I haven't had much time to write about recent films watched - but there are a few that I wanted to make sure I mentioned. After a string of mediocre movies I finally watched a few great ones again.
A common theme among these narrative movies is a certain amount of violence - either seen on screen or hinted at. So these aren't for everyone.
The Nick Cave (love him for ever) penned "The Proposition" tells an at times rather gory story exposing the savage nature of everyone (including the supposedly most civilized with their fancy china and rose bushes in the middle of the desert) living in the "Wild Wild Down Under". Starring Guy Pierce and Emily Watson among others.
Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" focuses on two rivaling magicians portrayed by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale who may be willing to go a bit (or a lot) too far to outshine the other. Suspenseful and thrilling. Felt a bit like watching a car accident about to happen - you can't shake the sense that what these guys are up to can't be good. For everyone who loves trying to solve magician's tricks. Impressive production design. Very layered, with many metaphors and hints and an array of fully developed supporting characters (the only drawback: not all of their stories get fully told - you can tell it's based on a novel and get the sense there's something missing in the movie). Hands down more exciting than "The Illusionist" (which I liked as well and which, in its defense, was only based on a short story), more complex and a lot darker.
The Swedish "Lilya 4-Ever" directed by highly-praised Lukas Moodysson is thoroughly sad. Teenager Lilya gets abandoned by her mother who takes off for America. Now Lilya has to fend for herself in a misty, cold, rundown former Soviet Union full of broken down buildings and heartless people. Drugs, prostitution and hopelessness. But there is beauty - even in the heartbreak. It's been a long time since I've seen a film which made me feel so strongly that someone was real, that I was looking in on their desolate life and wished I could help them somehow...
And to top it of - everyone's favorite: "Children of Men" directed by Alfonso Cuaron. The perfect doomsday action movie. The chase, the innocent victim, the beacon of hope, the recovering alcoholic hero with the sad past, the redemption, social & political commentary, a deep message - and then great performances, art direction, colors, sound, editing, cinematography. Oh, the cinematography! Great overall look. But the biggest achievement are those long choreographed takes! WOW! Well, worth watching this film on DVD and checking out the Special Features. (Also fascinating is a short special on how they created a certain event through CGI - amazing what they can do today - and what they're willing to show in a movie. You'll know which scene I'm talking about if you've seen it.)
Two totally unrelated documentaries I just watched - both about people who you don't have to like but who are still worth watching and judging.
"Overnight" - the story of the overnight success and downfall of slightly pompous filmmaker Troy Duffy. Did the film maybe come from too vengeful of a place? (A bit of trivia, my first film job in New York was on the next feature produced by Troy Duffy's partner CB.)
"Born Rich" - what's it like to be a young Metropolitan heir to a ridiculously large fortune? - directed by one of their own Jamie Johnson (yes, Johnson & Johnson). Some of them actually come across as kind of nice.