(Photo by @ Fox/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail: 20th Century Fox Film Corp)
A new year can represent opportunity for new hopes and resolutions, and movies have the gift to inspire that personal change. If you’re eager to turn the page on 2021, here’s 22 of the most inspirational movies to charge your 2022.
Diet and exercise are always high contenders on new year’s resolutions lists, and movies like Brittany Runs a Marathon or Chariots of Fire will get you in motion. There are movies for getting in touch with inner hope (The Shawshank Redemption) and your roots (Lion), along with picking up new skills (Julie & Julia) and rekindling determination (Remember the Titans, Hidden Figures). And those entering 2021 with open hearts ought to seek out Wild and Groundhog Day. And some movies guide us through trauma and disaster, like Life of Pi, and Soul Surfer.
If it’s a new year, it’s a new you: Here’s 22 movies to inspire your 2022.
(Photo by Fox Searchlight/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail: Gramercy Pictures.)
Jeff Bridges, son of Lloyd, struck it big with his first major role in 1971’s The Last Picture Show, where he was Oscar-nominated for his role as a graduating high school student in a prospectless Texas town. Afterwards, Bridges became a steady, comforting fixture in American cinema, appearing across action-thrillers (Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, Cutter’s Way), big-budget remakes (1975’s King Kong, The Vanishing), magnificent bombs (Heaven’s Gate), science-fiction (TRON, Starman), theater adaptations (The Iceman Cometh), and additional fine-tuned dramas (The Fisher King).
Bridges’ eclectic career choices primed him to become a beloved Hollywood statesman, all but confirmed with 1998’s The Big Lebowski. Wearing his personal wardrobe on-screen (including the jelly sandals) and directed by the Coen brothers, Bridges as Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski in a state of perpetual befuddled zen has rooted himself into pop culture with his generation-defining comedy performance. And Lebowski has only paved the way for later milestones and hits, including True Grit, Hell or High Water, and a take-home Best Actor Oscar for Crazy Heart, his big win out of seven nominations overall.
And now we do believe you shall abide as we take a trip through all Jeff Bridges movies, ranked by Tomatometer.
With this weekend’s Sicario: Day of the Soldado, Benicio Del Toro returns to the role of CIA spook Alejandro Gillick for another round of grim and gritty action south of the border — and adds another entry to a filmography that’s gone in any number of exciting directions since he notched his first big-screen credit as Duke, the Dog-Faced Boy in Big Top Pee-wee 30 years ago. There’s clearly no time like the present to take a fond look back at some of his Oscar-winning thespian’s brightest critical highlights, and you know what that means: it’s time for Total Recall!
(Photo by Richard Foreman Jr./Lionsgate)
Some pretty powerful films have been made about the international drug trade — look no further than Traffic, right next door to this entry, for proof — and at this point, if you’re going to throw your cinematic hat in the ring, you’d better be prepared to add a singular statement to the genre. Director Denis Villeneuve managed to pull it off with 2015’s Sicario, starring Emily Blunt as an FBI agent who teams up with a pair of CIA operatives (Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro) to bring down a Mexican cartel. In terms of plot outline, it’s boilerplate stuff — but in Villeneuve and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s hands, and through the stellar efforts of the well-chosen cast, the end results are elevated considerably. “Far from being just another crime story,” wrote the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Calvin Wilson, “Sicario is cinema at its most ambitious.”
(Photo by USA Films courtesy Everett Collection)
One of the more darkly ambitious films to make its way through the studio system over the 20 years, Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic looks at the human cost of the drug trade by following seemingly unconnected stories that slowly converge. In Mexico, a police officer (Benicio Del Toro, who won an Oscar for his work) becomes the unwitting employee of a drug lord; in San Diego, a major dealer (Miguel Ferrer) is targeted by a pair of DEA agents (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman); and in the Midwest, a crusading judge (Michael Douglas) finds his black-and-white views on drugs challenged when his teenage daughter (Erika Christensen) develops a cocaine addiction. In condensing the six-part BBC series Traffik, Soderbergh had to trim some of the original’s heft, but Traffic was still a four-time Academy Award winner (including Best Director) as well as one of the best-reviewed films of the year, thanks to critics like Andrew Sarris of the New York Observer, who proclaimed, “The promise of Sex, Lies, and Videotape has been fulfilled.”
