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 Save the Last DanceSave the Last Dance

Save the Last Dance is a surprisingly well-thought out film.  Although it is primarily concerned with dance, it also deals with some big issues.  Julia Stiles and Sean Patrick  Thomas are great as two dancers with completely different backgrounds who come together to merge classical and hiphop dance styles.  Lots of fun, great music, and some serious issues.


Viola and Shakespeare in bedShakespeare in Love

Written by Tom Stoppard (author of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead) and Marc Norman, this 1998 film is both a comedy and a romance–and it is very successful at both.  Great performances by Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph Fiennes, Geoffrey Rush, and Judi Densch fuel this terrific comedy and unpredictable romance!


Silence Lambs 01The Silence of the Lambs

When a serial killer dumps the bodies of several young women into various rivers between Ohio and Pennsylvania, with parts of their bodies skinned, newspapers anoint the unknown assailant as “Buffalo Bill.”  The head of Behavioral Sciences at the FBI recruits a beautiful young agent-trainee, who is earmarked for his division, to help him out by interviewing one of the most notorious serial killers of all: Hannibal Lecter, a cannibal.


Cooper and Lawrence Silver Linings PlaybookSilver Linings Playbook

This delightful comedy/drama was written and directed by David O. Russell, adapted from the book The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick.  Centered around two quirky people, both at a crossroads in their lives, the film presents bi-polar disorder as a condition that can be overcome.  Jennifer Lawrence gives an Academy Award performance opposite Bradley Cooper, with Robert DeNiro, Jacki Weaver, and Chris Tucker.


Speak-Movie-kristen-stewart-7224892-960-540Speak

Here’s a 2004 film that really went under the radar.  It was screened at Sundance and aired on Showtime and Lifetime, but I’d never heard of it.  Based on the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, it tells the story of a high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who is brutally raped at a party by a senior boy.  Starring Kristin Stewart in a wonderful performance.


Shailine Woodley int The Spectacular NowThe Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now aims much higher than any run-of-the-mill teen romance and its success in achieving a film that goes beyond the limits of genre is to be highly commended, yet there are problems in the movie and it would make the film an excellent study for any film theory class.


amy adams emily blunt sunshine cleaningSunshine Cleaning

Sunshine Cleaning is a delightful comedy and drama, with a great cast, a strong script by Megan Holley and crisp, clean direction by Christine Jeffs.  Although it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves, the two performances at the center of it by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt really propelled the two actresses to the acclaim they so richly deserve.

Speak

Here’s a 2004 film that really went under the radar.  It was screened at Sundance and aired on Showtime and Lifetime, but I’d never heard of it.  Based on the novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, it tells the story of a high school freshman, Melinda Sordino, who is brutally raped at a party by a senior boy.

Speak-Movie-kristen-stewart-7224892-960-540Unable to deal with her experience in any way, Melinda doesn’t tell anyone about what happened, but does call 911, which brings the police down on the party.  In a state of shock, she walks home alone, then retreats into herself and goes nearly silent to the world.  Shunned by her friends, targeted by other students, she finds it nearly impossible to deal with high school.  Pushed by her art teacher, she begins to draw and sculp.  Continually backing away from others, she finds an abandoned janitor’s closet and makes it her own, filling it with her art and retreating there during pep rallys.

At the time this movie was made, actress Kristen Steward was only 13 years old, but her performance is stunningly beautiful.  (Whatever you may think about Stewart because of Twilight, the girl is just an excellent actress, hands down.)  She is completely believable as Melinda as the story of the rape is told in flashbacks spaced throughout the film.  The excellent supporting cast includes Elizabeth Perkins as her mother, Steve Zahn as her art teacher, Mr. Freeman, and Allison Siko as a girl named Heather who adopts and then abandons Melinda.

The adaptation was written by Annie Young Frisbie and Jessica Sharzer, who also deftly directed the movie inside a 21 day shooting schedule.  The film moves quickly and is so absorbing it’s almost impossible not to watch once you get going.  At a near perfect 89 minutes in length, the film should be on everyone’s watch list.