgeous cello music, makes this one of my favorite movies. Let me know what you think.
Directed and written by Paul Bettany. Starring Jennifer Connolly and Anthony Mackie.
This is a brilliantly acted and filmed movie about two homeless people trying to survive in New York City. With brief flashes of humor, it's the heartbreaking and gritty love story of Hannah and Tahir, who are complete polar opposites. In this film, you watch as they struggle to catch a break and learn how they each ended up living on the sidewalks and alleys on the unforgiving streets due to very different, yet connected, reasons. In one scene, Hannah asks passersby for spare change and cigarettes with a sign she made that says, "I used to be someone." More than once while watching this movie, the phrase "there but for the grace of God go I" passed through my mind. After watching this film, I will never again look at a homeless person in the same way nor will I make judgments about how and why they became unhoused. This is a powerful movie in so many ways.
The Lady in the Van (2015)
Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Starring Dame Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings and Jim Broadbent.
Based on a true story, this film is about Alan Bennett, a writer, who befriends Miss Shepherd, an eccentric, elderly homeless woman, and allows her to park her van in his driveway of his London suburb for three months so that she can get back of her feet. Fifteen years later (yes, I said years, and yes, this is a true story!), she was still parked in his driveway and their odd but beautiful relationship continued until her death. As is true in most cases, and it is certainly true with Miss Shepherd, people often have much more complex and interesting back stories and lives than they reveal to others and, sometimes, even to themselves. This film reminds me of how harsh words and traumatic events in our lives can have life-long repercussions. Be very careful about the words you say to others and yourself, as well as the actions you take. Please don't be the cause of someone else's despair, fear or hopelessness. Please watch the movie and think about walking a mile in someone's shoes instead of judging them.
The Exorcist (1973)
Directed by William Friedkin. Starring Linda Blair, Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow and Jason Miller.
Despite the long divergent side stories and some unnecessary vulgarity, this movie’s acting and special effects, both visual and auditory, make it a truly creepy classic, even fifty years after its release. Blair’s portrayal of an innocent girl possessed by a demonic entity after playing with a Ouija board is unforgettable. [Lynn’s note: Blair's character is so creepy that it’s still one of the most terrifying movies I’ve ever seen. Given that the novel, written by William Peter Blatty, was based on records of a real exorcism performed on a 13-year-old boy in 1949 makes the movie even more horrifying. I think the book is really good (and the details are really graphic), but it ranks as the only book my Mom ripped into pieces and threw away when she saw me reading it on vacation. I had to buy the Wesley Public Library another copy. 🙁]
The Grudge (2004)
Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Behr.
This eerie and at times brutally gory American remake, using the same director of the Japanese original, does an excellent job of being intense and satisfying in its horrifying portrayal of a cursed house with a vengeful spirit. The grudge is a curse created when someone dies while experiencing extreme rage or sorrow in the place where they died.
Directed by Andy Muschietti. Starring Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier and Javier Botet.
An emotional and haunting tale in which an attached spirit wants to maintain her hold on two young girls that she saved from their insane father, who abandoned them in a cabin in the forest and now wants them back. The film’s combination of poltergeist freaky and sad will keep you riveted to the end.
Silent Hill (2006)
Directed by Christophe Gans. Starring Radha Mitchell, Sean Bean and Laurie Holden.
Based on a video game series, this movie about a young girl who cries for Silent Hill when she sleepwalks at night is an atmospheric and cinematically impressive ride. The cursed town tale is eerie and the non-stop events that occur are intense. The story is as engrossing as it is horrific.
The Shining (1980)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd and Scatman Crothers. In short, Kubrick makes great cinema. Based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel, the movie stands out as a masterpiece of giving the impression of understatement, which uses a dilapidated hotel, psychic abilities known as “shining”, feelings of unexpected dread and a haunting musical score to convey Jack’s (Nicholson) descent into madness and leads him to try to kill those he loves most. Though not explicitly violent, it remains a classic horror movie worth watching. Nicholson is great at playing crazy.
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Directed by Mike Flanagan. Starring Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson, Kyliegh Curan and Cliff Curtis.
This sequel to The Shining picks up decades later with young Danny, now with a family of his own, trying to deal with his supernatural gift (shining) and facing a new threat and ally. The slow pacing of The Shining is used and countered in this movie, which has a much more dynamic and layered story. While not quite the Kubrick masterpiece, it stands very well on its own merit of being more of a supernatural adventure/retribution movie.
Lights Out (2016)
Directed by David F. Sandberg. Starring Teresa Palmer, Gabriel Bateman, Billy Burke and Maria Bello.
I love when movies use those huge Californian Craftsman houses (and don’t they all?). 😊 This supernatural co-dependency story makes great use of light and shadow to present a female version of Freddy Krueger, minus the comedy, who wants her living counterpart all to herself. It’s edgy, scary, exciting and has an ending that shows the high cost of giving.
The Possession (2012)
Directed by Ole Bornedal. Starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick and Natasha Calis.
Dybbuk boxes are all the rage these days, but be careful of garage sales finds! This will all make sense after you watch this movie. When a young girl from a broken home goes yard sale shopping and buys an interesting box, the paranormal creepiness starts shortly after. This is a very well told and involving tale that will alternately scare and keep your attention as you watch the family deal with a demon who needs a new home. [Lynn’s note: I really liked this movie. Morgan and Calis give great performances.]
The Amityville Horror (1978)
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder.