(Photo by Jonathan Olley/Walt Disney Studios)
Decades after Randall from Clerks argued that the Star Wars Empire couldn’t have solidified its rule without the work of countless grunts, wage slaves, and dispassionate bureaucrats who were only trying to make a living, the saga got around to echoing that point explicitly — and doing so with an assist from DJ (Benicio Del Toro), the determinedly morally ambiguous hacker who fills in Finn and Rose on the existence of a galactic arms trade fueling both sides of the war between the First Order and the Resistance. Proving he doesn’t see much of a difference between either ideology, DJ ends up stabbing his new friends in the back for a quick buck, paving the way for an epic set piece while adding another layer to a story once told as a simple battle between good and evil. “Nothing in The Last Jedi is allowed to be mundane,” wrote NPR’s Bob Mondello. “Including the places the filmmakers take the story.”
(Photo by Marvel Studios)
Over the course of his career, Benicio del Toro has yoinked the spotlight from numerous above-the-title stars in all sorts of ways, from the flashy to the subtle — and although his tenure as the Collector in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn’t allowed him to (ahem) collect much screentime with appearances in Thor: The Dark World, Avengers: Infinity War, and, most prominently, Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s definitely one of his more memorably outlandish roles. As his name suggests, he’s known for gathering stuff, including a number of priceless and powerful artifacts — including an Infinity Stone, which puts him in the path of the homicidal Thanos on the Mad Titan’s quest to restore order to the universe by wiping out half of all life. His brief (and apparently illusory) appearance in 2018’s Infinity War might have briefly convinced audiences he was done for, but if it seems unlikely we’ll see the Collector again, Del Toro can at least point to his pivotal role in GotG as a high note. “If you’re old enough to remember when sci-fi and comic books were fun,” wrote Joe Williams of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Guardians of the Galaxy will be your new favorite movie. If you’re not, it will set a standard for everything you see.”
(Photo by Gramercy courtesy Everett Collection)
The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist, but the greatest one Kevin Spacey might have pulled was scoring the role of Roger “Verbal” Kint, the palsied small-time hood whose post-heist interrogation frames the twisty goings-on of Bryan Singer’s neo-noir ‘90s classic The Usual Suspects. It turned into an Academy Award-winning breakout vehicle for the actor, but he certainly didn’t do it alone: Suspects is a quintessentially ’90s ensemble piece, spinning a number of narrative plates with the aid of an outstanding cast that included Pete Postlethwaite, Gabriel Byrne, Kevin Pollak, and — as the virtually incomprehensible crook Fred Fenster — Benicio Del Toro, who stole every scene he was in even though no one ever had any idea what he was saying. A master class in character actor chemistry, Suspects provided audiences with 106 minutes of water-cooler entertainment in the bargain — and earned some of the best reviews of the year. “For many true movie fiends, noir is the key American movie type, and the most fun when it’s done right,” observed Newsweek’s Jack Kroll. “The Usual Suspects is done right.”
(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)
Cheating death sounds like an incredible gift — but what do you do after you’ve accepted you’re about to die and walked away from the experience? As Peter Weir’s Fearless powerfully argues, that second lease on life can sometimes be harder to come to grips with than we might imagine — especially if you’re like protagonist Max Klein (Jeff Bridges), who survives a plane crash that ends up killing almost everyone on board and embarks on a quest that includes reaching out to a fellow passenger (Rosie Perez) who’s coping with survivor’s guilt without assistance from her boyfriend (Benicio Del Toro). The type of thought-provoking adult drama that seems all but extinct in the modern studio system, Fearless didn’t make much of a dent at the box office after its 1993 release, but many critics rightly applauded it as a refreshing change of pace. Calling it “the rare commercial movie that raises more questions than it answers,” Newsweek’s David Ansen wrote, “You leave it in an altered state yourself — moved, not quite satisfied, but certain you’ve seen something out of the ordinary.”
