Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rebel Without a Cause

Fifty-five years ago today, the life of a legend was cut short. That legend was James Dean. To mark the occasion, I have decided to review the movie that made Dean a cultural icon. That movie is Rebel Without a Cause.

Jim Stark (Dean) is the new kid in town who struggles to both fit in and get along with his parents. He finds out he's not alone; Judy (Natalie Wood) and "Plato" (Sal Mineo) are going throught the same thing.

Yeah, I know what you're expecting me to say. You want me to say that Dean is the best embodiment of teen angst (he is). Apart from that one mention, I'm not bringing it up. Even though he got Oscar nominations for East of Eden and Giant (both posthumously), Rebel Without a Cause is the one that got Dean forever immortalized.

Nicholas Ray, who previously directed film noirs, gives us a view of teenage life in the 1950's. Wood and Mineo give excellent supporting performances. It may feel dated by today's standards, but it still has an amazing impact.

On a slightly different note, there was apparently a "curse" on the main actors of Rebel Without a Cause. Along with Dean's car crash, Mineo was stabbed and Wood drowned, all at young ages. On a stranger note, Nick Adams (who plays one of Buzz's goons) died from a drug overdose at the age of 36. Apparently, the sign is if you got recognized from this you're gonna be dead at a young age.

My Rating: *****

Tony Curtis: 1925-2010

This is one obituary I so dreaded writing considering he is one of my favorite actors. So here goes.

Academy Award nominee Tony Curtis, whose works include Sweet Smell of SuccessThe Defiant Ones and Some Like It Hot, passed away Wednesday from cardiac arrest. He was 85.

~June 3, 1925 - September 29, 2010~

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arthur Penn: 1922-2010

Academy Award nominated director Arthur Penn, best known for directing Bonnie and Clyde, passed away yesterday from congestive heart failure. He was 88.

~September 27, 1922 - September 28, 2010~

The Defiant Ones

Throughout the 1950's there have been a number of social dramas released, the most notable one being On the Waterfront. Stanley Kramer was one of the most prolific directors to work on the genre.

After the van transporting them drives off the road, convicts John "Joker" Jackson (Tony Curtis) and Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier) escape. A chain between them prevents them from going their seperate ways, but that becomes second to their need to survive.

The subject matter may be dated, but the impact it had fifty-two years ago has held up. The performances by Curtis and Poitier are remarkable. Kramer's storytelling flourishes in this. The dialogue is sharp and biting, a remnant of the tensions of those times.

My Rating: *****

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

8 1/2

Although I've only seen one of his movies, I know that Federico Fellini is one eccentric film director. He definitely has an unique method of directing. Anyway, back to the review.

When famed Italian director Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) can't focus on his latest project, he retreats to a spa and his imagination. Even there he is unable to escape the crushing pressures that surround him as he is bombarded by actors, a producer and a difficult writer. As he floats in and out of the conscious world, his real-life problems manifest themselves in his dreams and his fantasies invade his real life.

The visual aspect of 8 1/2 is stunning. It's one of those movies you really need to pay attention to otherwise you might lose focus. Mastroianni gives an impressive performance as the troubled Guido. This has to be Fellini's best work. Not one to miss.

My Rating: *****

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bonnie and Clyde

Like I've said before, 1967 was a landmark year for movies. The type of genres ranged from romantic comedies (The Graduate) to social dramas (Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night) to crime (Bonnie and Clyde, In Cold Blood).

The second Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) met, it was a bomb just waiting to go off. In just a few years, they would become the most notorious outlaws of the 1930's. They are joined by C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard), Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and Buck's wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and they become "the Barrow gang".

The performances from Beatty, Dunaway, Hackman, Pollard and Parsons are excellent (even though I found Parsons annoying). The infamous "ballet of blood" at the end is gruesome yet poetic, violent yet beautiful. Arthur Penn's direction is vivid and expressive. One of the best movies of the 1960's.

