Short Term 12 is exactly like being injured in a part of your body where you didn't think it was possible to get injured before. It will hurt but it will make you care. Natural and understated by budget and by purpose, it is powered by perfect performances that will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride you will never forget. It is at times sweet, at times depressing and at times hilarious. The thing is, without even taking into consideration its small budget or the importance of the issues it talks about - we would still consider Short Term 12 as one of the best movies of the past 20 years.
First off you have to remember it is the same writer as Training Day. Then you have to believe that he must have gone to a joint training camp between the Taliban and Mexican Cartels or something since Training Day to come up with such a tense, unpredictable script. But End of Watch is more than that. It is warm and sweet (yes), and a great showcase of Gyllenhaal and Pena's talents -- which thanks to a documentary-style cinematography, and the actors' 5-month immersion program with actual LA cops, make for a very authentic, rich, and overall exciting film.
This is director Hayao Miyazaki and producers Studio Ghibli at their best. On the surface level, it's a film about a young girl who stumbles into an abandoned theme park with her parents. She accidentally finds herself in a creepy spiritual world wherein she must find a way to save her parents and escape. More broadly, however, this is a film about the struggle for Japanese cultural identity in the wake of the economic crisis of the early 90's. A deep and deeply hypnotizing movie about a little girl's journey.
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In a different change of pace, this biopic focuses on John Lennon’s reckless adolescence and family life instead of his soon-to-be iconic music. It brings an epic rockstar many of us have known our entire lives down to a more relatable level. The young Aaron Taylor-Johnston gives a very angsty performance which feels a little over the top at times. Anne-Marie Duff does comes off too flirtatious for a newly formed mother-son relationship but Kristin Scott Thomas outshines them all with her steely demeanor.
Andrew Garfield is a single father living with his own single mother in their family home. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, they find themselves evicted from their home by a businessman - Michael Shannon in a role as intriguing as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, if not more. Desperate for work, Garfield’s character starts working for the same businessman, ultimately evicting other people. A star-packed, gritty and sobering tale on capitalism and our the lengths to which we’re ready to go to save face - while at the same time risking our most important relationships.
Based off the real life experiences of the film's writer, Jack Asser, Starred Up is a gritty crime drama set within a violent offenses prison in the UK. The film's name references a youthful offender who, by virtue of his crimes, is sent to an adult facility. The film hums along like a taut bit of wire, keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat as the enormity of the prison subculture is unfolded in front of them. Unlike many other prison dramas, this film isn't afraid to break cliches and explore new ground, and is populated with disturbingly real character studies, slices of dark and broken humanity.