(Photo by Focus Features courtesy Everett Collection)
The second installment in writer-director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Trilogy of Death,” 21 Grams wrings some outstanding performances (not to mention plenty of tears) out of an outstanding cast in service of a gripping — albeit harrowing — tale. Using a handful of seemingly disparate plot threads, Iñárritu plunged viewers into the darkness pooling out of a tragedy unintentionally wrought by an ex-con (Benicio Del Toro) whose irrevocable mistake has a profound impact on a dying math professor (Sean Penn) and a woman with a complicated past (Naomi Watts) — all of whom are drawn irrevocably together by the final act. Watts and Del Toro both earned Oscar nominations for their work, and neither could be accused of holding anything back; as Moira MacDonald wrote for the Seattle Times, “Watching it is a wrenching experience; the usual layers of distance between actors and audience are stripped away, and we not only watch their anguish, but become part of it.”
(Photo by Lionsgate)
One of two critically acclaimed releases that saw Benicio Del Toro sharing screentime with Kevin Spacey in 1995, Swimming with Sharks revolves around Spacey’s Buddy Ackerman, a bottomlessly selfish studio executive haranguing the naive film-school graduate (Frank Whaley) who unwittingly agrees to enter a waking nightmare when he signs on to become Ackerman’s new assistant. Del Toro, playing Whalley’s predecessor, isn’t seen for long — Sharks is dominated by Spacey’s volcanic performance — but he was already well on his way to “that guy” status, and this is another early example of why. Little-seen during its initial release, writer-director George Huang’s black comedy was a hit with critics like MaryAnn Johanson of Flick Filosopher, who deemed it “As fine a ‘revenge on the boss from hell’ movie as the wickedly vindictive 9 to 5 (and as outrageous a satire on Hollywood as The Player).”
(Photo by October Films courtesy Everett Collection)
With Abel Ferrara behind the camera, an ensemble cast led by Christopher Walken and Chris Penn, and a storyline revolving around occasionally grisly gang violence, The Funeral should rank among the quintessential indie dramas of the ’90s. It’s mostly escaped the spotlight since its release, but even in the context of Ferrara’s typically hard-hitting work, it’s dark stuff — the story of a pair of gangsters who set out to avenge their brother’s (Vincent Gallo) murder by retaliating against the competing mobster (Benicio Del Toro) they suspect of the crime. Naturally, not all is as it seems; the brothers’ quest takes some unexpected turns, and what might have been a simple shoot-’em-up has more on its mind. While audiences didn’t turn out, critics were suitably impressed; as Desson Thomson wrote for the Washington Post, “You’re engaged on a moral level rarely found in movies about violence.”
(Photo by Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)
Few who watched Sean Penn’s timeless turn as the affably bewildered stoner Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High could have guessed he’d grow up to favor dark dramas — or that when he eventually started directing features of his own, they’d include the sort of harrowing descent into the darkest depths of human nature plumbed by 2001’s The Pledge. The story begins with an alcoholic police detective (Jack Nicholson) whose retirement party is interrupted by the news of a young girl’s murder; pledged to solve the case by the victim’s mother, he doggedly persists in hunting down the killer even after it’s officially closed by the confession — and subsequent suicide — of a local man with a learning disability. Del Toro’s relatively brief (and somewhat controversial) appearance as the suspect is just one of several disquieting things about the film, which was destined for the commercial margins even as it drew applause from critics like Sean Burns of the Philadelphia Weekly, who wrote, “Steeped in an almost unbearable sadness, dense with moral ambiguity, it stubbornly withholds comfort at every startling turn.”