My Rating: *****

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Primal Fear

NOTE: This post is for Fletch's 30 Days of Crazy.

I like seeing or reading debuts. Some authors (The Catcher in the Rye, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest), directors (The Shawshank Redemption, Moon) and actors (To Have and Have Not, Primal Fear) seem to get off the right foot. Then again, it isn't the case for all.

Arrogant high-powered attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) jumps at the chance to represent Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), an alter boy accused of murdering the Archbishop. As Vail gets more into the case, he discovers there's more than it seems...

Much like how Vail learns more about the case, as I get more into the movie I learned more about Norton's role. When we're first introduced to Aaron, you couldn't believe that he would be responsible for such a vicious murder. But as the movie goes on, your thoughts drastically change.

The main reason for why Primal Fear hasn't slipped into obscurity is because of Norton's performance. I'm trying not to give away too much, but I can honestly say that Norton deserved the Oscar instead of Cuba Gooding, Jr.. Much more.

As for the rest of Primal Fear, it's a very good courtroom drama. Gere and Norton act alongside a good supporting cast including Laura Linney, Frances McDormand and Alfre Woodard. When it's over, expect to have your mind blown.

My Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Steven Soderbergh has to be one of the most prolific directors of the last thirty years. His first movie sex, lies and videotape revived independent film, Out of Sight is considered the sexiest movie ever made, and he managed to maintain a collaboration with George Clooney. Not bad, man. Not bad.

Traffic follows the events of several individuals: Javier Rodriguez (Benicio Del Toro), a Mexican police officer who unwittingly becomes a drug lord's employee; Eduaro Ruiz (Miguel Ferrer), a major dealer targeted by DEA agents Montel Gordon (Don Cheadle) and Ray Castro (Luis Guzman); Helena Ayala (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the wife of distributor Carlos Ayala (Steven Bauer); and Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas), a judge whose views on drugs are challenged upon learning his daughter Caroline (Erika Christensen) is an addict.

Ah, the gritty and painful truth of reality. Soderbergh shows just that from his work and clearly shows how he got the Oscar for this. Del Toro won the Oscar, but I believe Douglas gave the best performance. His character is the one most affected by drugs since they have manifested his family. Overall, Traffic is well-acted, excellently shot and painfully real.

My Rating: ****1/2

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Great Gatsby

When you think of influential writers, one name that comes up is F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, The Great Gatsby chronicles the lifestyle of Jay Gatsby and his love for Daisy Buchanan.

Fitzgerald's writing style is very poetic and flowing. The characters, particularly Nick and Jay, are engaging. Thought the first two are a little slow, the third act is shocking. I really got a feel of the 1920's just from reading The Great Gatsby. Made me wish I was alive then.

My Rating: ****

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

I've only seen three of his movies, but I can safely say I'm a fan of Wes Anderson.

Although he promised his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) that he'll stop stealing poultry, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) plans to rob three major facilities of their poultry and produce.

Along with Clooney and Streep, Fantastic Mr. Fox also features Anderson alums Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. Much like his previous movies, this contains numerous themes found in Anderson's works. Since his last movies were rated R, it's impressive to see Anderson make a family friendly movie. And the quirky nature of his movies are appropriate for a kid's movie. Personally, I'd like to see Anderson make another animated movie some time in the near future.

My Rating: ****1/2

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Darjeeling Limited

Now and then, I watch movies that a handful of people think aren't so great. But most of the time, I have to disagree with them.

Estranged brothers Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman), who haven't seen each other since their father's funeral, reunite for a spiritual journey through India.

A number of Anderson's fans think The Darjeeling Limited is the black sheep of his work. I fail to see why. It has themes and actors normally found in a Wes Anderson movie. Unlike some, I liked The Darjeeling Limited. Beautifully shot, laughs throughout and well-acted, The Darjeeling Limited is an enjoyable gem from Anderson.

