As a wise man once said, “there’s a time and place for everything… it’s called college.” Nothing exemplifies this point more than National Lampoon’s Animal House, a 1978 film that follows the mischievous antics of the scofflaw-riddled Delta Tau Chi fraternity in cartoonish fashion. After a series of events lands the fraternity on “double-secret probation,” the ragtag crew of misfits must get their act together or risk losing their charter. The timeless classic showcases stupendous performances from the likes of John Vernon and John Belushi, along with Donald Sutherland, Tim Matheson, and others. From the derelict toga party to Belushi’s cafeteria antics, the iconic scenes just keep coming. Will Delta house make things right with the Dean, or will it set its sights on its rivals and go out in a flaming ball of glory?
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Coen Brothers’ sepia-toned adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey is a delightful romp through Depression-era Mississippi, one that follows three bumbling convicts — Ulysses Everett McGill (George Clooney), Pete Hogwallop (John Turturro), and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson) — who escape their chain gang and set off in search of Everett’s buried treasure. Their journey takes them across a surreal vision of the South, as they encounter several characters and events inspired by episodes in the aforementioned epic. In addition to the dusty color palette, the film makes extensive use of period-appropriate music, including blues, gospel, and bluegrass tunes. It’s safe to say that T Bone Burnett’s production has never been so on point.
Told through a series of anecdotal moments dotting the college days of the 44th President of the United States, Barry is more of a coming-of-age story than Southside With You, writer-director Richard Tanne’s nostalgic journey through a day in the life of young Barack and Michelle Obama. Australian actor Devon Terrell plays the titular Barry with a surprising amount of depth and persuasion, rolling with the punches as he searches for an identity between the Columbia classroom and the Harlem projects. As he does, he juggles the privileges and the responsibilities that come with dating a white woman. Because of this, the film makes for a skillful examination of bi-racial America and cultural identity as a whole — the fact that the film is a nonfiction piece about a future president just makes it even more striking and relatable.
Captain America: Civil War
The opening salvo of the third phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, predictably, spectacular. The titular “civil war” occurs when the opinions of Captain America (Chris Evans) and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) differ regarding control of the Avengers. The two leaders recruit teams for the ensuing clash, with characters such as Spiderman and the Black Panther making their first appearances in the MCU. However, despite the film’s cacophony of special effects and adrenaline-touched sequences, it somehow manages to balance an upwards of 10 comic book characters with plenty of gusto, while presenting a throng of thought-provoking ideas in its wake. Civil War represents Marvel at it’s most entertaining, and, dare we say, mature. Too bad we can’t say the same thing for D.C.’s Batman vs. Superman...
While Michael Bay has never been known as a great director, his first feature film is a fun, restrained action flick. The Rock opens with a disgruntled general (Ed Harris) and a group of his most loyal men stealing chemical weapons and setting up a base on Alcatraz. When they demand a hefty ransom, the FBI plans a covert operation, sending chemical weapons expert Stanley Goodspeed (Nic Cage) to infiltrate the prison and disarm the weapons. In order to break into Alcatraz, however, he will need the help of the only man to have ever escaped the facility: John Mason (Sean Connery), a retired SAS captain. The remained of the film plays out like a buddy film, with Goodspeed and Mason getting on each other’s nerves as they try to thwart their enemies. Watching a manic Cage play off of the suave, no-nonsense Connery is just one of the film’s many delights.
Made-for-TV movies are hit or miss. Pirate’s Passage falls in the former category, however, taking William Gilkerson’s novel of the same name and infusing it with colorful visuals, tremendous voice talent, and a fair share of adventure. The coming-of-age tale involves a 12-year-old boy from Novia Scotia and his mother, both of whom have fallen on hard times as a result of bullying and are struggling to hold on to the family inn. Things quickly change when an enigmatic sea captain (Donald Sutherland), who may or might not be a pirate who supposedly died more than 200 years ago, arrives on the scene to help out. The ensuing journey is exciting, creative, and — best of all — even somewhat enjoyable to adults.