Nov 4, 2011

Written & Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée: Filmmaker Spotlight

Well, here I am... a month later. If you want to know the truth, I chose to hold off my reviewing of the last film I saw at the Toronto International Film Festival-- Jean-Marc Vallée's "Café de flore"-- for one simple reason: I was so blown away by the director's profoundly moving visual style that I felt the need to explore his equally acclaimed work "C.R.A.Z.Y." so I could subsequently dedicate a blog post to his overlooked talent as a French-Canadian filmmaker (maybe I let a little too much time pass). So please continue reading for my reviews of both films mentioned above-- especially if you're looking for a new obscure director to begin obsessing over.

Sep 29, 2011


Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2011
Language: English
Runtime: 99 minutes

Acclaimed director Steve McQueen-- whose name became widely known by film aficionados after earning much praise for his debut feature "Hunger"-- continues to explore the arena of intense character studies with his latest effort "Shame". Chances are you've heard of this film and await its release with much anticipation. In that case, allow me to tell you what there is to look forward to...

Sep 19, 2011


Country: Denmark/Sweden/France/Germany
Year: 2011
Language: English
Runtime: 135 minutes

Many of you who have seen Lars von Trier's notoriously disturbing "Antichrist" are probably curious to find out exactly in what direction the director is headed with his films. Does his latest effort, "Melancholia", measure up to his other work? Does he explore new terrains here or does he continue to aim for the usual edginess seen in his most controversial crafts? Answers to these questions can be found in what's written below. So, you kind of have no other choice but to read on...

Sep 14, 2011


Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2011
Language: English, Hindi
Runtime: 117 minutes

Reviewing this film will probably prove to be the most challenging effort of mine as a self-proclaimed film critic, simply because I feel that I will either give away too much or not say enough about it. Since I wish for you to live the same cinematic experience as I did with "Trishna", I will try my best to say as much as I can without letting you know exactly what to expect.

Sep 10, 2011


Country: Finland
Year: 2011
Language: French
Runtime: 93 minutes

I started off my experience at this year's Toronto International Film Festival with Aki Kaurismäki's "Le Havre", a rather obscure, small production that was competing for the Palme d'Or at Cannes (it was Terrence Malick's "The Tree of Life" that was the big winner). The question is: Did I start off on the right foot? Read on to find out...

Aug 24, 2011

Great Movies - Being There (1979)

"Life is a state of mind."


Rarely do films provoke so much thought to the point where you feel the need to search for other people's interpretations. Hal Ashby's Being There is one of these cinematic gems purposely left ambiguous for the viewer's appreciation. However, if you haven't seen the film, reading on about the premise might give you different ideas, contradicting what I'm arguing. Although essentially simplistic in plot, I must reaffirm to you that-- ultimately-- there's a lot more to Being There than it seems...

Jun 14, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 8

My never-ending list of favorite films is finally coming to its long-awaited close with this very post (sorry for letting so much time pass by since the last post!). So if you must break out into tears, now is the time. Alright. Now take a deep breath, and get ready to find out which films I chose for the final part.

P.S. - Since I have lived through the 2000s more than any other decade (I grew up then), you will notice that I mention a much larger amount of films on here than on any other one of the eight parts. I must stress that this was probably the toughest decision I've had to make for this feature.

The Final Part
Part 8: The 2000s

5. Mulholland Dr. (2001)
I recently experienced this perplexing film for my second time around, and it seems to have cast a spell on me. Whenever I begin to think about this wonderfully mystifying treasure, in a matter of seconds I am overwhelmed by my thousands of thoughts surrounding the film. Why do I love it so much? Maybe because it's strange, enigmatic, eerie, haunting, thrilling, shocking, horrifying, disturbing, hallucinatory, sexy, erotic, beautiful, and heartbreaking-- all at once. Mulholland Drive is a puzzling expression of David Lynch's unique talent as a filmmaker, featuring an amazing performance from Naomi Watts.

May 29, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 7

Before I present to you my favorite films of the 90s, I must apologize again for letting so much time pass by since I posted the last part. Anyway, unless you haven't read any of the previous parts of this feature, you should already know very well how this works. So without further ado, I allow you to check out my picks! 

Part 7: The 90s

5. Fargo (1996)
Fargo is a true American masterpiece (and when I use that word, I mean it). It couldn't possibly be any more unique: it's a murderous thriller set in the cold, snowy landscapes and cityscapes of North Dakota. And on top of that, it manages to make the sticky situation the characters find themselves in something that's darkly humorous-- or, should I say-- hilarious. This wonderful cross between comedy and thriller makes the film both intensely suspenseful and ridiculously fun. And that's something that's almost singular to the work of the Coen brothers.

