Closer – Dir. Mike Nichols (Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen, Julia Roberts)


Like so many of Nichols previous character studies (“Carnal Knowledge,” “The Graduate,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”) “Closer” is a brutal portraiture of the nature of the human beast. Although the film feels much like the play it was adapted from, it delves deeply into the largely rotten souls of its four subjects exposing them for flawed people that they really are. Ultimately this is a film to savor and loath, but more than anything this is film about performances that you either believe or you don’t. I did.

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Kill Bill 2 – Dir. Quentin Tarrantino (Uma Thurman, Keith Carradine)


For the record I was not a huge fan of Kill Bill 1. Sure the outlandish fights scenes were kind of fun to watch, and the trademark Tarrantino pop-culture universe was very much alive and well, but the film lacked any kind of real depth. But with Kill Bill 2, the real masterpiece is allowed to flourish. If the first film was the surface, the second is infinite underside, the place where everything begins and ends. More an exercise in the sculpting of strong and memorable characters, the film meanders through Tarrantino territory where everyone’s hard exterior gives way to complicated characters who have stories, motives and experiences that a truly a pleasure to watch come to life. This is another feather an already near perfect cap.

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Ray- Dir. Taylor Hackford (Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington)


You need to think of DeNiro as Jake LaMotta, Ben Kingsley as Gandhi, or Orson Welles as William Randolf Hearst, when you evaluate Jamie Foxx’s transformation into Ray Charles. More than just make-up and mannerisms, Foxx inhabits his character almost as if he had been studying his entire life for the chance to let him out. But “Ray” is also a story that seems almost too improbable to believe: a poor blind man from the still racist South boards a bus with only a few dollars and proceeds to reinvent American music. This is a story mostly about possibility, about making dreams real in a world that gives nothing away for free.

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A Very Long Engagement – Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet


The films by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet set a pretty high bar for each other. From the delicious “Delicatessen” to the surreal “The City of Lost Children” to the light-hearted “Amelie,” each film is something new and beautiful to watch. The same can be said of his latest masterpiece, the epic-feeling romantic voyage of a young couple, separated by World War 1, at the onset of their young love. Part fairy-tale, part war movie, the film unfolds like a curious canvas where everything seems both real and imagined. If a films could be judged by beauty alone, this one would win Miss Universe.

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The Woodsman – Dir. Nicole Kassell (Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick)


“The Woodsman” will no doubt be too heavy for most entertainment seeking moviegoers, but this usually the sign of something truly special. In many ways this might be the most skilled and controlled role of Kevin Bacon’s career. Playing a forty-something, recently paroled child molester launched back into the world, he returns to his old job working in a lumber-yard in an anonymous urban area. He wonders through his life stricken by both a devastating sense of guilt and shame, unable to free himself from the seemingly unconquerable affliction and affection for young girls. Bacon’s struggle and emotional decimation moves the film swiftly down the path that will either lead him to salvation or destruction. Since this is an indie film seeking more acclaim than an audience, you’ll have to see it for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.

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