The Best YA Movies

Turning Young Adult novels into feature films has been all the rage this decade. Never has the prospect of adapting a YA novel to the big screen been so profitable for Hollywood. Just this past month Paper Towns came out to decent reviews, then Dark Places to less than decent. If looking at the Hollywood's current itinerary is any indication, we have more YA movies coming out this fall: a movie based on R.L Stine's hugely popular Goosebumps series, and the final chapter to the Hunger Games Franchise. There's much more to come, but here are a few that got it done right and helped the Young Adult film movement advance into the 21st century.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

It is not surprising that the best, most expertly made movie of the Harry Potter franchise is The Prisoner of Azkaban. All credit must go to the best director to have helmed a Potter movie: Alfonso Cuarón. The director of Children of MenGravity and Y Tu Mama Tambien used his visual wizardry in this 2004 movie. This is when the Potter books got dark, gritty and went a completely different direction. Based on J.K Rowling's wildly successful series of books, Azkaban has Harry and the gang trying to deal with Sirius Black, frenetically played by Gary Oldman, a man whom they believe is out to get revenge on Harry for his imprisonment.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)

Adapted from Rachel Cohn and David Levithan's darkly giddy novel of the same name, Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist plays like a Young Adult version of Martin Scorsese's underrated 1985 picture After Hours. Just like Scorsese's picture, this film takes place in the wee-wee hours of the night in New York City. Michael Cera and the infectiously adorable Kat Dennings play strangers of the night who have just met. Nick is trying to figure out where his favorite band's secret show will take place, while Norah is searching for her missing drunken friend. Director Peter Stollett makes sure the film lives up to its stylish source material by infusing it with - as he stated - "the best music you haven't heard yet". The result is a compulsively likable movie that romanticizes the after hours.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)

The Hunger Games is like Battle Royale but tampered down for the Young Adult crowd. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Proof can be found in the second installment of the movie franchise which was a clear improvement from the first one and upped the ante in terms of drama and action. Author Suzanne Collin's mega-popular series of novels benefited from the casting of Jennifer Lawrence, an indie queen at the time who stunned critics in the film Winter's Bone. In Catching Fire Lawrence seems to finally be comfortable with her new-found mainstream popularity by embracing the role of Katniss Everdeen. In the film, Everdeen, having won the Hunger Games, returns home but realizes the battle for a democratic state has just begun and that another set of pivotal games is about to happen.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2011)

Stephen Chobsky's novel about a shy, wounded, introverted high schooler named Charlie is a singular achievement in its own right.. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a staple of the YA form and a well-written ode to young outcasts everywhere.  It helps that Chobsky actually wrote and directed the film, with an uncredited John Hughes helping him out! The words come out like fine wine, as does the tone of the movie, which retains the dark, melancholic feel of the source material. The cast was also thoughtfully chosen: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller invest so much into their roles that they have no problem whatsoever fully fleshing out their characters. The friendship these three form in the movie is refreshingly real: Every detail and every line of The Perks of Being a Wallflower is sheer perfection.

The Spectacular Now (2012)

If there is a theme that we keep running into with the films on this list, it's that they are almost all "coming of age" stories, a staple of the YA novel. The Spectacular Now is in fact that, but so much more. Based on Tim Tharp's novel of the same name, the story's protagonist, Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), is a national book award finalist. He is also the guy you want at your party, a charming teenager so high on living for the moment that the viewer might be tricked into thinking all is right in Keely's life. It's not. He has no plans for college, no clear set career, carries a flask filled with alcohol everywhere he goes, and seems content with his job folding clothes at a retail store. Of course his girlfriend breaks up with him, but soon after he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley) and a new relationship begins. Teller and Woodley are phenomenal in showing us the ups and downs of a relationship that was doomed to fail from the start, and director James Ponsoldt - right now on a career high with The End of the Tour - keeps the novel's moral reality check intact.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Having won the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl came out this summer with a slew of expectations. The film deals with a teenager who has stage IV cancer and focuses on a friendship that was doomed to fail just because of the diagnosis. If that plot description isn't reminiscent of The Fault in Our Stars, then what is? That's where comparisons should end, though. Jesse Andrews wrote the novel and ended up writing the screenplay for the movie adaptation and the film plays out almost like an anti-Fault in Our Stars.  It skips the love story and decides to concentrate on the oddball characters that populate the story.