May 15, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 6

Though I would have to call it my least favorite decade when it comes to film, I still had quite a struggle picking my five favorite films from the 80s.
By now, you should know the drill: check out both my honorable mention and "Yeah, I'll get to it" lists at the bottom, and please rate this post and leave a comment. And just to make things more interesting, why not answer this question in your comment: Which decade in the history of film is your favorite, and which one is your least favorite? 

Part 6: The 80s

5. Wings of Desire (1987)
Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin) is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful films of all time. With its rich black and white and color cinematography, visual and verbal poetry, overall tranquility, and reflective outlook on humanity, how could one not fall in love with this work of art? You don't need to believe in angels to gaze in wide wonder at this masterpiece.

May 8, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 5

Who doesn't love the 70s? Film was a visual medium that had really matured by that point, and a great deal of groundbreaking classics (in the making) were astonishing audiences everywhere. 
Since I never cease to have a hard time boiling it all down to a selection of five films, I once again included an honorable mention section below. I also conceived the brilliant idea of inserting a "Yeah, I'll get to it" list at the end of the post, which consists of a bunch of widely praised films I haven't seen and would like to see sometime soon. That way, I won't get too many comments where people complain about the exclusion of a certain film I haven't seen.
Lastly, don't forget to rate this post and don't be afraid to leave a comment. I always enjoy reading everyone's opinions! 

Part 5: The 70s

5. Annie Hall (1977)
Romantic comedies don't get much better than this one. Annie Hall is a love story that is told piece by piece, using a very unique narrative structure-- a breakthrough style at the time. While Woody Allen plays his usual self, Diane Keaton delivers what is arguably her greatest performance as the quirky, ditsy title character he falls in love with. Unlike many of yesterday's and today's "rom coms", this one is refreshingly realistic yet hopeful.

May 1, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 4

Once again, picking my five favorites among so many wonderful films was a very painful, heartbreaking challenge! Especially this time, because the 60s just so happen to be my favorite decade when it comes to movies. It was a time of flourishing for the overabundance of revolutionary motion pictures that were trying to surpass the predominant Hollywood conventions. And all my choices seem to reinforce this statement.
As always, make sure to check out the honorable mention section below, which consists of films which I will never forgive myself for having left out; and please rate this post and leave a comment. Don't be afraid to share your thoughts!

Part 4: The 60s

5. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
(Read my review here)
A tale of true friendship, Midnight Cowboy is about finding solace in someone else through times of hardship and loneliness. This warm, heartbreaking film will stick with me for as long as I live. Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman deliver outstanding performances, together ranking as one of the greatest screen duos of all time. And John Barry's beautiful harmonica score will always be there to remind me of this film's raw emotional power.

Apr 23, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 3

Before reading, I'll have you know that I had an especially hard time picking my five favorite films from this particular decade. So please take in note each and every great film I listed in the honorable mention section below (the list goes on and on!).
As always, don't forget to rate this post and leave a comment below, whether you agree or disagree with my selections!

Part 3: The 50s

5. Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Billy Wilder practically dominated the 50s in terms of cinematic masterpieces. And out of all his wonderful films-- though I hate to break it to you early-- I would have to say that this one is my favorite. It's a very suspenseful piece of courtroom drama with excellent acting and more twists and turns than you could ever imagine! This can be explained by the fact that it's based on a short story written by my favorite author and the "Queen of Mystery" herself, Agatha Christie!

Apr 16, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 2

I'm terribly sorry for letting so much time pass since I published the last part! I'll try to be quicker in posting the next seven parts.
Oh, and by the way, I thought I would change the list of films to an ascending order, just to make things more exciting. I also added an "honorable mention" section at the end.
Enjoy! And don't forget to leave a comment, whether you agree or disagree with my selections!

Part 2: The 40s

5. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
This film is one of my personal favorites, because I've been watching this perennial at Christmastime ever since I was little kid (I like to think I still am one). Though it's ultimately a feel-good story, it has always made me shed a small tear at parts. It's an incredibly warm, moving film that can be enjoyed again and again by the whole family! 

Apr 2, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Films - Part 1

Since quite a bit of time has passed since my last real blog post, I thought I would do something monumental. So I thought about going through every past decade (starting with the 30s) and listing some of the films that, in my opinion, stick out as true masterpieces (five films per decade). You may or may not agree with my choices, but either way, I would love to hear what your thoughts are! 
Please stay tuned for the next seven parts of this feature!