What do Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, and Jeff Bridges all have in common? They’ve all been nominated for Oscars — and they’re all set to star in Jon Favreau‘s "Iron Man" adaptation.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Mr. Bridges will be playing an old-school colleague / friend of Tony Stark, but that’s all the producers are dishing out so far.
And if right now you’re scratching your head wondering who Jeff Bridges is, shame on you. (You know him from "Tron," "Starman," "Jagged Edge," "The Fisher King, " "Fearless," "Seabiscuit," and (of course) "The Big Lebowski.")
Marvel boss Kevin Feige seems justifiably happy with the casting choice: "He’s excited about doing a movie like this, and we’re excited to have him in this particular role. There are many facets to this character which I can’t discuss, but looking at the spectrum of all of Jeff’s roles, this fits in nicely with the man who played ‘Starman,’ ‘Tucker,’ ‘Big Lebowski’ with a little bit ‘Tron’ thrown in … This rounds out our ensemble, and I think it’s one of the strongest casts ever assembled for one of our films."
No argument here.
Production on "Iron Man" is scheduled to begin next month. The flick is scheduled to hit screens a year from this May — so expect a lot more news. (I’m expecting them to cast Kevin Kline and Jennifer Connelly next.)
Martin Scorsese scored the best opening of his career, and his first number one film in fifteen years, with the star-studded gangster thriller "The Departed," which led the North American box office over the Columbus Day holiday weekend.
Moviegoers also showed interest in the horror prequel The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning which debuted in second place, as well as the new comedy Employee of the Month which bowed in fourth with respectable results. The new releases helped to boost attendance at multiplexes as the top ten set a new record for the holiday frame selling just a bit less than $100M worth of tickets.
Starpower ruled the box office this weekend as the ultraviolent pic The Departed starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, and Jack Nicholson opened convincingly at number one grossing an estimated $27M in its first outing. The Warner Bros. release averaged a vicious $8,954 from 3,017 theaters and set a new opening weekend record for acclaimed director Scorsese beating the $10.3M bow of his 1991 Robert De Niro thriller Cape Fear, which also happened to be the filmmaker’s last top spot opener. The 63-year-old director usually sees more narrow releases for his films. His last picture The Aviator took off in limited release before expanding nationally over Christmas weekend in 2004 with 1,796 theaters while his previous pic Gangs of New York bowed in 1,504 locations. Both were set in the past, starred DiCaprio, and released by Miramax. The Departed marked Scorsese’s first film ever to debut in more than 2,000 theaters.
A remake of 2002’s award-winning Hong Kong blockbuster Infernal Affairs, The Departed finds Nicholson as a crime boss who sends a mole (Damon) into the Boston police force. DiCaprio plays an undercover cop infiltrating the crime syndicate. Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, and Mark Wahlberg co-star in the R-rated feast. Critics drenched the pic with praise giving it some of the best reviews of the year. Starpower combined with strong reviews and a solid marketing push from Warner Bros. contributed to a powerful turnout from movie fans. Departed brought badly-needed good news to the distributor which is struggling through a year full of costly misfires. It ranks dead last among Hollywood’s big six studios in 2006 market share and has only generated two other number one debuts this year – V for Vendetta and Superman Returns.
Produced for a hefty $90M, The Departed does seem to have a promising road ahead of it. Not only have critics been giving it high marks, but so have ticket buyers. The gangster film has earned an encouraging A- grade from over 2,000 users on Yahoo Movies. Plus it has given DiCaprio only the third number one opener of his career and his first since Titanic set sail on its record-shattering voyage in 1997. Damon has enjoyed several top spots debuts in recent years most notably with his Bourne and Ocean’s flicks. Meanwhile, Nicholson proved once again why he remains the biggest box office draw of his generation.