The Princess Bride (1987)

One can understand why Rob Reiner’s movie adaptation of William Goldman's fantasy novel was such an enigma when it first came out in 1987. It was supposed to be primarily aimed at the YA crowd but ended up pleasing all ages with its deadpan, Monty Python-esque humor and a bold, satirical narrative that never took itself too seriously. However, the love story deftly told by a grandfather to his ill grandson about a beautiful princess called Buttercup who gets kidnapped is a touching one. What works in Reiner’s tale - just like in the novel - is that every character is a delight, and there isn’t a dull one in the bunch. Most importantly, the true heart of the story is Mandy Patinkin’s Inigo Montoya as a heroic swordsman with a secret and a debt to settle – “Hello, My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

Summer Movie Report Card 2015

“Mad Max: Fury Road” & “Inside Out”
Summer 2015 might very well be seen as the return of the classic summer blockbuster. Just like in 2008 when The Dark Knight and WALL-E blew audiences away as twin pinnacles of pop culture triumph, two movies this year have again changed the game in regard to action and animation. “Mad Max” ramped up the way action can be done, shaming every superhero movie in its path and creating a new language for the genre. “Inside Out” showed us that an animated film for kids could be visionary, trippy and audacious enough to inspire profound analytical essays. “Mad Max’s” nihilistic outlook on human nature and a nasty, in-your-face style, was very much George Miller’s personal triumph through and through. The amount of detail that he brought to every frame was obsessively meticulous, as was the editing by Margaret Sixel, which – as things now stand – deserves serious consideration for next year’s Film Editing Oscar. As the brainiest, trippiest movie Pixar has ever made, “Inside Out” is mandatory viewing for any psych student.
“Amy” & “The Look of Silence”
With respect to non-fiction films it’s impossible to choose between two drastically different documentaries. “Amy” is virtually the first of its kind, a tragic examination of the late singer’s life, composed entirely of footage shot by Amy and her friends and directed and assembled with immeasurable passion by Asif Kapadia. The late 27-year-old singer/songwriter was an unmatched talent but tormented by the most torturous inner demons imaginable. This compulsively watchable film exemplifies the next evolution in documentary, one in which each key milestone of a life is recorded with phone or camcorder by the subject herself, and then this wealth of first-hand material is shaped by a talented director into a touching portrait. Kapadia doesn’t show talking heads as they’re being interviewed; instead he lets us listen to the interviewee while Amy’s personal footage plays in counterpoint onscreen. Don’t be surprised if we get more of these kind of documentaries in the years to come, as we seem to be part of a generation that wants everything recorded and instantly mementoed.
“The Look of Silence” is Joshua Oppenheimer’s sequel to “The Act of Killing,” and he once again addresses the Indonesian genocide of the mid-1960s that killed millions. If the first film dealt with the perpetrators this one is about the victims, as a man who lost his brother in the killings tries to track down the perpetrators through research and in-your-face interviews. The truth isn’t easy and a final confrontation had me almost looking away, but the interviews are the highlights as they bring back a past that most of the perpetrators are in denial about. If there is a more important, contemplative, and meditative film about human nature this year, I sadly haven’t seen it. This isn’t an easy watch, but it’s an essential one. It represents one of the reasons I hope we all go to the movies — to face hard truths and cold facts that might otherwise be forgotten. Oppenheimer is quickly becoming a world-class filmmaker with these important films and the potential significance they bring to society is almost beyond words.
Paul Dano & Ian McKellen
Paul Dano embodies Brian Wilson so brilliantly in his performance that you may actually forget you are watching a movie. Giving us another memorable performance, his depiction of Wilson is that of a wide-eyed kid being slowly stripped of his innocence by obsessive artistic creativity. His absence is clearly felt whenever he’s not on screen, as is the freewheelin’ nature of the “Pet Sounds” recording sessions where the actor basically becomes Wilson: a man so possessed and infatuated with getting the perfect sound that it ultimately became the tool of his undoing.
Ian McKellen delivers an equally impressive performance as a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes in “Mr. Holmes.” Although the film itself may strike some as slight and is mostly focused on one character, McKellen understands how to make these aspects work to his advantage, creating a portrayal which is nothing short of mesmerizing. With his natural wrinkles serving as craggy foundation for the extra decades added by make-up magicians, 76-year-old McKellen portrays a Holmes suffering from a failing memory and a case that still haunts him to this day. No offense to Benedict Cumberbatch, always great as our modernized Holmes, but McKellen seems to inhabit this iconic character as perfectly as it’s ever been seen onscreen. Many of us still say to this day that he was robbed of the Best Actor prize back in 1999, when he broke our hearts in Bill Condon’s unforgettable “Gods and Monsters,” losing to Roberto Benigni. With Mr. Holmes, McKellan is in an excellent position to grab his third nomination.
Charlize Theron, “Mad Max Fury Road”
Charlize Theron & Lily Tomlin
All hail, Charlize Theron as the baddest of badasses. Proving that her win for “Monster” was no fluke, the 40-year-old actress owned George Miller’s action extravaganza as Imperator Furiosa. Despite the franchise title, the Fury Road wasn’t about Max, it was about her, and even in the quieter moments, not many of them, she found a way to say so much with so little dialogue. Her face weary and worn, but her spirit undiminished, she is an Ellen Ripley for the 21st century, a role model that we want follow anywhere she takes us and of course the empress of all things awesome. The feminist subtext of the film might have turned off a few too many fanboys, but isn’t that another reason to love this performance?
If I say that 75-year-old Lily Tomlin has never been better than in this phenomenal movie by Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) would you be impressed? Well you should be, because Tomlin’s had a phenomenal career: “Nashville,” “The Late Show,” “9 to 5,” “All of Me,” and “Flirting With Disaster” have all had a little Tomlin-esque spiciness sprinkled at their core and all the better for it. What she does in “Grandma” is heartbreaking and nothing short of astounding. She brings the spiky, zesty nature she’s always been known for, but plays with our emotions until we reach a finale that seals the deal on the truly amazing quality of her work. I went into the movie not knowing much about it, so I’ll allow you the same benefit. But expect a torrent of awards love to come her way in the months to come. The film opens in theaters next Friday.
“Shaun of the Sheep” & “Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation”
It’s almost not fair to ask another animated movie to contend with Pixar when the two are just a few months apart, but I will say that “Shaun of the Sheep” is well worth your time and features some of the best dialogue-free scenes in recent memory. In fact, the film has scarcely any dialogue at all. It relies on its visuals to entertain and does a a marvelous job at that. Some seriously Chaplin-esque stuff here, sure to please the kids, and some undeniably adult humor to be appreciated by grownups. The stop-motion animation is breathtakingly beautiful with layers of details in ever frame. I’d probably put this in an exclusive category of stop-motion classics such as “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Chicken Run,” “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” and of course “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
I’ll get this out of the way early: I honestly think Tom Cruise is a great actor. He’s passionate about the quality of his work and really works to bring the best product to his legions of fans. “Rogue Nation” has ridiculously good action sequences and exhilarating stunts performed by Cruise. Every detail is put together in such a professional, meticulously stylish way. This is the type of movie you go into expecting over-the-top action sequences, especially after seeing the great ones delivered in “Ghost Protocol,” and the movie definitely delivers by exceeding those expectations. The movie does not have the strong thematic undertones and production design of “Fury Road,” and — again — the plot is definitely the weak link, but it does have some of the best action sequences of the year. I wish more summer blockbusters had this much effort and artistry on display. The multiplex would be a much better place.
“The Gift”
The biggest surprise of the summer is, sadly, a movie that many people have not heard much about. With 108 reviews on RottenTomatoes “The Gift” has an outstanding RT rating of 93%. Its metascore on Metacritic stands at 79. So what happened between the critics and audience awareness? As with most mini-budget movies, the marketing was micro — but despite that unavoidable reality, it ranked #3 at the box-office when it premiered and since earned an impressive $28 million on a budget investment of $5 million. Directed by “Zero Dark Thirty” actor Joel Edgerton, “The Gift” is a tense, creepy psychological thriller that has so many twists and turns in its screenplay that you never know what’s coming next. Edgerton directed, produced, wrote and starred in a movie so inspired that it’s reminiscent of Hitchcock and “The Turn of the Screw.” Starring Jason Bateman and the vastly undervalued Rebecca Hall, “The Gift” is a razor-sharp dissection of marriage and friendship that reminds us how we can never escape our past secrets. Go in knowing as little as possible and come out knowing more than you were prepared to find out.

