Following are quick reviews of some films from past and present that I particularly enjoy. With luck, you'll find something you may have missed.
I expect I'll keep making similar posts with more movies, so keep watching.
This list is in no particular order. I'm writing this shit as it comes to me.
The Paper (1994)
I don't understand why this movie didn't get more attention. It has excellent performances by Michael Keaton, Glen Close, Marisa Tomei, and Robert Duvall. The dialogue is intelligent and witty. The direction and editing are tight and the pace and tension are built very well. The film focuses on the events of a single day in a lead newspaper editor's life and manages to capture the struggle for truth, office politics, balancing responsibility between family and career, choosing between a higher salary and a rewarding job, racism, all without losing focus.
Charlie Wilson's War (2007)
The lighthearted tale of how the United States helped arm the Mujahadeen in their fight against the Soviet army (2 million total dead). Insightful, funny, superbly acted. Phillip Seymour Hoffman kicks ass. Also, there are tits, which are severely lacking in modern cinema. I did some research after seeing it and was pleased to see that it is quite historically accurate.
Martyrs (2008, France)
This is the most cringe-inducing, skin-crawlingly disturbing film I have ever seen. I'm still not 100% certain what it was about. Apparently there is a cult that is seeking to prove the existence of an afterlife by martyring people - torturing them to the brink of death, expecting that they would come into contact with heaven just before they expire. Two women escape from it and seek revenge, but one of them is haunted by the guilt of leaving another imprisoned woman behind. That woman appears and occasionally attacks her (or it's her guilt manifesting itself.... or it's all in her head?) as they seek revenge upon the cult. I'm not ashamed to admit I watched a number of scenes through my fingers. This is the stuff of nightmares. Yet, this wasn't pointless torture porn like "Hostel." The movie was actually asking questions and making statements, particularly at its conclusion. Or it just tricked me into it by being French and bizzare. You decide.
I saw one trailer for this thought (hm, might be interesting) and wound up seeing it on a whim. I expected a straightforward car chase movie, and I do enjoy a good car chase (Ronin, anyone?).
What I got was the plot of an 80's B-movie directed by some bizarre combination of Michael Mann and Terrance Mallick. Visually mesmerising, the camera is almost always moving, even during stationary shots, there is often imperceptibly slow zooming going on that energizes the scene. We've all been told that the words of a person who rarely speaks carry more weight than those of someone who always talks. Drive doesn't talk very much. Nor does its protagonist. But when it does - holy shit. Drive isn't about driving or car chases, it's about discovering what drives its protagonist, who begins the film aloof and apathetic, but becomes decisive and potent.
After you've seen it's fun to imagine what different directors would have done with "Drive" and how tremendously different the film would have been. For example, imagine Drive as directed by Quentin Tarrantino.... Michael Bay...
Nicolas Winding Refn wasn't even nominated for best director for the film, and I find that appalling.