For Christmas last year, Kyle and I made a creative gift for a friend of ours whose film collection, and viewing experience, was woefully limited. We came up with a list of shared favorite films that we knew (or discovered!) that she hadn't seen, and each wrote reviews.
Then we bought the movies, attached a color review with each one, and presented this gift to to her, along with a popcorn maker (The Magic Popper, to be specific), and a selection of popcorn toppings. It was a fun project that we put a lot of thought into, and she really enjoyed the gift!
The Darjeeling Limited
By Kyle - A road movie, of sorts, which chronicles the travels of three dysfunctional brothers. The film captures the spirit of adventure found in the best travelogues, along with the deep emotional exploration of the best dramas. And it's funny. 4 Stars
By Leah - If you haven't already experienced the haunting beauty of Adrien Brody's nose, this is a great place to start. This is a well written movie filled with unexpected laughter, melancholy, and fully realized characters, who remind you of the importance of friendship, family, and the fleeting joy of train travel. 4 Stars
By Kyle - A story of dreamers, lovers, fathers and sons, Big Fish is masterfully directed by the usually macabre Tim Burton. A story about storytelling, the film gracefully walks the line between fantasy and reality. This one is easy on the eyes and hard on the heart. 4 Stars
By Leah - At it's core, I think this movie is about love. Love of adventure, romance, family, and most importantly, life. I've never watched it without crying, and it always leaves me with a profound feeling of wonder and hope. Unique, moving, and beautiful both visually and emotionally, this movie is pure art. 5 Stars
By Kyle - A damn good “cop movie” which transcends an often cliché genre. The story is told at a perfect pace, allowing the actors to develop realistic bonds and immersing the viewer in the world. A simple concept with great emotional complexity and depth. 5 Stars
By Leah - This film is a compelling character drama with great performances from all of the actors, even the caveman-faced Matt Damon. The movie moves along briskly, giving us nuanced characters, none of whose intentions are completely black and white. Leonardo DiCaprio gives the best performance of his career. 4 1/2 Stars
By Kyle - Whimsical and spirited, this film will appeal to the poet in you. Not your typical story, Amelie follows a girl with a very active imagination and desire to help others. This is a fun and romantic film worth reading subtitles for. And you can't discount the presence of the lovely Audrey Tautou. 4 1/2 Stars
By Leah - This movie had me at hello. A suicidal goldfish, a traveling gnome, and a handsome Frenchman who rides a motorcycle; how can you go wrong? The movie is funny, sweet, incredibly romantic, and makes you want to immediately move to Paris and meet a beautiful stranger. 4 Stars
By Kyle - Off-beat, quirky, oddball, these are all words that could be used to describe this early gem from the Coen Brothers (The Big Lewbowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men), but none of those words do it justice. Nicolas Cage plays the pitch-perfect dumbass husband, while Holly Hunter tongue lashes him in her role as his demanding wife. The writing is smart and inarguably hilarious. As the film progresses, the laughs give way to genuine emotion, but it never loses sight of its own absurdity. 4 1/2 Stars
By Leah - You may think that Nicholas Cage is a terrible actor, and these days you would be right, but in this film he gives an amazing comedic performance. This is one of the most intelligent, ridiculous and hilarious films around. I can never see it on television and not stop to watch a few minutes. Holly Hunter is also incredible as the type A, insanely needy, predictably desperate to procreate wife, who loses all interest in both law enforcement and housekeeping. I love it. 4 3/4 Stars
I Heart Huckabees
By Kyle - A film that asks the deepest questions about life, and also tries to show you how those questions can be so damn funny. A break out performance for Mark Wahlberg, who steals the film despite the best efforts of the other excellent actors. Funny and philosophical. 4 Stars
By Leah - The movie is fresh, funny, and creative. Seasoned actors like Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are finally given screen time, ageism be damned, and the movie is so well written that Jude Law almost seems like a real actor. This movie is undeniably hilarious. 5 Stars
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
By Kyle - Steve Martin and John Candy at their finest. Hilarity from the first seconds, this is a classic around our household. Packed with memorable and quotable scenes. Especially good around the holidays. 4 1/2 Stars
By Leah - The first time I saw this film, it was about 10 years after it came out. I'd never heard of it, never seen anything like it, and literally fell out of bed in ecstatic belly laughter. This is one of my favorite movies, so perhaps I'm a bit biased, but I think it is one of the funniest films of all time. John Candy is pure comedy butter, and no one has ever used the word fuck in a more entertaining way than Steve Martin. I hope you love it as much as I do. 5 Stars
Being John Malcovich
By Kyle - A brilliant film unlike anything you have ever seen. Cool, dirty, weird, hilarious, this film certainly marches to the beat of its own drummer, in a good way. When it came out, this movie was seen as something exciting and new. To date, I can still see its influence on other films and television shows. 4 1/2 Stars
By Leah - If this movie doesn't make you laugh, someone has stolen your funny bone. Charlie Kaufman, the writer, is a genius. The story is brilliant, incredibly inventive and endlessly entertaining. It is a true original. 4 3/4 Stars
By Kyle - Dark and dank, Seven is a psychological thriller with a heavy atmosphere. The real success of the film lies in the duality of Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman as the two lead roles. Smart and engrossing, this is a film that stays with you for a while. 4 Stars
By Leah - This is one of the first films where Brad Pitt began to be respected as a real actor. The moment the movie begins, you are lost within the madness. Thought provoking, intense, and inexorably headed toward a painful conclusion, this is a movie that is hard to turn away from, and hard to forget. 4 Stars
Waking the Dead
By Leah - Some people, especially those who live in my house, might call this a maudlin film. I believe it is heartfelt, and beautifully romantic. Regardless, any film that features the blue eyed, black haired, gorgeous duo of Billy Crudup and Jennifer Connelly has something going for it.
Billy Crudup is a brilliant actor and gives a compelling performance as a man who may or may not be losing his mind. The first time I watched this film, I cried a river of tears and then sat right back down and watched it all the way through again. 3 3/4 Stars
Note - Kyle Masterson refused to review this film, citing irreconcilable differences.
But he wanted me to mention that he edited these photos himself to add an artistic touch to the gift.