Part 1: The 30s

1. Gone with the Wind (1939)
Gone With the Wind was a groundbreaking achievement in cinema that defined the classic American epic and established standards for films to come. I find this film impossible to resist. Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable shine as Scarlett and Rhett, who undeniably make one of the greatest screen couples of all time.

Feb 22, 2011

Cult Classics - Videodrome (1983)

(or: Movie Review #8)
"Death to Videodrome! Long Live the New Flesh!"

Ever since I watched Videodrome, it has been nearly impossible to keep thoughts of it out of my mind. It's without a doubt one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking films I have ever laid eyes on. And since I've been obsessing over it for the past day and a half, I thought: "What the hell! I should just write a review to get it out of my system!". So here I am, doing just that.

Feb 19, 2011

Timeless Classics - Midnight Cowboy (1969)

(or: Movie Review #7)
(Side note: it has been a while since I've written a movie review, and since many of you have suggested that I write about an older film instead of always writing about recent ones, I thought I would review a timeless classic. And thus begins a new series of movie reviews.)

"I ain't a f'real cowboy. But I am one helluva stud!"

Midnight Cowboy. If you haven't seen it, you probably know of it as the only X-rated movie to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars. But there's much more to it than its record-breaking film rating...

The film's plot is pretty simple, but it's delivered in a very compelling and powerful way. Joe Buck (Jon Voight) is a small town man from Texas who decides to leave his job as a dishwasher and hop on a bus heading to New York City. How does he plan on making a living there? By being a male prostitute, of course! He seems pretty confident that rich women are into that sort of thing and that he can make any one of them fall head over heels for his cowboy act. Typically, his dreams of living the easy life are crushed as he repeatedly fails at hustling or finding clients willing to pay for his services. In this downward spiral, he meets the sickly Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman)-- another outcast-- and together they build up their friendship and dreams as they struggle to survive in the Big Apple. 

Jan 10, 2011

Movie Review #6 - Blue Valentine (2010)

"You said for better or worse. (...) Now this is my worst"
Two nights ago, I managed to get my brother and some of our friends to come along to go see the critically-acclaimed indie "love story" Blue Valentine. I had been looking forward to seeing it ever since its trailer was released. With the controversy surrounding this movie's initial NC-17 rating in the US (and the headlines it made after winning the appeal for an R rating), I was even more excited to see this movie. The day it got its limited release in the US, I thought for sure that it would be playing in some Toronto theater. But in reality, I had to wait over a week until I could see it in the ONLY Toronto theater screening it. Of course, when we rushed to the 7:30PM showing and arrived more than 15 minutes early, the enormous theater was already packed. It just comes to show how many cinephiles reside in the Toronto area. We were worried about getting in, since the movie had an 18A rating and none of us were 18. To our great surprise, they let us in without any hesitation. And I am so glad they did!

Dec 31, 2010

Movie Review # 5 - Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

"Losers are people who are so afraid of not winning, they don't even try."

Little Miss Sunshine is about nothing and everything. The story is catapulted by the determination of the bankrupt Hoover family to get their daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) to the finals of a beauty pageant in California. This embarks the whole family on a series of events as they journey across the country in a yellow VW bus. The dad, Richard Hoover (Greg Kinnear), is a failed motivational speaker who is desperately trying to pitch his "9 steps to success" concept, which basically divides people into two categories: winners and losers. His wife, Sheryl (Toni Collette), is a stay-at-home mom who agrees to look after her gay brother Frank (Steve Carell), a Proust scholar who recently had a failed suicide attempt when he was rejected by his boyfriend and lost his #1 spot in his domain to a competitor. Grandpa Edwin (Alan Arkin) is an extremely vulgar old man and a heroin addict who was kicked out of the retirement residence Sunset Manor for his scandalous behavior. Olive's older brother Dwayne (Paul Dano) is a fifteen-year-old who has taken a vow of silence as a follower of the great philosopher Nietzsche, and whose ambition is to become a jet pilot. Throughout the film, these misunderstood characters are deeply explored and we begin to find out who they truly are.

Nov 7, 2010

Movie Review #4 - Donnie Darko (2001)

"28 days... 6 hours... 42 minutes... 12 seconds. That... is when the world... will end." 