Dopest hip-hop movie "Straight Outta Compton"

Straight Outta Compton box office 10 Dope Movies About Hip Hop

Straight Outta Compton‘s success has stunned the industry as a whole. Its $60 million opening weekend defied all predictions and dethroned Mission: Impossible at the top of the box office. A wave of industry pros were left scratching their heads and rethinking what the winning formula of a summer blockbuster can be made of. Compton is 150 minutes long, has a mostly black cast and an R rating. Perhaps summer blockbusters can be more diverse than we previously thought?

Eazy-E, Dr.Dre and Ice Cube epitomized gangsta rap in the late ’80s as the West Coast gangsta rap group NWA. They brought it to the centerfold of the American conversation with songs such as “Gangsta Gangsta” and “Boyz-n-the-Hood”. In this summer’s surprise hit movie, Straight Outta Compton, their story is told with such in-your-face vigor and bravado that it almost feels like a gangsta rap companion piece to Goodfellas. Directed by F. Gary Gray, who directed some of Ice Cube’s most famous ‘90s music videos, the film recounts the day when the trio we’re the talk of the nation, eluding questions about police brutality and black poverty.

Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell) was the founder, Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s son) was the lyricist and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins) had the sick beats that nobody could touch. They eventually all went their separate ways, but not without making a mark in music forever. The centerpiece of the film is a concert in Detroit where the group is threatened by Detroit Police not to play “F*** Tha Police” under threat of arrest. Guess what they do?

Stop-Motion Animation & "Shaun the Sheep"

With the release of the well-received "Shaun the Sheep" out in theaters right now, we figured it would be a good time to look back at the very best that stop-motion animation had to offer us over the years. This isn't a new technique by any stretch of the imagination. There have been many examples and stories of the claymation art being used almost a century ago, most notably in 1933's King Kong, which had animator Willis O'Brien creating the aforementioned monster-sized ape via the stop-motion animation art. Here are five movies that made unequivocally beautiful art out of it.

