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I exclude musical comedies, as the Musical genre has received much recognition in this category.
High School (2010)
HIGH-ly entertaining buddy comedy that just happens to involve marijuana
It's not just the film's stoner antics, but the wonderfully natural dynamic between protagonists Henry and Travis (Matt Bush and Sean Marquette) that make this film such a delight! At it's heart, that's what HIGH School seems to be about: two very different guys finding friends in each other in the midst of a sticky situation.
Many equally memorable moments are offered thanks to the expert talents of Michael Chiklis and Adrien Brody. Chiklis (as pompous Dr. Leslie Gordon) exudes a deliciously-villainous disdain throughout the film. His inflated sense of righteousness, and Shakespearean presence, make him a truly love-to-hate personality. As Psycho Ed, Adrien Brody is just so damn fun to watch! One moment his crazed behavior had me in a laughing fit; next, his insane anger had me scared for Henry and Travis' safety. Dr. Gordon and Ed are uniquely accomplished performances that add so much to HIGH School's entertainment value!
I hope you'll believe me when I say this film is so much more than a "stoner comedy". I LOVED it, and have extremely limited experience with other films of that genre. HIGH School made me laugh, made me think...I hope it does the same for you!
The Smurfs (2011)
Fun and surprisingly heartwarming
Prior to seeing this film, I'd watched only one episode of The Smurfs' TV show. That being said, I wasn't sure what to expect from a Hollywood film adaptation, but was pleasantly surprised.
On a technical note, the actors portraying the Smurfs were perfectly cast. From Katy Perry to the legendary Jonathan Winters, each actor excelled in their role. I greatly hope they all return for the sequel.
While the premise is a bit fantastic, the creative team did an excellent job of humanizing the Smurfs. They deal with everyday problems just like humans: fear, family tension, and desire for acceptance. Furthermore, there's a very nice emphasis on parental concerns, mainly through dialogue between Neil Patrick Harris and Papa Smurf.
Laugh out loud funny one moment, sweet and touching the next, The Smurfs is a winner as far as family cinema is concerned.
The Perfect Host (2010)
Highly entertaining thriller, with a smashing performance from David Hyde Pierce
At first glance, The Perfect Host concerns John Taylor's best laid plans being shattered when he meets quirky socialite Warwick Wilson. I wouldn't want to reveal much more; suffice it to say that the film's trailer barely skims the surface so to speak.
Once Warwick's true nature is revealed, it becomes difficult to discern good guy from bad guy. This, however, is one of the film's strengths; it doesn't beat its audience over the head with a specific philosophy.
The highlight of the piece is, without a doubt, the brilliant David Hyde Pierce. As I'm not familiar with Frasier, I can't compare Mr. Pierce's performance as Warwick to Niles Crane. In any case his transformation over the course of The Perfect Host is truly frightening.
I for one hope Mr. Pierce receives a good amount of Best Actor or Supporting Actor award recognition for his work here. He probably has a better shot at the latter, but that can't really be said yet. If you're a fan of his, or are simply curious about The Perfect Host, you're bound to have a good time.
Not nearly as bad as some suggest
Is it Citizen Kane? No, but it does also feature a wonderful performance from Orson Welles. That and a beautiful song sung by star Pia Zadora over the end credits. Admittedly the film drags a bit, and features a somewhat implausible storyline. It's definitely not for all audiences because of those elements.
Nevertheless, Matt Cimber created a thoroughly interesting and entertaining film in 'Butterfly'. It's certainly worth at least one viewing, if anything simply for the credits song "It's Wrong For Me To Love You" and Welles' delightfully over-the-top turn as Judge Rauch. Ennio Morricone's haunting musical score also complements the intrigue of the film's events quite nicely.
The Tree of Life (2011)
A brilliantly conceived, awe-inspiring film
The Tree of Life presents a distinct message in a uniquely stylized manner. The former half, with its stunning visuals of the developing Earth, sets a mood of wonder for the film's duration. The latter half tells the heart-wrenching story of the O'Brien family. These segments allow viewers to compare Earth's life to human nature, with their shared fragility and imperfection.
Mrs. O'Brien is a manifestation of the "Way of Grace": kind, unconditionally loving, and readily willing to take insult and abuse. Mr. O'Brien epitomizes the "Way of Nature": harsh, self-centered, and mainly concerned with his own comfort and satisfaction. The strong clash of the couple's personalities sparks intense frustration and confusion in their son Jack. The boy's torrent of emotion forces him to let go of his childhood innocence very early on.
Jack's bitterness with discovering humanity seems to stick with him into adulthood. However, with intense contemplation of his mother's words regarding the "Way of Grace", Jack finds the solace he's been searching for. He realizes that life is full of imperfection, but he can make the best of it by living with a sense of love for all he meets. He may not have control over the whole world, but he can control how he impacts it.
Jagged Edge (1985)
Robert Loggia's Oscar-nominated performance is the highlight of Jagged Edge
The film itself is a mildly entertaining courtroom thriller, but Loggia's performance as Sam Ransom is the shining star of 'Jagged Edge'.
Despite the fact that Loggia appears in only a few scenes, he leaves a solid mark with a foul-mouthed but tender-hearted character. The nuance with which he displays these two sides of Sam is just wonderful; one moment, he's cursing at Teddy for bringing up past professional problems - later, he's embracing and comforting her when she's frightened and confused.
The range of emotion that Loggia presents in his brief screen time is admirable, and it's a shame that his performance has been mostly overlooked (as it's stuck in an otherwise forgettable film). He was deservedly nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1986, though he lost to Don Ameche for 'Cocoon'. In my opinion (though I don't assume to be right), he should have received that award over Ameche. I don't dispute that Ameche was a fine actor, because he was. It's just that I think Loggia's performance outweighed Ameche's in depth.
If you're curious about 'Jagged Edge', see it for Loggia. His performance is worth at least 3 of the stars I've given this film.