Past DVD Picks

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      Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

      Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
      Directed by Eric Radomski & Bruce Timm
      Michael's Pick

      I grew up watching Batman: The Animated Series. I recently went through the entire series on DVD and was surprised to discover that it still holds up: it’s still excellent. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was a full theatrical release during the series’ run. It tells the tale of Bruce Wayne’s long-lost love Andrea Beaumont, and her reappearance into his life at the same time as a murderous new villain is stalking Gotham. Kevin Conroy is excellent as usual as Batman (he’s the one who first came up with the idea of Bruce Wayne/Batman having separate voices), and Mark Hamill (yes, that Mark Hamill) kills it as the Joker, as always (his Joker is second only to Ledger’s, and it’s a close call).
      The Battle of Algiers

      The Battle of Algiers
      Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo
      Michael’s Pick

      One of the most depressing films of all time, The Battle of Algiers tells the story of the Algerian Revolution. With atrocities committed by both sides, the war in many ways heralded the advent of modern terrorist tactics. This is not a fun movie. But it is a masterpiece, a film that everyone should see.
      Black Book

      Black Book
      Directed by Paul Verhoeven
      Tania’s Pick

      Historical intrigue from schlock-maestro Paul Verhooven. Verhooven claims his fascination with gore, evidenced in sci-fi films like Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers, started when he was a boy in WWII Holland. This realistic take on the Dutch Resistance has great acting and wonderful tension.
      Boy

      Boy
      Directed by Taika Waititi
      Tania's Pick

      Recommended by MOPA instructor and New Zealander, David Geary, this film explores manhood from the perspective of a Maori youth. “The film is delightful in its colorful production values, with animated and fantasy interludes” – Roger Ebert
      The Bridge on the River Kwai

      The Bridge on the River Kwai
      Directed by David Lean
      Michael’s Pick

      I’m a huge David Lean fan. He didn’t make many movies (relatively speaking anyway, considering his long career), but the ones he did are masterpieces. Bridge on the River Kwai is no exception. Based on a true story, it tells how during WWII a bunch of British POWs worked on building a vital bridge for their Japanese captors, and how the Allies made plans to destroy it before it was finished. Alec Guinness (the original Obi-Wan Kenobi and staple of many a Lean film) won an Oscar for his portrayal of a captured British colonel who, in trying to ensure the men under him were treated well, lost sight of the bigger picture.
      Citizen Kane

      Citizen Kane
      Directed by Orson Welles
      Michael’s Pick

      Citizen Kane is rightly considered one of the greatest films of all time. It begins at the end, with the death of its title character, the millionaire Charles Foster Kane. A reporter intrigued by Kane’s strange final words (or rather, his strange single final word: “Rosebud”) begins digging into Kane’s past in an attempt to uncover just what Kane meant when he said this. His investigation uncovers a good life gone bad, an idealist who became corrupted. And it was all because of one fateful day…
      Dallas Buyers Club

      Dallas Buyers Club
      Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée
      Janine & Jessica’s Pick

      This very engaging film is based on a real life story. It begins in the midst of the AIDS epidemic in 1985, with a homophobic Texan cowboy, Ron Woodroof, who is diagnosed HIV-positive and given an estimated 30 days to live. Ostracized from his community and mainstream medicine, this alcoholic redneck transforms what is left of his life to seeking alternative treatments, eventually becoming an entrepreneurial advocate for all outcasts fallen victim to the disease, and going so far as to take legal action against the stringent and unethical policies of the FDA.
      Django Unchained

      Django Unchained
      Directed by Quentin Tarantino
      Michael's Pick

      Another Tarantino movie in which Christoph Waltz steals the show. This time around Waltz plays a good guy, as he is cast as a dentist-turned-bounty hunter named Dr. King Schultz in the old US south (a role for which he won his second Oscar in as many movies working for Tarantino). The film also features excellent award-worthy performances from several others, most notably from Leonardo DiCaprio as a psychotic slave owner and Samuel L. Jackson as his faithful head slave. All that’s without even mentioning the titular Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who becomes Schultz’s bounty-hunting apprentice as he searches for his missing wife.
      Dr. Zhivago

      Doctor Zhivago
      Directed by David Lean
      Michael’s Pick

      Another classic David Lean film, this recounts the story of a love affair that takes place in Revolutionary Russia. The book on which it was based was actually banned in the Soviet Union, and the author was forced to decline the Nobel Prize (though Nikita Khrushchev would later actually read the book when he was no longer in office and comment, “I never should have banned this book.”)