Chicken Run (2000)

Chickens run amok! What better way to start this list than with the 2000 gem starring Mel Gibson as the leader of a flock of feathered birds trying to get out of the horrid conditions at their farm. If time runs out they're going to be chicken pie, which is actually what the farmers make out of these chickens. Yikes. It's The Great Escape poultry style, with an added dash of British wit. How can you go wrong with that? Gibson works up his charm and stop-motion animation filmmaker extraordinaires Peter Lord and Nick Park seem to be having a blast creating visual miracles with the animation.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

At the time of this movie's release, Wallace and Gromit were well-known in the U.K. for their kooky antics on TV, but mainstream American audiences were first introduced to the duo via The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, a visually stunning and imaginative stop-motion Animation masterpiece. The tale of a cheery British man and his sly, silent, but surprisingly smart dog radiated the screen with enough genius and wit that it scored an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. In this adventure, the duo accidentally create a Frankenstein-like rabbit that terrorizes the town. The visual miracles that spring forth are splendidly devised, all thanks to Nick Park and Steve Box.

Shaun the Sheep (2015)

Now in theaters is Shaun the Sheep, which features some of the best dialogue-free scenes in recent memory. The film has scarcely any spoken words, as it just relies on its visuals to entertain us, and does a marvelous job at that. Clearly influenced by Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton's physical screwball comedy, directors Richard Starzak and Mark Burton have fashioned a classic out of such a simple story. A complete freak accident sends a farmer tumbling down the road to a bigger city where he loses all memory of his life and accidentally becomes a famous hairdresser for the celebrities. It's up to his flock of sheep to get him back to the farm, but not without going through the most insanely crafted screwball adventures imaginable. Just like Wallace and Gromit, the cast of characters were well known in the U.K. prior to the film's release, but if audience reaction and the deluge of rave reviews is any indication, this won't be the last we hear of them.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

When it comes to Christmas counter-programming on television during the holiday season, it's really hard to top Henry Selick's classic, The Nightmare Before Christmas. The story of Jack Skellington from Halloween Town who opens up a portal and discovers Christmas Town, a holiday which springs up new feelings and ideals in him, is an imaginative romp with the the most insanely designed characters imaginable. The musical numbers are inventive, especially the highlight "This is Halloween". Produced by Tim Burton, the film has the gothic, darkly humorous feel of a Burton production, right down to the spirit of the film, which is a sort of ode or love letter to dread, darkness, and holiday spirit. How much more Burton-esque can you get?

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Wes Anderson had just finished making The Darjeeling Limited when he embarked on an ambitious adventure: adapting Roald Dahl's classic The Fantastic Mr. Fox into a feature film. The decision to make it using stop-motion animation turned out to be an inspiring one. George Clooney voices the titular Fox, a character so ingrained in helping his family survive that he decides to go on one last heist, this one involving the three biggest farmers around. The pièce de resistance is the Apple Cider farm which ends the film on an exuberantly high note and features a chase scene worthy of any one I've seen in movies. The soundtrack is impeccable, the screenplay is witty and fun, and the voice acting is tremendous with a who's who of actors: the aforementioned Clooney, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, and Bill Murray as Clive Badger.

