Flick Picks 4/24/2015: Taken 3, The Immigrant, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

This week we have the immigrant experience in a a beautifully-evoked New York of the 1920's.  A sleek crime and corruption story set in the same corroding metropolis of the early 80's.  And won't those bad guys ever learn?  Stop messing with Liam Neeson's loved ones!  One last time - if you abduct or harm anyone in the man's family...he will find you, he will kill you.  I hope we don't have to go over this again.    


Another showcase for the considerable talents of Marion Cotillard,  The Immigrant is a drama that delves into the dark side of the immigrant experience.  Cotillard plays Ewa, a Polish immigrant who leaves Ellis Island without her quarantined sister and in the dubious care of Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix), who has definite plans for the vulnerable woman.  Is there hope in the form of Bruno's cousin, Emil (Jeremy Renner), a dashing illusionist?  Beyond the acting of Cotillard and others, The Immigrant is a film of considerable style in its depiction of time and place, from Ellis Island to a teeming Lower East Side of Manhattan.


Sort of the Charles Bronson of his generation, Liam Neeson is back as former covert operative Bryan Mills, in the final film of the "Taken Trilogy."  This time, the tenacious Mills pursues the bad guys while being chased by the L.A.P.D. himself, as he tracks down the killer of his ex-wife.


If the message was not delivered (or received) clearly enough with his performance in the Coen Brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, it now seems quite obvious -  Oscar Isaac is a star.  He carries, A Most Violent Year, the compelling story of a businessman trying to build an empire while attempting to fend off law enforcement, ruthless competitors and the mob.  Jessica Chastain, an old friend and buddy from Julliard, plays Isaaac's wife, something of a Brooklyn-bred Lady Macbeth.


Also  new:  Jennifer Anniston received much praise (and a Golden Globe nomination) for her role as an accident survivor in Cake.

Foreign Film


This past year has proven that the vampire film is alive and well.  Or undead and well, as the case may be.  There was Jim Jarmusch's smart and stylish, Only Lovers Left Alive.  Still in the theaters (and coming to our collection in the months ahead) is the droll vampire mockumentary, What We Do in the Shadows.  Perhaps most impressive of all is Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, an assured blend of style and heart in the story of a solitary young vampire, "The Girl," who roams the lonely streets of Bad City by night (of course).  Photographed like a classic Hollywood black and white and bearing a cool, contemporary sensibility and soundtrack, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was one of 2014's most original films.



These days, the idea of one person serving as writer AND director of a film is hardly unusual.  Such was not the case when the great Preston Sturges began his career in Hollywood.  Sturges is considered the first person to establish himself as a screenwriter and then make the transition to directing those lively scripts.  Our new Criterion Collection edition of The Palm Beach Story is a screwball classic from Sturges' richest period in Hollwood, a very unconventional love story starring Joel McCrea and Claudette Cobert that might leave you seeing double....
The library also has a few other Sturges classics:  Sullivan's Travels, The Lady Eve and Unfaithfully Yours.  
Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea in Sullivan's Travels.  
Barbara Stanwyck and a reluctant Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve.

Also new this week, a late career (and rare English language) film from French master Jean Renoir (Rules of the Game, The Grand Illusion, etc).  Filmed in India, The River is based on a story by Rumer Godden.  Martin Scorcese, who's seen a few films in his time, lists The River among his dozen all-time favorites.



Anita Diamant's enormously successful novel, The Red Tent, gets the miniseries treatment in a production that includes Debra Winger and Minnie Driver.


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