      Gross/interesting fact: during the part when the old woman is pulled up onto the moving train and screams, her legs were actually run over. Not only did Lean keep the scene in the movie, he didn’t halt production for any length of time.
      Downfall

      Downfall
      Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel
      Michael's Pick

      Not just one of the best war movies I’ve ever seen, but one of the best movies, period. This tells the true story of Hitler’s last days in the bunker, from the point of view of his secretary. The acting is brilliant all-around, but Bruno Ganz as Hitler is particularly excellent – how he wasn’t nominated for an Oscar is beyond me.

      On another note, if you’ve ever seen one of those literally tens of thousands of “Hitler rants” videos on Youtube, this is the film they’re from. Having seen many of them myself, I thought there was no way I could ever take that scene seriously if I saw it for real. Boy, was I wrong. It’s that good.
      Dr. Strangelove

      Dr. Strangelove, Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb
      Directed by Stanley Kubrick
      Michael's Pick

      You’ll never think of the words “Mein Fuhrer!” in quite the same way after watching this hilarious black comedy about the end of the world due to a nuclear war. Peter Sellers absolutely kills it playing three roles: an army captain, the President of the United States, and of course, the titular and outrageously funny Dr. Strangelove, a “reformed” former Nazi weapons scientist. While most comedies don’t age well, Dr. Strangelove is very much the exception rather than the rule.
      Gladiator

      Gladiator
      Directed by Ridley Scott
      Michael's Pick

      A modern classic (has it really been 14 years since this came out? Time flies). With outstanding performances all around and a terrific story, this is one of the great films of all time, an old-school Roman epic and tale of revenge in the tradition of Ben-Hur and Spartacus. This DVD contains both the theatrical and extended cut.
      Hedwig

      Hedwig and the Angry Inch

      Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
      Tania's Pick

      Hedwig returns to Broadway this spring with Neil Patrick Harris pulling the wig down off the shelf and getting his sparkle on. If you don’t have the bucks to jet to the Great White Way, you can enjoy one of the best musicals of the last 25 years in the comfort of your own space. Tuneful and poignant, Hedwig will have you singing along and holding up your hands. Plus, there's a libretto to go with it.
      Hero

      Hero
      Directed by Zhang Yimou
      Michael's Pick

      I’m a martial arts film junkie. That said, I don’t like it when characters are literally flying around the screen, exhibiting supernatural powers without any explanation for it. Hero doesn’t fall into this pitfall: the entire film is a story being told by Jet Li’s character, and to say he takes liberties with his tale would be an understatement. Li’s character is also not the most reliable of narrators, for as the film progresses it becomes evident that he has an ulterior motive for telling his tale…
      Imitation Game

      The Imitation Game
      Directed by Morten Tyloum
      Michael’s Pick

      Nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress, The Imitation Game is based on the real life story of Alan Turing, a mathematician who was recruited to head up the British efforts to crack the “unbreakable” Nazi Enigma machine, the device that encoded all their communications.
      Inglourious 

Basterds

      Inglourious Basterds
      Directed by Quentin Tarantino
      Michael's Pick

      Quite possibly Quentin Tarantino’s best film, this endlessly quotable alternate-history tale chronicles a group of American soldiers of Jewish descent as they wreak havoc behind Nazi lines. With excellent performances all around from a star-studded cast, Christoph Waltz steals the show as a deranged but brilliant Nazi detective charged with hunting down Jews, a role for which he won his first Oscar. Highly recommended.
      Inside Out

      Inside Out
      Directed by Pete Docter
      Michael’s Pick

      As usual, Pixar delivers fine work in this film. The plot is a little difficult to describe. It is centered around the personified, anthropomorphic feelings of a young girl named Riley. The feelings (Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust) live in Riley’s brain and control how she reacts to things, forming her personality. (There’s more to it than that, but like I said, it’s difficult to describe).

