Think of this series of posts as a way to find the movie that suits your mood when Amazon’s “you might also like” feature sends you chasing geese. (It happens.) If you love the Jason Bourne trilogy and want something else that is fast, whip-smart, and black opsish, then I recommend Spy Game. If you’re hankering for a drama that changes your perspective on life, go for Cinderella Man or 127 Hours. Romance? You won’t really find chick flicks here, but I heartily commend Pride and Prejudice (the BBC/A&E miniseries) to anyone upright with a pulse.
I’ve created five basic genres: 1) family, 2) romance/fantasy (combined only because I don’t watch much of either), 3) fun adventure, 4) action with a brain, and 5) heavy-duty drama. Obviously, some of the films here could fit in more than a single category, so if one straddles two of my homespun genres, I’ll put it in the slot that makes the most sense (to me) and tag it with the second option.
None of my recommendations are guaranteed to include ironclad proof; that’s what movie reviews are for. And all are as spoiler-free (sometimes more) as any basic plot synopsis on IMDB. If you watch a movie based on a recommendation here, feel free to drop a note in the comments.
Five genres. Five recommendations. Every week. Happy Friday movie night!
Recommended: How to Train Your Dragon
If you liked: Sleeping Beauty
Why: Kids should be raised on food like this: heroes and dragons and beautiful animation spun into a Viking gospel story. And by the way, if you didn’t like Sleeping Beauty, you should change, and even if you don’t, you should still like How to Train Your Dragon. Of all the high-quality animated films that have come out the past few years, Dragon is the best: just ahead of Kung Fu Panda and Frozen, lightyears better than Tangled and Toy Story 3.
If you liked: Pride and Prejudice
Why: Unlike Gwyneth Paltrow’s Emma, the BBC miniseries actually makes me want to read the book. The exquisite Romola Garai and meticulous, understated Jonny Lee Miller are perfectly matched.
Fun & Farce
If you liked: Knight and Day
Why: Because wit, guns, and John Malkovich. (And Mary Louise-Parker, and Helen Mirren, and, and….) I was surprised at how much I enjoyed RED and even more surprised when RED 2 broke the law of sequels and was just as entertaining. But that’s a separate recommendation.
Action With a Brain
Recommended: K-19: The Widowmaker
If you liked: The Hunt for Red October
Why: Russians, Cold War, submarines. Check. But K-19 is a good deal heavier than Red October (also, no Jack Ryan) and would belong in the heavy-duty drama section if Kathryn Bigelow had directed it later in her career. It’s based on a true story, boasts a capable script and solid acting, and tells you something you didn’t already know about how cruel Russia is to her own people. Random selling point: I’ve never seen anyone convey paralyzing fear like Peter Sarsgaard, but I won’t tell you why because it’d be giving away the best/worst part of the movie.
If you enjoyed: Braveheart
Why: I surprised a friend the other day by comparing Valkyrie to Braveheart. How is that even possible? Because despite a predictable script (predictable even if you don’t know history), uninspired directing (Bryan Singer can’t handle the truth), and a nostalgic patina, this story of the 20 July plot of 1944 to assassinate Hitler still inspires patriots everywhere to go die with their boots on. My loathing for Tom Cruise knew no moderation at the time I saw this film, yet I didn’t even notice him. All I saw was Germany’s man of the hour: Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. If you watch the entire film unmoved, just wait for the music during the end credits.