Two years ago, I watched the cult classic "Donnie Darko" for the first time. Though I didn't think it was bad, I wasn't exactly blown over by it. I didn't understand it, truth be told. Two years later, having heard enough praise for this little movie to drive me to my grave, I decided to give it another chance. I impulsively purchased an inexpensive Blu-ray copy of this film at Best Buy the other day, and watched the original theatrical version last night. I had a feeling that it would soon become one of my favorites, and my senses didn't let me down. I'm not sure whether my inability to comprehend it the first time was due to my age or if it's just one of those movies that requires a second viewing, but I LOVED it either way. It's a funny thing, rediscovering and falling in love with a movie that didn't impress you the first time around. But with "Donnie Darko", it's understandable. What isn't there to love?

"Donnie Darko" is a bizarre psychological thriller named after its protagonist, Donnie Darko, a paranoid schizophrenic teenager whose life is saved by his imaginary friend-- a large bunny rabbit named Frank-- when an airplane engine falls from the sky and destroys his bedroom. After this strange event, Donnie's visions only become more and more recurring, and he begins to commit a series of crimes in response to Frank's requests, renewing his violent past. He also develops an obsession with time travel and seeks answers regarding what lies ahead, after being told by Frank how many days remain before the end of the world. Angst-ridden, the only person who Donnie is truly able to connect with is Gretchen Ross, a girl in his class who claims to have been born with tragedy in her blood. As the story progresses, so do the weird, supernatural, freaky, and thrilling elements.

Nov 6, 2010

Movie Review #3 - 127 Hours (2010)

Movie Review #2 - Hereafter (2010)

Probably the most under-appreciated movie of the year, Clint Eastwood's "Hereafter" is a very thoughtful film that demands our personal reflection. It asks many questions on the mysteries surrounding life and death, and life after death. But these topics aren't presented in an "in-your-face" sort of way (in fact, religion never comes into play with them); instead, they are left to self-interpretation. "Hereafter" ultimately asks you to reevaluate your faith and beliefs. Being an agnostic born into a Christian family, this was the perfect film for me. Not only did it make me wonder, but it also made me widen my scope of the world around me. 

Hereafter is a drama that focuses on three people in different corners of the world, who all "confront" death in different ways. George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is a construction worker who reluctantly uses his psychic ability to help people talk to their deceased loved-ones; Marie LeLay (Cécile De France) is a French journalist who sees everything in a new light after having a near-death experience; and Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren) is a young boy in London who loses the person closest to him and seeks answers regarding death and spirituality.   

The acting in the film is generally quite impressive. Matt Damon, as always, is good as the top billed actor (though the film uses an ensemble cast where the characters have an even amount of screen time). Even better is Cécile De France, a foreign actress known for French films such as the thriller "High Tension". I was also surprised by Bryce Dallas Howard, who wasn't bad at all. However, the one performance that shines brighter than any other is actually from a minor character. Lyndsey Marshal, the British actress who plays the alcoholic mother of the two little boys, is phenomenal. For the 5-10 minutes of screen time she has in this film, she is incredibly convincing. Everything she says is deep and heartfelt. I'm hoping that she snags an acting nomination at next year's Academy Awards, the same way that Viola Davis did for "Doubt". The only performance that didn't impress me too much was that of the little boy Marcus. At times, it felt like he was reading what he was saying off a piece of paper. But he wasn't bad. His performance was still above-average for a kid.

Nov 4, 2010

Movie Review #1 - Almost Famous (2000)

Hey everyone!
This is my first entry on my newly created blog "Nick Plus Movies".
I thought I'd post my most recent review that I posted on, so please read and let me know what you think of it!
- Nick L.

"It's all happening!"
A couple days ago, I finally decided to watch "Almost Famous". And I couldn't have chosen a better time to see it. Just like the film's protagonist, I'm growing up and struggling to discover my true identity. I'm in need of a life-changing experience similar to his in order to find myself.

Out of all the films I've seen in the past while, this is the one that really stands out, soaring above every other. Why is that? It's because, for once, I can personally relate to the story. "Almost Famous" has rightfully earned its spot in my book as "one of my personal favorites".

A semi-autobiographical take on director Cameron Crowe's adolescence, the story centers on William Miller (Patrick Fugit), an intelligent and ambitious 15-year-old growing up in the early 70s with a great passion for music (particularly classic rock). Living with none other than his loving but imposing mother (Frances McDormand), he feels tied down to the boundaries and limits she sets, and always feels that he must remain loyal to her. However, things change when he gets hired by Rolling Stone Magazine to tour with and write about an up-and-coming rock band named "Stillwater" (a fictitious band). He embarks on a coming-of-age journey where he is finally able to come face to face with life and love while finding his place in the world.