Locke’s Favorite Films from Redbox: Summer Edition

by | Jun 27th, 2011 | 8:31PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, In My Humble Opinion, Movie Lists, Movies

Most weeks I give you some lesser-known home-video picks, but every six months I lay down my absolute favorite films currently available from redbox.

(Note: When I did my list last winter, I found that because of the home-video release schedule, it contained a lot of summer-y action and comedies right smack dab in the middle of the winter “awards/prestige” season. Welcome to opposite land: It’s summer outside and everyone’s heading off to superhero flicks and action sequels, but my Faves list is chock full of wintery, Oscar-y titles.)

The Top Five

 

127 Hours

127 Hours is a lean, simple tale about much more than just a man cutting off his arm. As directed by Danny Boyle and brilliantly acted by James Franco, it’s about everything you gain when one of the most extreme situations imaginable forces you to leave so much behind. So when 127 Hours finally gets to That Scene, we find what remains pinned under the rock is much less valuable than what is taken away from it. That Boyle and Franco take us all the way there and back out again is the film’s greatest achievement.

Black Swan

Starring Natalie Portman in her Oscar-winning performance, Black Swan is a stunning fever dream that pulls you into a twisted world of self-destructive ballerina rapture, where grace and pain intertwine and dangerous impulses fuel transcendence. You’re so plugged into Black Swan that when things really do go bug-funk, bat-snot nuts, you fully believe in the crazy–and also in this striking, exhilarating plunge into the maelstrom, where art and beauty swirl alongside horror and madness.

Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine is an incredibly well-acted drama that deals with painful emotions. What makes the film so harrowing is it shows a marriage’s all-too-realistic collapse from erosion, not easily blamed “faults” or big “crises” that can be overcome. With Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s emotional honesty and unflinching performances, Blue Valentine packs a stunning dramatic punch that won’t let you walk away unfazed.

Rabbit Hole

A rich and sometimes raw drama about a couple (Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman) trying to cope with the loss of their child, Rabbit Hole is a moving study of grief. But it’s also a well-written, well-acted, and well-directed triumph. It takes a difficult, complicated, daunting subject and in trying to find emotional truths helps us understand ourselves and our lives. That makes the film far from depressing, but rather invigorating and enriching.

True Grit

The Coen Brothers’ version of True Grit, starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, and Matt Damon, is full of their usual deadpan humor and wry, sideways jabs at cynical sentimentality and jaded heroism. It also infuses its funny but melancholy tone with thrilling action, fine performances and typically flawless storytelling. That makes True Grit one of those rare, masterful films that’s as enriching as it is entertaining. Which also makes it one of the best films of last year.

The Runners Up

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The American

George Clooney’s latest film, The American, is not a Bourne-style action flick full of showy heroism. Instead, it’s a quiet, often still, but always riveting study in an assassin’s existentialism. A fine, mesmerizing achievement, The American feels European, not just because of the international cast, setting, and director, but also because it seductively wraps itself around a cruel, sinking ’70s-style fatalism.

Another Year

Like many of writer-director Mike Leigh’s nuanced and thoughtful films, Another Year finds a low-key transcendence by not flinching from emotional realities. As a lonely middle-aged woman desperately trying to drink her way past depression into delusion, Lesley Manville is heartbreakingly pathetic, but Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent are equally affecting as her happily married, happily aging friends.

Cyrus

A sneaky, hilarious and touching look at love, jealousy, and desperate manipulation, Cyrus, starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and Jonah Hill, is a “rom-com” that draws both its romance and comedy from delightfully different places. You can argue whether it’s a biting comedy or a sad-funny romantic dramedy, but either way watching Reilly and Hill square off in a passive-aggressive war of emotional sabotage is a treat.

 

The Illusionist

An animated masterpiece with a gentle heart full of warm, whimsical humor, The Illusionist doesn’t go for flash and spectacle. It’s one of those beautiful films that–like a simple, perfect magic trick—is so well made, so naturalistic, you almost take for granted how wonderful it is. The tale of a traveling magician in the ’50s and the young woman who believes his tricks are real, its exquisite bittersweetness makes The Illusionist resonate with much more than just cute humor and pretty images.

 

Let Me In

It’s a shame knee-jerk dismissal of remakes, vampire overload, and short attention spans kept people away from Matt Reeves’ brilliant remake of the cult-fave Swedish film. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz are both phenomenal, but the real star is the cold, dark, beautifully photographed amorality that soaks it through–it’s not about finding friendship, it’s about losing your soul. We need more smart, gripping horror films like this.

Honorable Mention

It feels odd these last several films (three of the most awarded and acclaimed of 2010) didn’t make my top ten, but that’s the fun discovery of these lists: You do a personal, emotional gut check on which films really got into your movie-watching soul. I like, respect, and enjoy all three of these very much, but they just didn’t reach quite as far in and touch me as deeply as the others did.

The King’s Speech

Yes, it’s an Oscar-winning “prestige” film about triumph over adversity on a personal and global scale. But thanks to a deft touch with its Big Themes and tremendous performances from Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush, The King’s Speech is also plenty entertaining.

The Social Network

Well crafted and full of sexy energy, insights, and top-notch acting, The Social Network is self-assured and engrossing–an exhilarating display of writing, acting and filmmaking.

The Fighter

More than just Christian Bale and Melissa Leo’s Oscar-winning performances, the whole cast bobs and weaves to David O. Russell’s punchy, gritty energy. Most of all, this isn’t a “drugs are bad” downer, but a winning tale of triumph, told with character and humor.


One Response to “Locke’s Favorite Films from Redbox: Summer Edition”

    • Currently 4/5 Stars
    moviegoer123
    Posted on June 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Rabbit Hole, The Illusionist, True Grit, Another Year, The Social Network and The King’s Speech I had seen, they are all great movies. My favorite out of all them is Another Year. Brilliant performances, particularly by Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Jim Broadbent made the film shine. It’s never boring unlike The Social Network at times. Another Year is realistic however it seems a little derivative at times. Rabbit Hole was too emotional however still a successful film that I liked. All of the films that I listed I loved in someway or another and I thought they didn’t have many faults.