Top 10 movies destroyed by studio meddling

Alien 3 (1992)
After becoming a music video boy-genius David Fincher was a hot commodity for any major studio on Hollywood. His visual flair struck many as potentially game changing, but the project he decided to pick for his directorial debut has since become the only bad movie of his career. "Alien 3" had countless re-shoots and rewrites, most of which weren't Fincher's decision, even worse the creative differences Fincher faced with studio executives is now the stuff of legendary stories. It is then not very surprising that Fincher immediately disowned the film and has since released his own cut called "The Assembly Cut" which improved upon the original in terms of tying together plot holes amd character development, but still missed the spark that would ignite many of the eventual great movies he would eventually make in his career.
Blade Runner (1982)
Upon its release in 1982 "Blade Runner" had so much studio interference that its history is the stuff of legend. Receiving mixed reviews the film came and went upon release, but ended up receiving a cult following on home video - which got Scott amped up and screeing his own versions to audiences around the country for the next few years. There have been several versions of "Blade Runner", seven to be more specific, but the ultimate version will always be the "Final Cut" which got rid of the narration, left us with an extra final brilliant shot and fixed many of the plot holes present I'm the original.  It was the only time director Ridley Scott ever had total freedom in the editing room for the film and it would only come 25 years after its release.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
This might be the most butchered film by an American studio on the list. The original version ran for 229 minutes, an epic to say the least, and featured character development that got completely cut off and disjointed by the 139 minute American version. That's right, more than 1 hour and 30 minutes of footage gone. Some of the highlights of the original got completely cut off: A big chunk of the childhood scenes were not to be found, as was the famous garbage truck scene with Bailey which concludes the film on a more ambiguous, talked about note. Europeans got to see the final cut of Sergio Leone's classic, but Americans didn't. However,  time has been good to the film as most people now tend to seek the 4 hour version instead of the butchered 1984 version which is clearly and justifyingly hard to find.
Brazil (1986)
Terry Gilliam has never hidden the fact that he had problems with the studio while making 1985's "Brazil". His 142 minute cut, which Criterion released in beautiful pristine quality, is well known as a visionary sci-fi classic that paved the way and influenced a generation to come. Much of the problems had to do with the film's ending which Gilliam refused to change. The story goes that the fighting persisted throughout the year until Gilliam decided to screen his cut -in secrecy- for the L.A Film critics, which prompted them to name "Brazil" the Best Picture of 1985 and had audience and critics demanding its release. The studuo finally gave in and release the damn thing. The rest -ands they say- is history.
All The Pretty Horses (2000)
Billy Bob Thornton wanted to followup his directorial debut "Sling Blade" with an adaptation of "All the Pretty Horses", a Cromac McCarthy novel that many said was unfilmable. Thornton's original version ran nearly 4 hours, maybe the only way such a movie could have worked, but Harvey Weinstein quickly forced Thornton to cut it down to its eventual final cut of 116 minutes- Many say as payback for Thornton fighting and getting his version of "Sling Blade" released in 1996 despite Weinstein's disapproval.  That's more than half of "All The Pretty Horses" on the cutting room floor. Its star Matt Damon publicly came out and defended Thornton,  saying it wasn't fair that this much footage should be offed. Eventual efforts to get a director's cut on DVD have been tampered by the film's original music composer Daniel Lanois who refuses to have his score have anything to do with the movie. Yikes.
Heaven's Gate (1980)
The infamous movie that made United Artists declare bankruptcy. Michael Cimino was the hottest director in Hollywood, "The Deer Hunter" cleaned up the Oscars and Cimino was thought to have had carte blanche for his next movie. Then "Heaven's Gate" happened. A monstrous failure who's backstage stories are the stuff of legend and of which we won't be able to get fully into here, maybe another list? One of the stories goes that Cimino changed the locks of the editing room so that studio execs wouldn't interfere. His erratically insane behaviour concluded with a 5 hour and 25 minute cut of the film which Cimino said was a 15 minute cut away from the final version. Even though the film has garnered a cult following in recent years, the 2 hour and 29 minute cut that was finally released in the fall of 1980 garnered terrible reviews.
Hancock (2008)
The studio meddling done with "Hancock" was brutally significant. The first directors cut tackled the title character played by Will Smith as more of an anti-hero with questionable behavior and an overall unpleasant demeanor. The studio obviously didn't respond well to this cut, which quickly sent the film to the cutting room floor and tried to make the character more likeable.  The film went on to eventually make millions at the box office, but was it because of the new cut? Or just Will Smith's star power?  Way after its initial release details have come out about the studio pressure director John Lee Hancock had to face. All these stories only make us want a director's cut even more.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Much has been made about director Josh Trank's problems with Fox over this film. The story goes that Fox was unsatisfied with Trank's cut of the film and decided to completely take over and re-shoot key scenes- Trank was obviously unhappy and took to Twitter to voice his disapproval saying that "A year ago I had a fantastic version of this. And it would've received great reviews. You'll probably never see it. That's reality though." The film has been one of the worst reviewed Hollywood movies in recent memory, raising doubt over an already announced sequel and cementing it as movie that will forever live in infamy.
Magnificent Ambersens (1942)
Your name is Orson Welles, you're 27 years old and your first movie was "Citizen Kane". You would think that with your second movie the studio would give you carte blanche and all the freedom that you need to bring your vision onscreen. Not exactly. "The Magnificent Ambersons" is the granddaddy of all studio interfered movies. Cutting almost an hour of footage from the original cut? check. Changing the downer ending for a happier ending? check. A Bernard Herrmann score heavily edited by the studio? check. Welles was highly affected by the disastrous studio meddling of his beloved film, one which he believed could have truly marked his career. "They destroyed 'Ambersons,' and 'it' destroyed me." he later said.

10 Films That Should Be in the Criterion Collection

Since its inception in 1984, the scope and importance that The Criterion Collection has had on cinema is immeasurable: Letterboxing, audio commentary, special edition DVD and Blu-ray packages and painstakingly made film restorations are at the forefront of their revolutionary ideas. Funded by film buffs Robert Stein, Aleen Stein and Joe Medjuck, the Collection has the upmost care for cinema history and its preservation, and directors know that, which is why some of the biggest names in cinema have worked with the company to have their films properly released, from Coppola to Scorsese, Lynch to De Palma, just to name a few. Tough-to-impress director Terry Gilliam once said, "It's nice working with people for whom profit isn't the only reason for existence. They seem to be actually interested in film."
There are currently over 775 films in The Criterion Collection, but not every movie on cinephiles' wish lists will get the much prized Criterion treatment. For the time being, however, the following movies seem to be tailor-made for an eventual restoration and release, many of which have been long rumored to be next for the Collection but to no avail.