My Rating: ****

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lost in Translation

Most female directors make romantic comedies. Only a small number of them have made movies that aren't romantic comedies. One of them is Sofia Coppola.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an actor in Japan making advertisments for a whiskey company. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is a recent college gradute whose photographer husband John (Giovanni Ribisi) is always away on assignment. Their paths cross and the story begins.

This is honestly Murray's best performance. He probably would've won too had Sean Penn not gave a hell of a performance in Mystic River. Johansson also gives a good performance. The slow pace throughout gives Lost in Translation a romantic feel. The dialogue is very witty (even if a majority of Murray's dialogue is ad-libbed). I now forgive Coppola for her crappy acting since she makes up by directing a movie that rivals her father's work.

My Rating: *****

Monday, September 20, 2010


When you're called "the next" anything, you know you have it made. So when Wes Anderson was called "the next Scorsese" by the man himself, that was a sign that said you should keep an eye on him.

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is an eccentric teenager who finds himself competing against Herman Blume (Bill Murray), the father of two of his classmates, for the love of teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams).

Man, this is funny. Awkward and quirky definitely work here. Murray cracked me up to no end, as did Schwartzman. Just from this, I am now a fan of Wes Anderson. Honestly one of the best comedies in recent years.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Town

You know what's always entertaining? When an actor who's in a number of bad movies appears in something good, making everyone go, "Fuck, they're good". That, to me, is priceless.

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) is a longtime thief who is planning his next job. Problems arise when he falls for Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall), the manager of a bank he had previously robbed (which doesn't sit well with Jem Coughlin (Jeremy Renner), one of his crew) and his crew starts to get tracked down by FBI agent Adam Frawley (Jon Hamm).

The Town shows that Affleck ain't no one trick pony. Here, he writes, directs and acts, all of which he does excellently. Renner continues to show promise for his career with this performance. Hall also gives a strong performance. Hamm, whom many may know him from Mad Men, also shows good promise with his performance. In summary, The Town kicks serious ass and is one you shouldn't miss.

My Rating: ****1/2

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Miracle Worker

Some actors, once they're famous, become forever known for one role (James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Anthony Perkins in Psycho, Anne Bancroft in The Graduate, Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange). That fact may prevent people from seeing other movies they've done, either released before or after that one film that immortalized them.

Fed up by her behavior, the parents of Helen Keller (Patty Duke) hire Annie Sullivan (Bancroft) to teach Helen.

Bancroft and Duke deliver excellent performances and rightfully earned their Oscars. The direction of Arthur Penn, whose best-known work was Bonnie and Clyde, is also excellent. It's a heartbreaking story, so have tissues ready. The Miracle Worker is one of the best movies of the 1960's.

My Rating: *****

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Wrestler

Seeing actors make a Hollywood comeback is always impressive (Robert Downey, Jr., Marlon Brando). One of the most recent and stunning is Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.

Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Rourke) is a wrestler who was an icon in the 1980's that has burned out. After a charity match, he suffers a heart attack. He's told the stress of wrestling could kill him, so he retires. But he musts resist temptation of returning to the ring.

Remember the Oscar race when Rourke was up for Best Actor? He was one of the main frontrunners, but his main competition was Sean Penn. You gotta admit it was hard to predict which of the two would win (Penn ended up winning). Both gave great performances, but I can't chose which one is better.

It's funny once you think of it. Back in the 1980's, Rourke was dubbed "the next Brando". The next decade he would have his career dwindle and have his personal life be more exposed, much like Brando. Then the decade after that, Rourke would make the biggest comeback since Brando in The Godfather.

Along with Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood give great performances. Darren Aronofsky directs the grittiest sports movie since Raging Bull. The movie is raw and edgy, but not for the squeamish (well, what do you expect from the director of Requiem for a Dream?). Hands down, one of the best movies of the last decade.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wall Street

Why do some dirctors think it's a good idea to make sequels of movies that don't even need them? Unless they're in desperate need of a hit, it's just not worth it. I'm saying this in response to the eventual release of the Wall Street sequel.

Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) is a young stockbroker who longs to advise the ruthless Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas). But once he is Gekko's advisor, he soon realizes how ruthless Gekko really is.

Wall Street actually reminded me of an earlier movie, Sweet Smell of Success. The plots are similar: one of the most prolific names in New York City, known for making and breaking reputations, takes a young protege, who's willing to sacrifice his reputation to maintain the other's, under his wing. Here, Fox represents Sidney Falco and Gekko represents J.J. Hunsecker.

Man, no wonder Douglas got the Oscar, espeically from the "greed is good" speech. It's definitely an essential performance. It feels like a symbolic movie, considering the condition the stock market has been in.

My Rating: ****1/2

Monday, September 13, 2010

Matchstick Men

Is there one genre Ridley Scott can't direct? I mean, really. Sci-fi (Alien, Blade Runner), crime (American Gangster), epic (Gladiator) and war (Black Hawk Down). I think I proved my point.

Roy (Nicolas Cage) and Frank (Sam Rockwell) are a pair of small-time con artists. Roy has a list of phobias, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and agoraphobia. As they prepare for their next big scam, Roy learns about Angela (Alison Lohman), the daughter he never knew he had.

Having never seen any of Scott's other movies (I'll admit it), I didn't know what to expect. What I got was a hell of an entertaining movie. Cage, of all things, isn't over the top in his performance like he is in his other movies. Rockwell cracked me up. I anticipate for my next venture into the work of Ridley Scott.

My Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What I'm Looking Foward To

Last time I made one of these lists, it was short and to the point (if you're keeping track, I've seen three of the four on the last list). This time around, I have more. Much more.

The Town
With Gone Baby Gone clearly showing he sure as hell can direct, my interest in Ben Affleck's second run as director is pretty high. Along with Affleck, The Town also stars Rebecca Hall, recent Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner, and TV's Jon Hamm.
Release Date: September 17

It didn't get a lot of good buzz at Sundance this year but I still desire to see it, more so since I became interested in learning about the Beat Generation.
Release Date: September 24

The Social Network
This one is on everyone's list (and I mean everyone). The other David Fincher movies I've seen were Se7en and Zodiac, so seeing a non-horror movie by him should be fun.
Release Date: October 1

Nowhere Boy
This features Aaron Johnson (who you may recognize from Kick-Ass) as a young John Lennon in the years before The Beatles came to be. Definitely a big leap from Kick-Ass.
Release Date: October 8

This has been getting some good buzz for both Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell. If it does get nominations, my fingers are crossed for Rockwell.
Release Date: October 15

It's Clint Eastwood, man. What more do you need to see it?
Release Date: October 22

127 Hours
Another one featuring James Franco (the other being Howl). A lot of good buzz for Danny Boyle's first movie after Slumdog Millionaire so far.
Release Date: November 5

Morning Glory
This is another movie where not many people are talking about it. Morning Glory has Rachel McAdams as a producer hired to pick up the ratings for a failing morning show, whose hosts are played by Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton. This might help Ford get his career back on track (and, if lucky, get some awards recognition).
Release Date: November 12

Love and Other Drugs
Comedy or not, I'm still seeing this. Though it does feel a little out of place in Edward Zwick's filmography (his credits include Glory, The Last Samurai and Blood Diamond), it should be interesting. Also, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway working together again (they previously worked together in Brokeback Mountain).
Release Date: November 24

The King's Speech
Last year, Colin Firth showed us that he can be more than just the romantic lead with his impressive performance in A Single Man. Now, the Oscar buzz on him is building up again for The King's Speech. Alongside Firth are Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush and Guy Pearce.
Release Date: November 24

