1. “Before Midnight”
Director: Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy
“Before Midnight” is a complicated and spectacular end to the “Before” series. The first two movies, “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004) focus on the spontaneous love affair between Ethan Hawke’s Jesse and Julie Delpy’s Céline while “Before Midnight” offers a view of their lives after their love has had time to age.
The first two movies set up the relationship between Jesse and Céline to show exactly how strong their connection is. Their conversations are so real and simple, yet they always lead to deep, reflective moments.
It’s not as easy as the first two films but that’s because it’s not meant to be. Linklater does well to show his audience that love isn’t solely about infatuation or attraction. It’s about understanding someone’s role in your life and realizing that without them, you’re not complete and that’s not always a smooth ride.
“Before Midnight” is a great story that’s perfectly written, not unlike the previous films in the series, and wonderfully acted.
2. “The Way, Way Back”
Director: Jim Rash
Starring: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette and Steve Carell
I had really high expectations for “The Way, Way Back” just from the trailer, and it did not disappoint. The film follows the coming-of-age tale of Duncan (Liam James) as he goes on vacation with his mother (Toni Collette), her new boyfriend (Steve Carell) and her boyfriend’s daughter to an beach house. At the start of the movie we see Duncan as this shy, closed-off kid who doesn’t want anything to do with his family. We watch as he grows into a fun, outgoing kid who still doesn’t want anything to do with his family.
And while the “rebellious teenage who hates his family” story has been told several times in the past to the point where it’s clichéd, the way the cast works with the screenplay is not to be missed.
Sam Rockwell was one of my favorite things about this movie. In a movie that tackles a lot of tough issues, Rockwell’s sense of humor really helps set the tone. He made it fun where it could’ve been rather depressing.
Although Rockwell stole the show, I was especially surprised with Carell. As someone who notoriously plays the protagonist in both his movies and on TV, I wasn’t really sure about how well he’d play the evil stepfather figure. He made me not like him at all, which is odd for a Carell character, but this proves that his acting is spot on.
James was a great pic for Duncan and he did an amazing job in the role, proving to be a notable young actor worthy of following. It’s nice to see that being a child actor on “Psych” paid off.
Director: Jeff Nichols
Starring: Matthew McConaughey and Tye Sheridan
“Mud” is a true coming-of-age story that does well to fashion real-life teenage troubles and emotions into a thrilling journey. After seeing “Take Shelter,” I was eager to watch another Jeff Nichols character piece. The way his characters are written is spectacular.
There’s something about each character that anyone could easily identify with whether it’s the man hopelessly in love with a woman who has moved on or the boy struggling to find out what love is once his parents separate.
While the ending felt out of place, it did what it needed to do in terms of offering a sort of closure that the film needed.
I’ve never seen Matthew McConaughey in a better role.
4. “World War Z”
Director: Marc Foster
Starring: Brad Pitt and Mireille Enos
I was not expecting much from this movie in fear that it’d be another cheesy, half-baked attempt at making zombies interesting through excessive gore and violence. While the movie stays true to this traditional theme, the story is told in a way that’s refreshingly intelligent, endlessly thrilling and ironically, very human.
The movie isn’t your typical zombie flick relying on blood, guts and gore to convey the idea of mayhem; it tackles world issues to make what’s happening seem very real and possible, offering a look at how the world would be impacted were something like this to ever occur.
Brad Pitt offers a phenomenal lead performance as a United Nations investigator turned family man, Gerry Lane, who is forced back into his previous way of life after the outbreak occurs.
With the zombie apocalypse scenario getting play in almost every form of pop culture, “World War Z” offers a surprisingly refreshing and mature take on an otherwise old idea.
While the film adaptation differs drastically from the original book “World War Z” by Max Brooks, it is still a well made and engaging film definitely worth seeing.
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Starring: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley
Neill Blomkamp’s “Elysium” is top-notch. His “District 9” film blew me away with its special effects and ability to draw its audience into a story. With “Elysium,” the same factors are very present.
Matt Damon offers a stellar performance as Max, a working man who has never let go of his childhood dream of one day traveling to Elysium. I really hope Damon gets the recognition he deserves for this role. Jodie Foster, too, is at the top of her game in this one. While her character was poorly written at times, she really personified the cruelty and viciousness of the corrupt politics at work on Elysium.
Sharlto Copley can do no wrong and this movie; he shows off his stunning versatility. While in “District 9” he played weak and quirky Wikus van de Merwe, in “Elysium” his character is the drastically different and insane Agent Kruger. For someone who didn’t have a major film role until “District 9,” he offered up one of the best performances of the movie.