1. "Beau Travail" (1999)

How can it be that Clair Denis' "Beau Travail" is only sporadically in print and that you can't find it on any streaming service? It's no coincidence that this war movie bears many similarities to another female-directed dissection of male ego and testosterone: Kathryn Bigelow's "The Hurt Locker." This is an artsier film through and through, but no less remarkable; just the thought of its lingering final shot, which poses a turbulent, uncomfortable question, will give anybody – especially men – nightmares. Criterion has already released Denis' "White Material," an arguably lesser film compared to "Beau Travail," which has stood the test of time and now needs to be immortalized in proper fashion.

2. "Enter the Void" (2010)

Gaspar Noe's surreal nightmare was, once upon a time, rumored to get the full Criterion treatment; however, the story goes that "Enter the Void" was rejected by them and audiences ultimately ended up with a normal, token Blu-Ray/DVD release that could have been so much more. Noe's film is divisive, but it's garnered an immense cult following over the years, with many proclaiming it is ahead of its time. You can fault or insult the 51-year-old French filmmaker all you want, but he had the chutzpah to make a modern day "2001," full of intense visual treats and thought-provoking questions about life, death and the afterlife. 

3. "Bamboozled" (2000)

Most people have forgotten how groundbreaking, political and philosophical Spike Lee's work in the late 80's and early 90's really was. "Bamboozled" came out in 2000, when the director was about to enter a new, albeit confusing, phase of his filmmaking career. It would be the last explicitly political movie Lee would make about race in America. Starring Damon Wayans and Savion Glover, the film was pure Lee: Over the top, angry and ready to throw darts at its audience. Lee's film is as relevant as ever, dealing with an African American's frustration with a blindly racist country. All hell breaks loose when a black minstrel show becomes a primetime television hit. The film wasn't an easy watch, but it’s become a summary of Lee's strengths as a filmmaker, encapsulating a time when his anger translated into celluloid. A few years later he'd follow it up with the masterful "The 25th Hour," which couldn't have been more tonally or texturally different.

4. "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" (1927)

It is criminally unfair that one of the greatest movies of all-time did not get the proper DVD treatment. The images in "Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans" simmer into your head and stay there for years on end. F. W. Murnau's visual poetry was second to none, and "Sunrise" has always been the runaway winner for greatest silent movie ever made. Its DVD and Blu-ray releases until now have been mostly pitiful, bland and uncared for. What gives? It's mind-boggling that there are self-proclaimed "cinephiles" out there who have never seen this movie, and its DVD treatment is to blame.

5. "Freaks" (1932)

Tod Browning's visceral, pre-code horror film still shocks audiences today, so imagine what it must have been like to watch his masterful freak show 83 years ago, when audiences were much more sensitive to grotesque imagery. Then again, the original version was considered too shocking to even be released and basically ruined Browning's career. Based upon his own experiences as a runaway teenager with a travelling circus, Browning was one of the first mavericks to push the envelope to the very extreme. "One of us, one of us" is a chant that evokes the spirit the filmmaker was going for; he was trying to get the audience to understand his circus performers, when in fact the despicable people in the movie were the "normal" circus performers. The DVD release has a decent amount of extra footage, but this movie is the stuff that Criterion dreams are made of.

6. Any David Lynch Film

So far we have had "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Drive" on Criterion, but where is the rest of the Lynch canon? The director's DVDs have always been scant on extra material, as he's always been a "the movie speaks for itself" kind of guy. Of course, the two films that have been released via Criterion have given Lynch-heads some hope that more is to come. "Blue Velvet" is the next great film, but its DVD treatment has actually been pretty decent, with over 51 minutes of deleted footage. Instead, the Collection could opt for "The Elephant Man," "Lost Highway" or "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me." Of course -- like with any Lynch film -- we don't want the mysteries explained to us; we would just love to have decent Lynch releases to add to our collections to replace the single-disc copies of these films.

7. "Blow-Up" (1966)

Will Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up" ever get properly released? Has Warner Bros. forgotten that they own the rights to this incredible film? There are some used copies of the film on Amazon for $50, but the film transfer is terribly primitive and the extras are nowhere to be found. A re-release is rumored to be in the works, but isn't a film like this one meant for a more in-depth treatment? Just recently, Criterion released Brian De Palma's homage to Antonioni's film, "Blow Out," a great movie that stands along the best 1980's cinema had to offer. You'd think it would only be a matter of time before we finally got what we wanted, but not so much. There is absolutely no indication this will be coming out in the near future via Criterion.

8. "Atlantic City" (1981)

In an American Film magazine critics poll of the best movies of the 1980's, Louis Malle's "Atlantic City" was named the fifth best movie of the decade. The film is criminally underrated and one of the great achievements of American cinema, and yet time has not been kind to Malle's film, but for all the wrong reasons. It is not a showy, bombastic picture, but instead quiet and cerebral in its approach to organized crime on the boardwalks of Jersey. The way this movie has been released is a crime, whether it'd be on VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray – the film is almost ghostly in its absence and availability. The film transfer is underwhelming and the extras are pitiful, that is, if you can find a copy. What exactly happened to Malle's landmark movie? Criterion has released 17 of his movies, and it's time for his best movie to be the 18th. 

