Once again, time for our best movie list from the past year. These are movies we watched last year, not necessarily movies that came out last year. Do you really care?
Once eight choices this year. I only put those films that really rocked our world and there just weren't ten of them like in previous years.
We watch movies on Netflix and Hulu Plus. Most of the choices below are movies we saw on Netflix, but not streaming. Of course, Netflix continues to expand its streaming collection, so check to see if the one you want to see is there or not. I'd love to stop doing the DVD-by-mail thing and just stream everything. I know that's where Netflix is going, I can't wait until the movie studios catch up to their thinking.
An extremely emotional film. August Rush tells the story of a young boy who does not know his mother and father, but feels that they speak to him through the music that he hears. Even though he has no musical training, he finds that he is able to play guitar and other instruments just by tapping on the wood and plucking the strings. A street musician (Robin Williams) finds him and helps him improve. The boy continues to think of ways he might get to meet his parents, whom he is sure are both musicians themselves (they are). The back story shows how his parents met and the decision they had to make about giving the boy up. A lovely story, great acting (especially by Keri Russell as the mother) and wonderful music throughout.
An ambitious London police officer gets transferred, against his will, to a small English village. Just as he is mourning the lack of action, he notices some strange events occurring that can't be coincidental. This film is a combination of raucous police action and very funny characters and scenes in the village.
Another musically-oriented movie, and another heartwarmer. Elderly people get together to sing an interesting mix of rock and roll hits, including songs from the Clash, Chuck Berry and The Ramones (imagine a bunch of old codgers singing "I Wanna be Sedated"). It's a documentary of a real group that has been touring for several years. Well done, and you'll really get to like the old folks making people laugh and enjoy the music.
Asking the question of all of us "What lengths would you go to for your sibling?" this movie is based on the real-life situation of a sister who puts herself through law school for the sole purpose of freeing her (she believes) innocent brother from jail. Hilary Swank is in top form (when isn't she?) and Sam Rockwell has always been one of our favorites. Puts you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
I guess this was the year for musical movies for us. Country Strong features a country singer (Gwyneth Paltrow) who has been in-and-out of rehab and is trying to put her career back together. Along comes a young, beautiful, talented songstress (Leighton Meester of Gossip Girl) and trouble starts brewing. Both women are amazing performers and the movie rocks (or twangs) from the first song to the last. Neither my wife nor I are big country music fans, but we can recommend this film to anyone who enjoys American music.
Set in South Africa at the time when Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman, of course) is released from prison and subsequently becomes president of the country. He is looking for ways to unite the whites and blacks and seizes on the Rugby World Cup coming up. Black people are surprised at this since the team is entirely white, and the team is just as surprised to find out they will be a political tool in this way. Matt Damon plays the captain of the rugby team. The film helps us think about ways we can all pull together as one team, one country, one people. Very, very worthwhile movie --- you will enjoy it deeply.
Never Let Me Go
A movie based on one of those science fiction novels that gives us a picture of what could happen in the future if governments and corporations go whacko (not entirely fictional). Several young people appear to be students in a strict, parochial school. But they are actually part of a grand experiment, cruel, disgusting and inhumane. The students find out and try to find a way out. Keira Knightley stars. It's beautifully done and very touching.
I'll have to ask all my female blog readers and friends to forgive me, but this movie was really, really good. My wife liked it too. It's about a porn director who almost accidentally writes a great non-porn script. He has no intention of making the movie, but is convinced by several co-workers to give it a try. He sneakily fits scenes of the non-porn into the filming of his latest porn, and chaos ensues. The acting and writing is quite good, the premise is silly and the characters are lovable. I'm trying to remember if there is an actual nudity in the movie --- I think there isn't. It's a gas.