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— Julia Roberts, My Best Friend’s Wedding

MRQE Top Critic

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Pic of the Week

Each week we pick a recommended "Pic" from our archives. Below are our most recent picks.

Serendipity

***2001, Peter Chelsom

Cusack returns to the Date Movie in style

John Cusack is the man.

In the eighties, he defined the date movie as the uber-boyfriend in the classics Say Anything and Better Off Dead. He played the sharp-witted con whiz kid along side Angelica Huston in The Grifters. He took cues from Clint Eastwood and kept up with Kevin Spacey in the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Most recently, in High Fidelity, Cusack brought Nick Hornby, Jack Black, and the Beta Band to the masses (not to mention bringing about the return of ultra-saucy supersexy Lisa Bonet).

So after taking a few mammoth steps towards Oscarville what does Cusack do (well, okay, besides America’s Sweethearts – forget about that, you were having a strange dream)?

Narc

***2002, Joe Carnahan

Its aggressive, unrelenting energy makes up for all the cop movie cliches

Narc is a high-stress, high-octane cop drama. It is full of clichés, but its aggressive, unrelenting energy more than makes up for them.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

***1986

Spend the day with Ferris

Ferris Bueller is still a pretty “righteous dude,” but this release is not a righteous Blu.

Spider-Man 2

***1/22004, Sam Raimi

The screenplay emphasizes character development over mindless action

Picking up where the first installment left off, Spider-Man 2 avoids the sophomore slump and offers up a delightful change of pace from standard comic book movie fare.

Undertow

***2004, David Gordon Green

A portrait of the rural South that engages all five senses

Mainstream audiences probably don’t know the work of David Gordon Green, and they may never know it. Nevertheless he is quietly making a name for himself with portraits of the rural South of such texture and flavor that you’d swear the movie engages all five senses.

The Cove

***Louis Psihoyos

A-team adventure needs a fifth column

Advocacy documentaries are on the rise. This year saw the release of Captialism, Food, Inc.and The Cove, just to mention a few. How much you’ll enjoy these movies ends up depending on how sympathetic you already are to the message, although the better the documentary, the less that matters.

Alias: Season Two

***1/22003, J.J. Abrams

Aside from a couple false moves, Season Two keeps the suspenseful plots twisting and turning

Alias: The Complete Second Season manages to build on the appeal of the first season by adding a few new intriguing characters and keeping the plots twisting and turning from episode to episode. Even so, the series still encounters the virtually inevitable wrong turns.

Ernest & Celestine

***1/22014

Out-charms both Frozen and The Wind Rises

Ernest and Celestine is a charming animated film. It’s kid-friendly, but not too sweet, and not too saccharine.

Spellbound

***1/22003, Jeffrey Blitz Jeffrey Blitz

The movie’s great achievement is that it captures a broad cross-section of America

The mother of one of the spellers in Jeffrey Blitz’s documentary joked that spelling bees are just another form of child abuse. As a former speller myself, I couldn’t agree more. When I won my junior high bee, the runner-up exploded at the indignity and unfairness of it all. She, like so many kids, placed too much importance on the competition.

A Mighty Heart

***1/22007, Michael Winterbottom

In A Mighty Heart, Angelina Jolie finally proves her Oscar win wasn’t a fluke

In A Mighty Heart, Angelina Jolie finally proves her Oscar win wasn’t a fluke. This is her best performance and it’s now on DVD. Oscar voters, keep this one at the top of your stack.

Stalin’s Bride

***1/21991, Péter Bascó

How Parana the idiot becomes Stalin’s “fiancee” is humorous and tragic

Parana is an idiot. By “idiot” I don’t mean a fool or an affable, bumbling Forrest Gump. No, she’s a full-blown, filthy, barefoot, sack-wearing, eye-rolling, Village Idiot with a capital ‘VI.’ She’s of the classic Russian variety you have to go to a Dostoyevsky novel to see these days. And her teeth... don’t even get me started. How she comes to be Stalin’s “fiancee” is the humorous and tragic tale told in Stalin’s Bride, the 1990 Hungarian film by director Peter Basco.

Splash

***1/21984, Ron Howard

For a movie made 20 years ago, Splash has aged wonderfully

Before Splash, everyone thought of Ron Howard as “Opie Cunningham” from his television acting days on The Andy Griffith Show and Happy Days; Tom Hanks was just some guy who was on an obscure sitcom called Bosom Buddies; and Disney was a fading studio on life support. Splash could not have come at a better time for all three, as illustrated in Touchstone Video’s 20th anniversary edition of the movie.

Elsewhere

***Nikolaus Geyrhalter

Next movie night, go somewhere else

Elsewhere is a four-hour collection of 12 short documentaries. Each segment was shot during a different month of the year 2000. February’s was shot with the Sami people of northern Finland; July’s was shot in India, somewhere near the Himalayas; and so on.

The Mother

***2004, Roger Michell

Daniel Craig in a December-May romance

It’s practically impossible to discuss The Mother without mentioning Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. Both are love stories that involve an older woman’s affair with a much younger man. In both cases, the film’s magnetism comes from the unusual, some might say unnatural, pairing.

Sister

***1/22012, Ursula Meier

Emotionally engaging and impeccably crafted

Midway through Sister (L’enfant d’en haut) someone asks about Simon and Louise’s mother. The siblings trade a knowing look and say what they probably always say: we have a pretty fucked-up family.