9. "All About My Mother" (1999) 

10. "Talk To Her" (2001)

It has always been a toss-up as to what is the best Pedro Almodóvar movie: "Talk to Her" or "All About My Mother." Why can't Criterion just release them all? We'll be first in line to buy the 30-disc package of every Almodóvar movie out there, and even if we can probably pass on "I'm So Excited," we'll still take that one as well. The man is a genius, and his movies haven't had much luck when it comes to DVD/Blu-ray releases stateside. A proper release is almost inevitable, but we just hope we won't be waiting another decade for it.


Leo DiCaprio's best

With the release of “The Revenant” just a few months away we caught a sneak peek of its trailer last week and, suffice to say, we were thrilled to see the potential on display. The impact this movie could have on awards season is HUGE and we couldn’t be more psyched to get a look at this bad boy in the near future. The biggest question headed towards the film’s release is whether or not this could finally be Leo’s big moment to win the golden statuette, a statuette that’s eluded him since his first nomination more than 22 years ago. Of course, awards don’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, if one were to make a list of cinematic greats that have failed to ever get the award it would be an endless, horribly frustrating list to look at.
DiCaprio’s been nominated four times in his career. Never has he really had a shot with any of those nominations. Most people would just shun him off by saying the nomination was enough, but was it? Along with Joaquin Phoenix we are seeing the emergence of an iconic American actor, one who never plays it safe and always goes for the risky, adventurous fare. Just take a look at the list of filmmakers this 41-year-old actor has worked with: Scorsese, Spielberg, Inarritu, Nolan, Tarantino, Allen, Cameron, Eastwood, Scott, Mendes. A who’s who of great directors. He sure knows how to pick ‘em and yet I get the feeling he’s only getting started and is going to keep pushing the boundaries further in the years to come. Here are ten times DiCaprio proved he was one of the very best actors of his generation.
1) Jordan Belfort, “The Wolf Of Wall Street”
This was the best shot our boy’s had thus far — key words being “thus far”. The sky’s the limit for DiCaprio, and in Scorsese’s now classic epic of debauchery, he brought a whole new range to his repertoire. With some scenes veering towards slapstick comedy, Leo’s portrayal of a Wall Street madman could have quite easily tipped over the top towards caricature, but I don’t think anyone could have pulled it off better than he did. It was a very divisive movie upon its release, but has gained notoriety over the last few years and will continue to do so as a classic. It is the riskiest performance DiCaprio has given us and quite possibly the beginning of an artistic freedom that will have him venture into even more unknown territory, like, for example, Inarritu’s “The Revenant”.
Nominated? Yes.
Who won? Matthew Mcconaughey, “Dallas Buyers Club”
2) Howard Hughes, “The Aviator”
Martin Scorsese’s movie is the best ever made about OCD. A mental disease that hasn’t really been understood or treated in the best of ways in pop culture. DiCaprio beautifully captured Howard Hughes’ inner and outer demons in a lavish but personal movie. There are some moments with the tiniest of details that it’s very easy to miss them. Hughes was a neurotic, eccentric billionaire who, as his obsessive compulsion grew, isolated himself entirely from society. This could have been the one to win it all for the then 30-year-old actor. A big budget Hollywood epic, that dealt with an industry legend. Every note was perfect in the performance, capturing the quirks and eccentricities that come with having the mental disorder.
Nominated? Yes.
Who won? Jamie Foxx, “Ray”. DiCaprio won the Golden Globe.
3) Arnie Grape, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”
Tropic Thunder’s Kirk Lazarus said you should never go “full retard.” Crude phrasing aside, DiCaprio clearly didn’t get the memo. It’s in Lasse Hallstrom’s touching film that I first noticed a then 19-year-old actor stealing scenes from Johnny Depp. Playing a character with a developmental disability is not the easiest task to tackle for a young actor, let alone a veteran actor. I didn’t know DiCaprio back then and actually believed that a mentally challenged actor was playing Arnie Grape — that’s how great this performance was. Not many people knew who DiCaprio was, but after watching this movie you sure as hell weren’t going to make that same mistake again. Here was a performance that captured all the details, big and small, and made them feel so real.
Nominated? Yes.
Who won? Tommy Lee Jones, “The Fugitive”
4) Billy Costigan, “The Departed”
When you’re in the same movie as an over-the-top but equally brilliant Jack Nicholson, or have to share screen time with a swear-a-minute ticking time bomb cop played by Mark Whalberg, good luck getting the recognition you deserve. That’s what happened here. DiCaprio’s was the most subtle of performances: a calm, cool and collected guy having to deal with the anarchy unfolding in a society about to breakdown and trapped in unique circumstances where he can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. Scorsese’s best movie since “Casino” or even “Goodfellas” had DiCaprio in his most emotionally and physically complex role carrying the movie through its twists and turns.
Nominated? No. At least the Globes nominated him.
Who won? Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”
5) Jack Dawson, “Titanic”
