The Great Movies, Episode 15: Phoenix (2014)

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Phoenix (2014) Christian Petzold
Criterion Blu-ray (1:38)
The Great Movies series, Severna Park Library, Severna Park, Maryland

There are few things in life I love more than introducing a good – maybe even great – film to someone who’s never seen it before, someone whom I think will appreciate and tell others about it. In many ways, I have the best job in the world since I’m able to share two of my passions with people: reading and movies. I had the opportunity last night to screen Christian Petzold’s Phoenix (2014) to a group of 30 people. You never quite know until it’s over whether the audience will like a film, especially when you’re showing an international film with subtitles. Would they like Phoenix? Did they like it?

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The Drop (2014) Michaël R. Roskam

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The Drop (2014)
Directed by Michaël R. Roskam
Produced by Blair Breard, Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, David Greenbaum, Mike Larocca, Chuck Ryant
Cinematography by Nicolas Karakatsanis
Edited by Christopher Tellefsen
Screenplay by Dennis Lehane based on his short story “Animal Rescue”
Fox Serachlight
20th Century Fox DVD – library (1:47)

The Drop barely registered on my radar when it was released in theaters two years ago. I don’t go to theaters much (preferring to watch movies at home) and tend to gravitate towards films made between 1940 and 1980. But my friend Michael Kronenberg recommended this one, and since he was right on target with his recommendation of the Mesrine films, I figured I was in for a pretty good movie. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m stunned that more people don’t talk about this superb crime picture. Not only does The Drop contain James Gandolfini’s last film performance (which is excellent), it also features a bravura performance by Tom Hardy.

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Calvary (2014) John Michael McDonagh

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Calvary (2014)
Directed and written by John Michael McDonagh
Produced by Chris Clark, Flora Fernandez-Marengo, James Flynn, and others
Cinematography by Larry Smith
Edited by Chris Gill
Music by Patrick Cassidy
Fox Searchlight Pictures
20th Century Fox DVD – library
(color; 1:41)

(This film was recommended to me by my friend Ann G.)

Father James Lavelle (Brendan Gleeson) hears many confessions in his remote Irish seacoast village. One Sunday he hears the confession of a man who was sexually abused as a child by a priest who has long since died. The man informs Father James that he’s taking his revenge out on him, that he will, in fact, assassinate the priest in exactly one week, although he knows that Father James is innocent, a “good priest.” The man even tells Father James when and where this killing will occur so that he can set his house in order.

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White God (2014) Kornél Mundruczó

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White God (2014)
Directed by Kornél Mundruczó
Produced by Jessica Ask, et. al.
Screenplay by Kornél Mundruczó, Viktória Petrányi, Kata Wéber
Cinematography by Marcell Rév
Edited by Dávid Jancsó
Rated R for violence, including bloody images, language
(color; in Hungarian with English subtitles; 2:01)

Unless you’re into independent and/or international films, you probably haven’t seen either the poster or the opening image of White God: a 13-year-old girl speeding her bicycle through the empty downtown streets of Budapest as hundreds of angry dogs race after her. That may be enough to pique your interest to sit through a 2-hour Hungarian film with English subtitles. If so, you may come away from the film feeling exhilarated, disgusted, cheated, or maybe even a better human being, I don’t know. But you probably won’t forget the experience.

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