"The Living and the Dead" (2006)
A grim, bleak film, “The Living and the Dead” is difficult to watch and nearly impossible to enjoy. The circumstances of the story are meant to draw sympathy for its troubled characters caught in a dilemma but instead it is a maddening exercise in testing one’s patience. While the schizophrenic son isn’t to blame for his misguided acts, his parents are. Why is this child allowed to cavort around when he is a danger to himself and others? Why doesn’t the father make sure the help arrives before he has to leave? Why isn’t this adult child remanded to a hospital that could care for him? Why is the father insistent on keeping their grandiose manor when the money could be used to care for his desperately ill wife and son? His pride, and even that of his terminally ill wife, is disgusting and upsetting. Their pride prevents this from being a tragedy. Rather, this is a film about a family getting its just desserts for not respecting the value of their own health. The only tragic character is the son, who is frankly also the most annoying character. Despite some remarkable performances, “The Living and the Dead” is a film that offers nothing but frustration and annoyance.
"X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)
Hands down, the best film in the X-Men franchise since “X2”. The film carries all of the elements that fans of the comics and cartoons will love: crazy action sequences, a litany of interesting mutants, the actual war between mutants and humans (not just talk of a war), time travel and of course, Sentinels. On top of the excellent action and tremendous stakes, there is a great personal storyline that ties the film together on a “human” level. While some may to umbrage to the film’s liberal adaptation of the timeline and events of the Marvel Universe, “Days of Future Past” captures the heart of the “X-Men” mutant epic. Regardless of where the series leads, this film can serve as either a satisfying conclusion or excellent new starting point. With a cast like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, it is a daunting task for another superhero film to trump the performances in this one.
"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" (1992)
"The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is a tight, disturbing film that utilizes archetypal family terror to craft a wild yet believable story. The events of the film are a summation of a mother’s worst nightmare: sexual assault, loss of a child, child molestation, being unseated from the role of motherhood, loss of sex appeal. loss of a husband. These themes are so universal and enduring, they resurrect themselves in modern French New-Wave horror film "Inside”. The action set pieces are well thought out and choreographed. The writing is intelligent and uses character foils to illustrate themes without being overt or heavy-handed. While the film is jam-packed with terror, it’s the little things the antagonist does that really set the audiences nerves on edge. Taut, smart and engaging, “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” is worth remembering.
"Cruel Intentions" (1999)
Seating itself on the border of the 2000’s, “Cruel Intentions” is not only a teen-drama/thriller but a time capsule for the time period. It’s an exciting, sexy movie that has an unmistakable late-90’s style. However, the plot is too reliant on the flashback and the twist. The performances are often over the top and melodramatic. It’s a cartoonish, soap-opera type film that rises above a daytime novella purely on star power and sex-appeal. While entertaining, just don’t expect a tightly woven tapestry. It’s more like a sloppy braid.