Based on a true story of a man who murdered his family at their home in Amitvyille, New York, Kidder and Brolin do a very convincing job of portraying a blue-collar family who, struggling with money and their jobs, find what looks to be the house of their dreams at a great price. Unfortunately, it also comes with evil spirits that wreak havoc, mentally and physically, with them and their children. Although that combination of events sometimes can be tiring to watch, especially in the scenes with too much dialogue and not enough action, this movie manages to keep that to a tolerable level. Much has been said about the murders that inspired this movie. The documentary about the murders and subsequent events that took place in the house is based more on fact, rather than paranormal occurrences.
The Apparition (2012)
Directed by Todd Lincoln. Starring Ashley Greene, Sebastian Stan, Tom Felton, Julianna Guill and Rick Gomez.
Just as playing with a Ouija board was becoming a social media sensation, this movie took it high tech. When six friends conduct The Charles Experiment, a parapsychology experiment during which they stare at a drawing of a deceased man, it takes the customary horror film turn of going bad, to the detriment of those involved, and the forces of evil make their presence known. While this film may have been lambasted as unoriginal and full of jump scares, it does an excellent job of taking the best of those things and using them to present an effective horror experience.
Dead and Buried (1981)
Directed by Gary Sherman. Starring Melody Anderson, Jack Albertson and James Farentino.
This movie takes places in a small ocean side town, where unexpected yet opportunistic murders are happening, and the sheriff tries to piece together the motives and killer. The plot of this movie is more surprising and surreal than it appears. Saying anymore would spoil the fun. It received accolades for its special effects and Albertson’s last performance; he died six months after the movie’s release.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)
Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. Starring Lauren Bittner, Chris Smith and Chloe Csengery.
While the third in the Paranormal Activity series, it is the first one chronologically and considered a prequel. This installment is much more dynamic in the scare department, is cinematically elevated and felt less tedious to watch than the previous two. The first two movies of this series were so stylistically derivative of “Blair Witch Project” that they bordered on copyright infringement. While the third movie could be referred as “Poltergeist-The Awakening!”, that would be considered high praise because the Spielberg/Hooper “Poltergeist” still holds up. If you liked Poltergeist, check this one out.
Directed and written by Clive Barker. Starring Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins and Ashley Laurence.
Considered the best of Barker’s books made into movies, watching it is like watching it butcher its way through the screen and into your eyes. It’s not for the faint of heart! When a man buys a mystical puzzle box, he learns that solving the puzzle and opening the box unleashes Cenobites that condemn the solver of the puzzle to brutal suffering, unless he or she gains a sponsor to supply the blood that will resurrect him or her to escape. This is a cautionary adventure that shows the horrors of seeking otherworldly thrills that will tear your soul apart. Despite the unflinching slaughterhouse scenes, this movie has an elegant, sophisticated, dream-like feel to it that sets it apart from the usual torture and dismemberment fare.
The Haunting (1999)
Directed by Jan de Bont. Starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Owen Wilson and Lili Taylor.
If you watched the 1963 original, you know what a fun house adventure that was and how Sam Raimi paid homage to it in the Evil Dead II. This version by de Bont takes that fun house theme to the max. It’s not a very scary or ominous movie, but more of a special effects and sound design experience. The movie’s mix of sounds, from the subtle to the absolutely room shaking (the better your home theatre, the more you will appreciate that), the elaborately-decorated and massive sets, and some on-location scenes at a manor and castle in England, makes this one to watch.
Evil Dead (2013)
Directed by Fede Alvarez. Starring Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore.
This remake of the original 1981 movie delivers a refined cringe factor, in contrast to the previous Evil Dead films that lean toward slapstick or had a rough and ready quality to them. This movie has the same cabin in the woods, the same release of evil spirits and the ensuing battle for life and limb, but there is nothing laughable about the ensuing carnage that is so intensely inflicted on the group of concerned friends in this version.
Directed by Niels Arden Oplev. Starring Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, William Baldin, Oliver Platt and Kevin Bacon.
With a top cast of up-and-coming stars, this movie follows five medical students who take part in secret experiments of being put to death medically and then revived. As you might imagine, this changes their perceptions of life around them. This is not a romantic comedy, but instead a somewhat updated and unsettling version of Scrooge, as the medical students come to grips with the new visions that their lives after death experiences have foisted upon them.
Jacobs Ladder (1990)
Directed by Adrian Lyne. Starring Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena and Danny Aiello.
This dreamlike and oddly structured film covers the challenges that life can throw at you. The movie’s storylines include a soldier’s experiences before and after his service in Vietnam, the death of a child, employment struggles, personal relationships and how the characters deal with them. What takes this from being a melodrama to horror are the graphic and unsettling visions Robbins’ character has that are hard to differentiate from real life. Depending on your tolerance, this movie may seem a little slow and wordy, but the plot and special effects make it a great one to watch.
Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Directed by Drew Goddard. Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison, Fran Kranz and Jesse Williams.
What starts out as a party at the ever-popular cabin in the woods, a group of college students quickly fall victim to a variety of monsters. This movie takes the Friday the 13th theme and ratchets it up to something much more sinister and encompassing.
Directed by James Wan. Starring Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne and Barbara Hershey.
As sort of a precursor to The Conjuring, Insidious has an almost playful malevolence to it, as it does a modern-day take on the 1980’s movie Poltergeist. The story centers on a boy being stalked by a demon in a separate reality, one in which his father must enter to save his son. Better than your typical haunted house fare, it inflicts its trepidation upon you.