JCVD (2008) – Mark it 8.
Introducing JCVD to friends is one of my favorite cinema hobbies. One only needs to see Jean-Claude Van Damme’s initials in the title to assume it's some kind of generic action crap that made him famous, despite my insistence otherwise. Yet JCVD turns that assumption on its head as the Muscles from Brussels’ meta performance starts to blow you away. Playing himself, Jean-Claude is an aging washed-up action star with mounting personal and professional troubles. Because of a case of “wrong place, wrong time,” poor Jean-Claude gets swept up in bank robbery that forces his real life to resemble his on screen persona. I cannot recommend JCVD enough - so cool, so funny, and so unique. It’s a Saturday afternoon cable TV action film for the art house crowd; a combination you didn’t know you wanted to see until you finally give it that chance.
Tokyo Story (1953) – Mark it 7.
Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story is one of those films you always see on the “all-time greatest lists,” but one I always neglected for some reason. Having seen Tokyo Story now, I recognize why so many view it as a masterpiece, though it is hard to get overly excited about it initially. The film is undeniably slow and a little difficult to sit through, but as soon as the film ended I was so glad to have given it its proper attention. It is so powerful because the film's message is universal. While the two elderly parents visit their busy and disrespectful adult children in 1950s Japan, its themes of family and aging still resonate in 2012. The film deepened my respect the people who are closest to me because having regrets after they leave would be a heartbreaking burden. I think that is a realization all Tokyo Story viewers have, explaining why it is still so renowned 60 years later.
Since laughing with my Dad at Sleeper and Bananas as a little kid, I have been raised to be something of a Woody Allen fanboy. As I watch more and more Woody films, his genius because clearer and clearer. Woody Allen: A Documentary is a loving two-part, three-hour documentary that follows Woody’s illustrious career from joke writer and standup comedian to playwright and iconic director (and clarinet player!). Mixing interviews with Woody and his friends, family, critics, and peers with archival footage and film clips, it is fascinating to hear the stories behind his work, get a sense of his unique creative process, and realize his impact on the world of cinema. After watching Woody Allen: A Documentary I’m itching to revisit his classics and seek out his films I’ve yet to see, and I’m expecting that my love for this filmmaker will continue to grows. He’s one of our best.