      Funny tidbit: there’s an internet meme that says the premise of all Pixar movies can be summed up as “What if X had feelings?” So Toy Story is “What if toys had feelings?” A Bug’s Life: “What if bugs had feelings?” Monsters, Inc. “What if monsters had feelings?” And on it goes, until you finally get to Inside Out: “What if feelings had feelings?”
      JCVD

      JCVD
      Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri
      Michael’s Pick

      Jean-Claude Van Damme turns in an Oscar-calibre performance as he plays himself in this pseudo-biographical film. Coming off losing a high-profile custody battle for his daughter, he returns home to Belgium only to get caught in the middle of a bank robbery and taken hostage. To make things worse, the cops think he did it because they saw him at the window just before the gates were shut, and everyone knows he’s desperate for money because of the trial. The performances are excellent all around, but Van Damme’s in particular is surprisingly good – the quote on the cover from Time magazine, “He deserves not a black belt, but an Oscar” is not an embellishment by any stretch of the imagination.
      The King of Kong

      The King of Kong
      Directed by Seth Gordon
      Michael’s Pick

      ABSOLUTELY. FREAKING. INSANE. These words aptly describe Billy Mitchell, the real-life villain in this documentary about the rivalry between him and average joe Steve Wiebe as they compete over the world record in Donkey Kong. It sounds like a somewhat ludicrous premise, but what makes it well worth watching are the extreme lengths to which Mitchell goes to keep his high score. If this was fiction I wouldn’t believe it. You seriously couldn’t make this stuff up.
      Lambert and Stamp

      Lambert and Stamp
      Directed by James Cooper
      Tania’s Pick

      Discover the men behind The Who in this rockin’ doc. Who made mod?
      Lawrence of Arabia

      Lawrence of Arabia
      Directed by David Lean
      Michael’s Pick

      Directed by David Lean, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, this recounts the true story of how British officer T. E. Lawrence helped unite various Arab factions and successfully revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. A classic film for the ages, Lawrence of Arabia is a movie everyone should see.
      Los Angeles Plays Itself

      Los Angeles Plays Itself
      Directed by Thom Andersen
      Tania’s Pick

      A documentary exploration of the world’s most cinematically-inclined city as seen through its primary product. Film essayist Thom Anderson uses impeccable research, a treasure trove of film clips and archival footage plus a deadpan (and amusingly cranky) narrative to demonstrate the role Los Angeles has played in on-screen cinematic history.
      Manda Bala

      Manda Bala
      Directed by Jason Kohn
      Tania’s Pick

      Four interlocking documentaries weave a story of modern Brazil, focusing on environmental issues, political corruption, and economic divisions, all told with an arresting narrative style.
      The Mask You Live In

      The Mask You Live In
      Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom
      Elizabeth’s Pick

      This documentary is the sequel to Miss Representation, this time focusing on the socialization of men and the societal pressures they face. Following boys and men struggling to stay true to themselves while negotiating America's narrow definition of masculinity and examining the psychological effects this has. The film examines the stereotypes males face and the implications of language that is associated with ‘maleness’. Masculinity is examined in relation to drinking, homophobia, depression, bullying, the stigmatization of male intimacy, crime, videogames, porn and campus sexual assault.
      Memento

      Memento
      Directed by Christopher Nolan
      Michael's Pick

      Yes, I know there’s a fundamental flaw to the logic of this film, and no, I don’t care – it’s just that good. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (the best director in Hollywood right now), it stars Guy Pearce as an anterograde amnesiac (he can’t form new memories, meaning he pretty much instantly forgets everything that happens to him – sadly, this is a real condition) on the trail of his wife’s murderer. Simply put, it’s fantastic, as everything by Nolan is.
      Miss Representation

      Miss Representation
      Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom
      Elizabeth’s Pick

      Miss Representation is a documentary exploring the way in which media represents women in limited and sexist images. It explores the idea that mainstream media contributes to the under representation of women in influential positions in society and challenges how media sexism plays a part in women’s ability to attain these leadership roles. The film addresses that even though women have become better represented in media, the idea of equality is still far from true with women still facing stereotypes and double standards of their appearances and personas. Featuring interviews with academics, politicians and media icons as the film explores these obstacles.
      Normal Heart