Can any true movie fan really deny the fact that DiCaprio got robbed of a nomination for this movie? Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart got nominated. It was in fact DiCaprio who carried the movie on his then lanky shoulders, giving it soul and putting a heartbeat to the corny dialogue James Cameron is so well known to write for his films. This is also the movie that many people claim will be the reason why DiCaprio will never win the big award. Leo-Mania was huge. He was a heartthrob who stole millions of hearts, but so what? Ironically enough Jack Nicholson won that same year for playing an OCD-ridden Grinch in “As Good As It Gets”. But if you want a truer depiction of OCD go check out “The Aviator”.
Nominated? No. At least the Globes Nominated him.
Who won? Jack Nicholson, “As Good As it Gets”
6) Calvin Candie, “Django Unchained”
Christoph Waltz won the big prize for “Django”, and he was great, but you know who was equally great? Dicaprio as Calvin Candie: A looney, absurd, frightening performance this otherwise mess of a movie needed. Yes, the performance was over the top, but that’s the kind of thing that was required to get to the eccentric tone of the character just right. A professional connoisseur of the Mandingo game, Candie might just be the most despicable person in the entire movie, a bigoted fool who has enough money to build his own nightmarish empire-esque version of Neverland, this one aptly titled “Candieland”. Not even a nomination for this brilliant portrayal of absurd proportions. At least the Globes nominated Leo alongside Waltz.
Nominated? No.
Who Won? Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”.
7) Teddy Daniels, “Shutter island”
Here’s a film that got no Awards love whatsoever. Relegated to a February release back in 2010, Martin Scorsese’s expertly tense horror movie has, rightfully so, had its reputation grow in stature over the last few years. Every decade there are films that were ill-received upon their release and then get reassessed later on and are proclaimed great movies. The scantily underwhelming 68% RT score and 63 on Metacritic that “Shutter Island” got are quite shocking considering that its IMDB rating now is at 8.1 with almost 700,000 votes. “Shutter Island” can now be considered one of the very best releases of 2010, with DiCaprio giving an exquisitely layered but brutally honest performance as Teddy Daniels, a man trying to relocate himself and his disturbed past. No Awards love but, something better, a reputation that far exceeds any awards, that of a classic.
Nominated? No.
Who Won? Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”.
8) Frank Abagnale Jr, “Catch Me If You Can”
What a playful, enjoyably persistent performance by DiCaprio. Steven Spielberg took Leo’s charisma and infectious personality and used it to move his film into such cheery, infectious territory. This was only five years after “Titanic”. DiCaprio had just come out of relative failures such as “The Man in the Iron Mask”, “Celebrity”, and “The Beach”. With all three movies he was trying to destroy his public image as the pretty boy next door. What he didn’t realize was that he could use his aforementioned image and charisma to give us this great performance. Abagnale Jr’s escapades are so absurd yet they all actually happened. The real life Frank had such a great personality that he got away with almost every bad deed he did. DiCaprio shone because he did just that; he used his attractiveness to mold a character that we cheered for, even as he was breaking the law and making the FBI look like idiots. What is there not to like? Looking back on this performance we can see just how tough a performance like this can be, yet DiCaprio made it look effortless.
Nominated? No.
Who Won? Adrien Brody, “The Pianist”.
9) Danny Archer, “Blood Diamond”
This performance he actually got nominated for. In this case, nomination was probably enough. Justified in fact, but nothing more, nothing less. “Blood Diamond” has a classical narrative that wholly suited this kind of performance. It’s sorta like when Marlon Brando got nominated for “Viva Zapata!” — great acting, but you knew there was so much this actor could do if it were a better screenplay. The role of Danny Archer wasn’t really written with any real subtleties or foreshadowed characterizations, but he was played by DiCaprio with such movie star vigor that it ended up getting him a nomination. That’s no small feat. The film has been reasonably better received over the years, with an 8.0 rating on IMDB, and it’s one of the last movies where the highly talented Jennifer Connelly would get a decent script to work with. Sad.
Nominated? Yes.
Who Won? Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”.
10) Cobb, “Inception”

Cobb has to be included. Of course this was “The Christopher Nolan Show,” but without Leo’s central performance it wouldn’t have been as good. Nolan’s words can sometimes be very cold and distant, but Leo brought real humanity to the screenplay and a beating heart to his character that another actor might not otherwise have achieved. No small feat. In fact, imagine “Inception” without DiCaprio … you can’t. I view Nolan — exception to the rule being “The Dark Knight” and Heath Ledger’s cuckoo brilliant performance — like the puppeteer of the whole enterprise, just having his way with the actors as they basically recite the words he’s written down for them. He’s like the hypnotist just manipulating his actors into doing whatever the hell he wants them to do, without giving them any room or freedom. This is not necessarily a bad thing considering some of the great movies he’s given us, but this makes DiCaprio’s performance all the more accomplished, since he was able to give us a pretty great performance out of the restrictions at hand.
Nominated? No.
Who Won? Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”.