Black Swan
I have high hopes for Darren Aronofsky. Disturbing the hell out of everyone with Requiem for a Dream and reviving Mickey Rourke's career with The Wrestler, he shows good promise just from his short filmography.
Release Date: December 1

The Fighter
Movie based on real events featuring Mark Wahlberg as a boxer vying for a comeback? Yes, please. AND it has Christian Bale as his crack-addicted brother/trainer? Hell yeah I'm watching this.
Release Date: December 10

Impressed by Lost in Translation and with it recently winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, Sofia Coppola's Somewhere looks very appealing.
Release Date: December 22

Blue Valentine
High praises went to Blue Valentine at Sundance earlier this year. Focusing on the formation and fall of a relationship, it features Oscar nominees Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
Release Date: December 31

So which ones are you interested for?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Carlito's Way

Bit of trivia for you: Sean Penn and Al Pacino were considered for the roles of Henry Hill and Jimmy Conway in Goodfellas (the parts went to Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro, respectively). Although they didn't work together in Goodfellas, they did wok together on the 1993 Brian De Palma movie Carlito's Way.

After spending five years in prison, Carlito Brigante (Pacino) plans to quit the gangster lifestyle and retire. But his sleazy lawyer David Kleinfeld (Penn) may prevent him from doing that.
I love discovering an underrated movie. Carlito's Way is just that.You think more would be more aware of it since it is directed by the same man responsible for Scarface and The Untouchables. This was Pacino's first movie after his Oscar win and although he's the lead as the aging gangster, his thunder gets stolen by Penn's snarky lawyer. Of all the crimes depicted throughout the movie, that is the most daring.

My Rating: ****1/2

Friday, September 10, 2010


I've been watching a good number of British movies recently, more so ones from the last twenty years (Trainspotting, In Bruges). And I've noticed one major thing: the Brits drop the f-bomb A LOT.

An 84 carat diamond is stolen by (and stolen from) Frankie "Four Fingers" (Benicio del Toro), which leads to a large chain of events involving diamond dealers, thieves, bounty hunter "Bullet Tooth" Tony (Vinnie Jones), Irish gypsy Mickey O'Neil (Brad Pitt), sadistic gangster "Brick Top" Pilford (Alan Ford), and boxing promoters Turkish (Jason Statham) and Tommy (Stephen Graham).

One word best sums up Snatch: insane. It's all over the place, but it's still entertaining. Pitt captured my interest, even though I couldn't understand what the hell he was saying a good chunk of the time. The only other Guy Ritchie movie I've seen was the much saner Sherlock Holmes, and Snatch is on a whole other level.

My Rating: ****

The Day the Earth Stood Still

You know how sci-fi movies from the 1950's were just so cheesy? A few managed to avoid the camp factor.

A mysterious flying saucer lands in Washington DC. An alien by the name of Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges and is shot, but he recovers. He escapes and hides among the population. Who was he sent by? What is his mission? And why?

Like what's said in the intro, 1950's sci-fi movies are ridiculously dated. Not The Day the Earth Stood Still. It's still effective, even after nearly 60 years. Why they decided to remake it a few years back, I don't know. This is, hands down, one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.

My Rating: *****

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Boys Don't Cry

A.V. Club made a list of the 24 movies that are too painful to watch twice. Some of the entries are obvious (Requiem for a Dream, Irreversible). One of the entries is Boys Don't Cry.

Brandon Teena (Hilary Swank) is a bored young adult from Lincoln, Nebraska who goes to the small town of Falls City. Brandon starts a relationship with Lana Tisdel (Chloe Sevigny). But Brandon is hiding some secrets from his new friends. Once they're uncovered, the outcome is devastating.

Boys Don't Cry is a very well-acted movie. But much like Million Dollar Baby, which has Swank's other Oscar-winning performance, the third act is hard to watch. Also like her performance in Million Dollar Baby, Swank's part is very raw and real. Kimberly Peirce directs a painful portrait of someone who justs wants to be someone they're not and had to pay the ultimate price.