      The Normal Heart
      Directed by Ryan Murphy
      Tania’s Pick

      This groundbreaking play becomes an HBO movie documenting the AIDS crisis as it unfolded in the 1980’s New York gay activist community. An all-star cast (Mark Rufallo, Jim Parsons, Taylor Kitsch, Alfred Molina and Julia Roberts) makes the most of compelling dialogue and the drama created by an unfolding epidemic.
      Reluctant Fundamentalist

      The Reluctant Fundamentalist
      Directed by Mira Nair
      Dalene’s Pick

      An engaging film with a fantastic soundtrack which is now on my regular playlist. The novel was shortlisted for a Booker Prize in 2007.
      Saving Private Ryan

      Saving Private Ryan
      Directed by Steven Spielberg
      Michael's Pick

      Often parodied, realistically ultra-violent, and downright depressing, this is nonetheless a masterpiece everyone should see. It chronicles the true story of a squad sent to find and bring back a soldier behind enemy lines during WWII. If you haven’t seen it, you should.
      Schindler's List

      Schindler's List
      Directed by Steven Spielberg
      Michael's Pick

      "The list is life." One of the greatest films of all time, it chronicles the true story of how German businessman Oskar Schindler saved 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. This was the film that broke Steven Spielberg’s Oscar curse (he’d previously been nominated 5 times, but hadn’t won once).
      Shoah

      Shoah
      Directed by Claude Lanzmann
      Tania’s Pick

      Hear about the Holocaust from survivors. Consistently voted one of the best documentaries of all time.
      Singin' in the Rain

      Singin' in the Rain
      Directed by Gene Kelly
      Tania's Pick

      It’s a classic for a reason. Bursting with enough song and dance to shake off the wettest Vancouver weekend, you don’t know musicals until you’ve seen this apex of the Hollywood golden age. Dare you not to smile (or LOL) during the “Make ‘Em Laugh” number!
      Starbuck

      Starbuck
      Directed by Ken Scott
      Dalene’s Pick

      David Wosniak needed money so donating his sperm seemed like a good idea until 533 children, now young adults, pursued legal action challenging the anonymity clause to find out who their father was. There was a Hollywood version of this film with Vince Vaughn, but this version is Canadian, eh, and Patrick Huard is a funny guy.
      A Sunday in Kigali

      A Sunday in Kigali
      by Gil Courtemanche
      Dalene’s Pick

      What’s a Canadian journalist doing in Rwanda filming a documentary about AIDS just as the Rwandan genocide begins? Will he end up falling in love with the lovely Gentille, a Tutsi waitress at his hotel? Quebec filmmaker, Robert Favreau, weaves these details together beautifully.

      Rather read the book? A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtemanche.
      Top Hat

      Top Hat
      Directed by Mark Sandrich
      Sabrina's Pick

      If you’re going to watch one Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film, this is it! Hilarious screwball antics, a classic score, and elegant dance numbers make Top Hat a classic that can be enjoyed by all ages. Chances are that you’ve heard Irving Berlin’s famous song “Cheek to Cheek,” but you’ll fall in love with the song once you see Fred and Ginger glide across the dance floor to it. It’s not all romance though: Eric Blore as the valet, and Helen Broderick as Madge bring cheeky banter to the film. Note that the film is also available for streaming from our library’s online collection.
      Tora! Tora! Tora!

      Tora! Tora! Tora!
      Directed by Richard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda, & Kinji Fukasaku
      Michael’s Pick

      “I feel all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” This classic film is about the bombing of Pearl Harbor, from both the Japanese and American points of view. It faithfully recreates much of what happened leading up to the attack, and makes for fascinating drama. For those wondering, “Tora!” apparently means “Tiger” in Japanese, and these were the code words used to launch the attack.
      Truman

      The Truman Show
      Directed by Peter Weir
      Michael's Pick

      This is one of my favourite films of all time. Jim Carrey stars in his first dramatic role as a man whose entire life is being broadcast as a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week TV show (the film was released before the advent of reality TV, mind you). Everyone he knows is an actor, his entire town is one big set, and – here’s the kicker – he is unaware of all this.
      Walk the Line

      Walk the Line
      Directed by James Mangold
      Michael's Pick

      An excellent biopic on the life of Johnny Cash. Even if you’re not into his music, it’s well worth a watch.