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After The Wedding
This American remake of the 2006 International film of the same name is a wondrous and beautiful piece of work.
A perfectly assembled cast tells the story of an orphanage manager in Kolkata who is summoned to New York by a wealthy businesswoman who wants to donate money to the children.
Writer-director Bart Freundlich, best known for highly underrated indie flicks Trust the Man, Catherine Zeta-Jones feature The Rebound and basketball drama Wolves – finally gets a hugely adept cast and a bit of a bigger rope to flex his creative muscles.
With an eye for talent, a steady directorial balance and the pedigree of having directed a slew of episodes of Californication – one of my favourite shows ever – he makes a more subdued, subtle and lasting effect with After The Wedding.
Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup, three thespians I’d watch in anything, come together to make this a film well worth remembering.
Small Town Crime
John Hawkes is the kind of character actor you know – you’ve seen him in 100 things – who you can always depend on.
Over the years, he’s quietly garnered an Oscar nomination and Golden Globe nomination for two different performances, and built a reputation as a chameleon who can play any role.
So it’s no surprise that the level of depth he brings to a well-worn trope as an alcoholic ex-cop brings the indie Small Town Crime to a whole new level.
As small-town black sheep Mike Kendall, Hawkes gets to show his range as he masquerades as a P.I., searching the alleys and seedy underbelly of the locale looking for answers.
After discovering the dead body of a young woman on the side of the road, he’s hired by her grandfather (Robert Forster, showing up in just the latest in a string of fantastic roles) to crack the case.
With Octavia Spencer, Anthony Anderson and One Tree Hill alum James Lafferty, this one has a ton of surprising turns.
In what Daniel Day-Lewis is calling his final film – but who knows if that’s true – he plays eccentric, egotistical dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock.
Set in 1950’s London, it’s about the man who can be both charming and persuasive in one moment and then soul-crushing in the next.
He takes a younger woman, Alma, as his muse and lover, and she violently disrupts his routines and ticks.
Day-Lewis is fascinating here, giving us a glimpse into a man we can’t help but love, even when we hate his guts. This is a tour de force performance, and a near-perfect film.
By the time demonic thriller Constantine arrived in 2005, Keanu Reeves had a problem.
He had two Matrix sequels that brought box-office but bad reception from audiences and critics alike, and forgettable performances in fare like The Watcher and Sweet November. He also had a reputation as a “wooden” performer, devoid of emotion, the very persona that served him well in The Matrix but let him falter elsewhere.
So when Constantine came out, I saw it in theatres at 15, and I remember my friends and I laughing hysterically at this horror film, and Reeves’ horrible one-liners.
And yet… Cut to 15 years later, and a sobering re-watch from this critic, and this story of supernatural exorcist John Constantine is both a wonderfully faithful adaptation to comic book Hellblazer, but one of the most watchable, truly entertaining films of Reeves’ career.
It’s interesting, moody, and has great performances from Reeves himself, Rachel Weisz, Djimon Hounsou and a young Shia Labeouf.
If you loved Constantine way back when, you’ll love it more now. If you hated it, then like me, get ready for a serving of humble pie. This one’s a certified cult classic.
Thank You For Your Service
It’s definitely not the first film to explore the troubles soldiers have returning from war, but the passionate, disquieting Thank You For Your Service is always respectful, and never melodramatic.
Centering on soldiers coming back from Iraq and reintegrating into society – while trying to forget what they’ve seen – the real strength of the film comes from the performances.
The criminally underrated Miles Teller is fantastic here, as are Peaky Blinders star Joe Cole and Hawaii Five-0 alum Beulah Koale. I’m not sure who thought the talentless Amy Schumer deserved a role, but I digress.
Overall, this is an intense, effective drama, and it’ll bring a tear to your eye.
Jordan Parker's weekly film reviews can be found on his blog, Parker & The Picture Shows.