My Rating: ****1/2

Monday, September 6, 2010

Underrated Movies

I'm sure you've come in contact with several. Basically those movies that were big upon their release but have faded away, got lost in the mix or simply just didn't do well despite the critics liking them.

I've seen (and reviewed) several of these underrated gems, most of which I can recommend to others (Moon, Wonder Boys). Sometimes it surprises me for why they don't do well, especially, like as I mentioned above, when critics love them.

So I ask you this: what are some underrated movies you recommend highly?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Illusionist

Have you noticed that sometimes movies with similar premises are released within the same year? Some notable examples include Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe, and Armaggedon and Deep Impact. Another one includes 2006's The Prestige and The Illusionist.

Eisenheim (Edward Norton) is a magician in early 1900's Vienna who falls in love with Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), a woman well above his social standing. When she becomes engaged to Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), Eisenheim uses his powers to free her and undermine the stability of the royal house of Vienna.

Comparing this to The Prestige, I think it's clear to say which one's better (it's The Prestige). I mean, The Illusionist is good in itself, but it doesn't come close to The Prestige. It doesn't mean I'm not recommending The Illusionist; I'm just saying The Prestige is better.

My Rating: ****

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Upcoming Blogathons

From the title you thought I'd be working on a slew of those, right? Wrong. After browsing through the interwebs for a while, I feel like doing a bit of promoting.
  • Blog Cabins is currently doing 30 Days of Crazy, focusing on movies with characters who are, well, crazy.
  • Cinema Viewfinder will have their David Cronenberg blogathon starting up in a few days (it'll go from September 6th to September 12th).
  • Moon In The Gutter has a Paul Thomas Anderson blogathon running from September 13th to September 19th.
  • And finally, Seeti Maar- Diary of a Movie Lover will be doing one on Ridley Scott going from September 20th to September 24th.
You're welcome if you needed something to do for the next three weeks. Let me know if they're any others; I'd be glad to promote those too.

Sexist Hollywood

Hollywood is a male-centered business. Once you think that statement over, it is.

There are almost never any good female roles. Actresses are usually cast to play a whiny bitch (*cough* Annette Bening in American Beauty *cough*) or to flash some flesh. It's ridiculous.

Strong female roles started to dwindle by the end of the 70's, around the same time the feminist movement started to end. Ironic? Probably.

If there are good female roles in a movie, there's a good chance they're in the supporting role rather than the lead.

Performances are one thing. Female directors and writers are another matter. There have only four female directors nominated at the Oscars (with one winning).

Most female directors tend to work on movies aimed at women. Or, as they're better known as, romantic comedies. A few managed to veer away from the stereotype (ie, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola), but a number of them still direct/write romantic comedies.

Have you noticed when you see a "top performances of the year" list, the majority of it is male performances? Try to remember that when you read one.

A few male directors have strong female performances as a theme throughout their movies (ie, Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Ridley Scott), which is good. But now, that theme has dwindled down as much as the strong female role itself.

Why is that? Why are the best parts written for men? Why are the best roles for women tend to be in the supporting rank?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

BOOK VS MOVIE: The Maltese Falcon

Last year, I've taken a larger interest in the classics, for both movies and books. I mean, before I would only watch and read recent releases. Now I prefer stuff that came out before my parents were born. Before I get sidetracked, onto the review.
Private eye Sam Spade is hired by Brigid O'Shaughnessy to look for a man by the name of Floyd Thursby. On the first night of the investigation, Spade's partner Miles Archer is murdered, as with Thursby. While investigating the murders, Spade is approached by a man named Joel Cairo who is searching for a statue known as "the black bird". Another man named Kasper Gutman comes to Spade for the same thing.
What to say about both Dashiell Hammet's novel and John Huston's directorial debut? They're both gripping and thrilling, for starters. The performances in the movie are great and the story flows easily.
What's worth checking out?: I'd go with the movie.