Martin Ritt’s 1972 adaptation of the beloved children’s novel by William H. Armstrong is one of the most powerful family films ever made. It is set in Depression-era Louisiana, where a proud father (Paul Winfield) poaches game to feed his wife (Cicely Tyson) and children and winds up on a chain gang.
A movie about a family of Irish cops—that sounds like one you’ve seen before. But Pride and Glory contains a few unfamiliar notes, and it rings truer than most movies about corruption in the police ranks.
The first “ghost comedy” was an effervescent 1937 charmer called Topper, in which two of the most elegant high comedians in movies, Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, crashed their roadster and immediately rebounded, their insouciant personalities utterly unchanged, as specters. That’s the joke on which ghost comedies are premised: death doesn’t alter a thing except corporeal reality.
Tia Lessin and Carl Deal’s documentary Trouble the Water is a devastatingly effective depiction of the experience and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It isn’t the first: Spike Lee’s exhaustive, four-hour When the Levees Broke ran on HBO in 2006.
Evelyn Waugh’s marvelous novel Brideshead Revisited begins as a coming-of-age story. At Oxford in the 1920s Charles Ryder crosses paths with the disarming, childlike aristocrat Sebastian Flyte; they become inseparable friends, and Charles is taken up by Sebastian’s family.
The makers of Hellboy II: The Golden Army must have had the time of their lives. The director, Guillermo del Toro, and his team of set, costume and special-effects designers provide a cornucopia of visual splendors.
Like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), the first nonanimated big-screen feature film based on C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia books, Prince Caspian is visually spectacular, emotionally stirring and dramatically potent.
The protagonist of The Visitor is Walter Vale, an academic who has retired from life after his wife’s death. A political economist at a small Connecticut college, Walter (played by Richard Jenkins) is no longer engaged with his students. He’s taken a reduced teaching load ostensibly to complete a book, but he’s not writing one.
Staff Sergeant Brandon King (Ryan Phillippe) thinks Tikrit will be the last stop on his tour of duty in Iraq. It’s a bad finish: he leads his men into an ambush. He loses three of them and another winds up blind and crippled. When Brandon and his childhood friend Steve Shriver (Channing Tatum) return to their Texas hometown, they’re proclaimed war heroes.
The Austrian picture The Counterfeiters, which won this year’s Academy Award for best foreign film, dramatizes yet another little-known story of the Holocaust. In “Operation Bernhard” the Nazis assembled a select band of prisoners at Sachsenhausen concentration camp and put them to work producing counterfeit versions of the English pound note and the American dollar bill.
Viewing Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman’s Nanking is emotionally devastating. The film is a record of the Japanese occupation of Nanking in 1937, which entailed unimaginable cruelty. In addition to the wholesale slaughter of the Chinese, the Japanese committed 20,000 acts of rape in the first month of occupation, according to the Tokyo Tribunal on War Crimes, convened after World War II.
Unlikely as it sounds, director Tim Burton missed all the jokes in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. The origins of the celebrated 1979 musical, written by Stephen Sondheim in collaboration with Hugh Wheeler, lie in the vaudeville-style English music hall tradition and in 19th-century penny dreadfuls.
Joel and Ethan Coen accomplish what Cormac McCarthy set out to do in his bombastic 2005 novel No Country for Old Men. The movie by the same name is a portrait of the moral void of post-Vietnam America (it’s set in 1980). The title, which implies a nostalgia for vanished old-world values, is taken from Yeats’s poem “Sailing to Byzantium.”
This 1982 drama directed by Alan Parker is one of the great films of its decade—complex, adult, irresolvable, with a screenplay by Bo Goldman that poeticizes its characters’ anguish. Many of the lines stay in your head.
Fashioned from a book by Jon Krakauer, Sean Penn’s Into the Wild is an elegiac film about Christopher Johnson McCandless, who, upon graduating from Emory University in 1990, set out, without notifying his family, to live as elementally as possible in a manner inspired by Thoreau, Tolstoy and Jack London.
Neil Jordan’s The Brave One has a lacerating opening section. Erica Bain (Jodie Foster) is a New York disc jockey who dedicates her radio show to the neglected or vanishing splendors of the city she adores. One evening she and her fiancé (Naveen Andrews, of TV’s Lost) are mugged while walking their dog in Central Park; he’s killed and she winds up in a coma.