Opening with strength in second place was another violent R-rated film, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which bowed to an estimated $19.2M. Scaring audiences in 2,820 theaters, the New Line franchise pic averaged a strong $6,791 per venue. The opening was below the $28.1M debut of the 2003 remake of Chainsaw Massacre which went on to gross a terrific $80.1M. However, Beginning was never expected to reach the same neighborhood and with its relatively low $16M production cost, it should easily be yet another profitable horror film.
The new film benefited from a lack of scary movies in the current marketplace, but the road ahead should be tough with a pair of horror sequels set to attack the box office in the coming weeks. The Grudge 2 launches this Friday the 13th while Saw III will be unleashed on the weekend before Halloween. The new Leatherface frightfest performed just like another of New Line’s horror franchise pics from this year, Final Destination 3, which debuted to $19.2M in February on its way to a $54.1M final. The two scary movies have delivered the best openings for its distributor over the past year.
Sony’s hit toon Open Season fell from first to third place but managed to show good legs easing only 32% to an estimated $16M in its second hunt. Enjoying the smallest decline in the top ten, the PG-rated pic has upped its ten-day cume to a solid $44.1M and could continue to post impressive holds in the weeks ahead as there is little competition for its family audience until November. Look for Open Season to reach $80-85M from North America. Though impressive, Sony Pictures Animation’s debut venture still does not seem like it will reach the heights of other non-sequel non-summer digital toons like Ice Age ($176.4M), Shark Tale ($160.8M), Robots ($128.2M), or even 1998’s Antz ($90.7M).
The new Lionsgate comedy Employee of the Month opened in fourth place with an estimated $11.8M from 2,579 theaters. Averaging a respectable $4,575 per venue, the PG-13 film stars Dane Cook, Jessica Simpson, and Dax Shephard and tells of a love triangle among workers at a superstore. Reviews, not surprisingly, were mostly negative.
Ashton Kutcher and Kevin Costner dropped three spots with their Coast Guard actioner The Guardian which collected an estimated $9.6M in its second mission. Down 46%, the Buena Vista release has collected $32.4M in ten days and should find its way to $50-55M domestically.
The fall season’s top-grossing hit Jackass: Number Two dropped 56% in its third weekend to an estimated $6.4M pushing its stellar total to $62.7M in 17 days. Later this week, the Paramount sequel will fly past the $64.3M of its 2002 predecessor. The MGM comedy School for Scoundrels tumbled 60% to an estimated $3.4M in its sophomore frame. With $14M in ten days, the Billy Bob Thornton–Jon Heder pic should wind up with around $20M.
The Rock‘s football flick Gridiron Gang followed with an estimated $2.3M, down 50%, for a $36.6M total to date for Sony. Jet Li was close behind in ninth place with Fearless which fell 56% to an estimated $2.2M putting its sum at $21.7M for Focus. Rounding out the top ten was the durable period mystery The Illusionist which slipped only 33% and took in an estimated $1.8M. Yari Film Group has taken in a respectable $34.1M after its eighth weekend, the last six of which were spent in the top ten.
In limited release, ThinkFilm launched its unrated sex romp Shortbus in only six arthouses but grossed an estimated $121,000 for a potent $20,108 average. Playing in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Toronto, and Vancouver, the John Cameron Mitchell-directed film will expand to ten more markets next weekend.
New Line premiered its Kate Winslet–Jennifer Connelly pic Little Children in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles and grossed an estimated $108,400. The suburban drama averaged a sturdy $21,680 and will expand over the weeks ahead.
Among holdovers expanding in limited release, Miramax’s The Queen reigned supreme taking in an estimated $401,000 from eleven theaters for a stunning $36,455 second weekend average. The acclaimed Helen Mirren drama widened from its three-theater debut in New York and has grossed $634,000 to date with a promising road ahead.
Fox Searchlight’s Idi Amin tale The Last King of Scotland expanded from four theaters in two markets to 30 sites in 14 markets and grossed an estimated $300,000. With a solid $10,000 average this weekend, the Forest Whitaker pic will invade 20 new markets on Friday expanding its dictatorship into more of North America. Cume to date is $541,000 after 12 days.
