Readers hear some movie recommendations from editor Ben Vanelli ‘21 for the last time. Thank you, Ben, for helping Perkiomen stay entertained! Best of luck at Loyola.
My last film recommendation column already? It’s only my fourth one, but I feel like I’ve been doing these forever. Thanks to those who take the time to read these, and an even bigger thanks to those who take these recommendations to heart.
The Mitchells Vs. The Machines (2021)
Dir. Mike Rianda, Jeff Rowe
I absolutely loved the show Gravity Falls when I was in middle school. If you did too, then you’ll love The Mitchells, which features some of the same writers and all of the same humor and heart. It follows a film school student and her family who, while on a road trip to her first day of college, are ambushed by a robot uprising and remain the last free humans on the planet. Colorful and creative animation supports a nice balance of character dynamics that make for a great time.
Dances With Wolves (1990)
Dir. Kevin Costner
When I think of Kevin Costner, I think of easy-to-watch baseball movies. This seems to be what most people think about. And then there’s the Best Picture-winning Dances With Wolves (and if Goodfellas had to be cheated out of the award, there were worse options). It follows a Union Civil War soldier who abandons the conflict and takes off into no man's land, eventually allying himself with the local Native Americans. It’s a rather progressive and effective introspective for the time, and although the White Savior theme is apparent, albeit unmaliciously, there is a lot to love here, especially the fantastic musical score.
The Departed (2006)
Dir. Martin Scorsese
Scorsese, most famous for his mob flicks in New York, ships up to Boston here. Matt Damon, Leo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin, and a career-best Mark Wahlberg round out the absolutely stacked cast, all of whom give it their all. The story follows a mob mole who infiltrates the Boston PD as an officer, while at the same time, a Boston PD rep infiltrates the mob. The plot alone makes for some fantastic tension, and the adrenaline-inducing editing and direction complete what ends up being a thrilling film that proves Scorsese can still make something new out of his signature genre; it’s actually a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong flick called Internal Affairs.
Gone Girl (2014)
Dir. David Fincher
Rosamund Pike stars as a fed-up housewife who, after discovering her husband (Ben Affleck) cheating, frames him for her murder and takes off. Both the leads are fantastic, and Fincher’s direction is icing on the cake. Beyond that, it’s a great look into modern relationships, their boundaries, and what we deem acceptable and unacceptable both as part of a relationship and as part of the people who view them.
Shrek 2 (2004)
Dir. Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, Conrad Vernon
Shrek 2, the best of the Shrek films, encapsulates everything great about the series. Its sense of humor is just amazing. There are jokes definitely not meant for small children, but also innocent humor coming from the zaniness of the characters. The character dynamics are something that makes it great as well, with mature dialogue and excellent voice acting contributing.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
Dir. Steve McQueen
McQueen, one of the finest directors out there, broke out with a retelling of Solomon Northup’s journey from freedom to slavery and back again. It’s a heartbreaking story that treats slavery with the exposure and truth that it deserves to be treated with, acting as a history lesson that’s plenty entertaining as well. Every single performance is practically immaculate, the screenplay is phenomenal, and everything else from set design to cinematography solidifies 12 Years a Slave as not just an excellent period piece, but an intelligent story about slavery and its awfulness.
Amazon Prime Video
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Dir. Wes Anderson
You may know Wes Anderson as the director with a quirky style and sense of humor, using pastel colors and symmetrical shot framing to tell his stories. The Darjeeling Limited is where he comes into his own, but it’s also where he’s at his most pure, vulnerable self. It follows three brothers who haven’t spoken since their father’s death, after one of them invites them on a train to India for a “spiritual journey.” Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman consist of the main cast, where Brody is fantastic and Wilson shines as well.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Dir. M. Night Shyamalan
So at this point, you all probably know the famous twist of this movie. If you don’t, go ahead and watch this immediately, because it’s one of the best and most iconic in the history of film. Even if you do, The Sixth Sense still thrives off of great performances from Bruce Willis, Toni Collette, and Haley Joel Osment, as well as fantastic direction from Shyamalan. He uses a good amount of symbolism in color, and builds a tense atmosphere around his complex characters.
Dir. Denis Villenueve
Villenueve is one of my favorite directors, and though I consider Arrival to be one of his weaker films, it’s still phenomenal. It follows a linguist who is tasked with helping the military communicate with aliens who have spread out in pods across the globe. The way it plays with time and language is very interesting, supported by an always great Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner. It’s a very realistic take on what would happen if aliens did land on earth as well, and I love it for that.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Dir. Tim Burton
While some people don’t like Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Willy Wonka, I personally love it. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but having Tim Burton direct a darker and more manic version of Willy Wonka is such a great idea, and it’s executed well here. The production design within the factory is modernized as well, which works towards the film’s advantage. The kid performances aren’t bad at all and the Oompa Loompas are hysterical in a stoic, sarcastic kind of way.
Dir. Sidney Lumet
Al Pacino stars as the real Frank Serpico, who single-handedly combated police corruption within the NYPD. The story thrives on its performance from Pacino and well-structured script, as well as the atmosphere of New York City’s daily life for Serpico. It’s a real police thriller with a slight twist as the majority of policemen are the antagonists, spiraling Frank’s relationships, work life, and mental stability.
The 400 Blows (1959)
Dir. François Truffaut
You can’t expect all these recs to be mainstream. Let’s go back to one of the most important film movements in history, The French New Wave, and one of its most iconic films in The 400 Blows. The title is translated from a French saying meaning “to raise hell,” and follows a mischievous young boy in late 50s France who can’t keep himself out of trouble. He has complex relationships with his parents, has no desire for school, and his punishments often are too extreme for his actions, which leads him to thievery. Truffaut uses beautiful tracking shots to tell this story, and his young actors are incredible as well. A must-watch for anyone who’s ever felt misunderstood in their childhood, which is probably everyone.