The Michel Gondry flick The Science of Sleep held steady in 221 theaters but dropped 39% to an estimated $680,000 in its third dream. Warner Independent averaged a mild $3,077 and pushed the cume to just $2.7M.
Three films dropped out of the top ten this weekend. Fox Searchlight’s word-of-mouth hit Little Miss Sunshine grossed an estimated $1.3M in its eleventh weekend, down 36%, and pushed its total to a stellar $55M. Acquired at the Sundance Film Festival in January for a hefty $10.5M, the dysfunctional family comedy has become the second biggest grosser ever for the distributor and looks to end its run close to the $60M mark. That would also make it the second highest grossing R-rated film of the summer after the $63.4M of Miami Vice which cost tons more to produce and market.
MGM’s World War I adventure Flyboys crashed 56% in its third flight and took in an estimated $1M. With only $11.8M in 17 days, the James Franco flop should finish up with under $14M. The Black Dahlia, another of this fall’s historical dramas to be rejected by moviegoers, has collected just over $22M to date. Budgeted at $60M, the Universal release should close its case with a mere $24M.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $99.7M which was up 23% from last year when Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit debuted at number one with $16M; and up 5% from 2004 when Shark Tale remained in the top spot for a second time with $31.3M.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
This Christmas season’s big-time comedy-adventure family flick tentpole would have to be Shawn Levy‘s "Night at the Museum," which stars Ben Stiller as a night watchman forced to contend with all sorts of re-animated historical figures, wacky animals, and dinosaur bones. And now we get a few pics to pore over.
From IGN FilmForce: "Good-hearted dreamer Larry Daley, despite being perpetually down on his luck, thinks he’s destined for something big. But even he could never have imagined how “big,” when he accepts what appears to be a menial job as a graveyard-shift security guard at a museum of natural history. During Larry’s watch, extraordinary things begin to occur. Amidst the chaos, the only person Larry can turn to for advice is a wax figure of President Teddy Roosevelt."
Click here for the pics.
"Peter Weir will direct "Shantaram," the Warner Bros. adaptation of the Gregory David Roberts novel that will star Johnny Depp.
Weir will develop the script with Eric Roth. WB hopes to begin production late next year.
When negotiations are complete, Weir — who last directed Russell Crowe in "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" — will take on a tale with the political and wartime tensions reminiscent of his early efforts like "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "Gallipoli."
Protag is an Australian heroin addict who escapes a maximum-security prison and reinvents himself in India as a doctor in the slums of Bombay. His attempt to find medicine for his destitute patients leads him into counterfeiting, gunrunning and smuggling."
One of moviedom’s most consistent directors, Peter Weir also brought you "Picnic at Hanging Rock," "Witness," "The Mosquito Coast," "Dead Poets Society," "Green Card," "Fearless," and "The Truman Show." Mr. Roth’s previous screenplays include "Forrest Gump," "The Insider," and "Ali." And Johnny Depp? Well, if I have to list Johnny Depp’s credits for you, then you’re clearly at the wrong website. (Note: He was in some really great movies before "Pirates"!)
Veteran screenwriters Tom Schulman and Rafael Yglesias have sold their first collaborative effort, "Worst Case," to Universal Pictures following a rather heated bidding frenzy. All we know so far is that "Worst Case" is a crime thriller, but considering the scribes’ respective track records (and Variety‘s report of the bidding war), it should be a title worth keeping an eye on.
For those keeping score at home, Tom Schulman wrote films such as "What About Bob?," "Dead Poets Society" (for which he snagged an Oscar), and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids." (On the other side of the coin, Mr. Schulman also penned "Holy Man," "8 Heads in a Duffel Bag," and "Welcome to Mooseport.") Mr. Yglesias is the screenwriter behind movies like "Fearless," "Death and the Maiden," "From Hell," the 1998 version of "Les Miserables," and the upcoming "Dark Water."