Swimming with Sharks (1995)
A must-see for anyone coming to LA with the hopes of "breaking in" to the industry (and probably one worth revisiting with each career milestone reached). Kevin Spacey plays the hell out of Buddy Ackerman, an abusive studio exec with a fire in his eyes. Frank Whaley is Guy, the guppy who becomes his assistant, whom Buddy will either bury or rub off on. It's a slight picture at best but proves to be a pertinent fable for the gypsies of Tinseltown.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
This adaptation of one of Marvel comics' B-list teams first surprised us that it was happening and has now surprised us by how fantastic it turned out to be. Star-Lord and friends, and the known talent behind them, bring the dynamic crew to a fully realized reality. Marvel Studios has made their best film yet! Full Review
Joe Dante sets the stage for his brand of horror comedy with this, the first in his career. It's hard to know what isn't meant to be a joke because so much of it is laughable. There's slight comparisons to be drawn to Godzilla (this barely does for 'Nam what Gojira did for WWII) but the waters are pretty shallow on this one.
A Most Wanted Man (2014)
Anton Corbijn's latest film takes the form of an espionage thriller set in Hamburg. It's a wonderfully orchestrated combination of cast and photography (even if the talents of Nina Hoss and Daniel Brühl criminally underused when all is said and done). Philip Seymour Hoffman's leading role as a German anti-terrorism officer commands the screen. The last minutes of this film is the final curtain call of one of the greatest actors of his time.
6 years after the original German blockbuster, a sequel was recast and once again we were whisked off to Fantasia. There's some familiar faces and some delightful new ones, but it's the same old themes and threats making this outing unremarkable when compared to the original. Furthermore, the insights and humor offered by Bastian and Artreyu are neither all that insightful or humorous.
While only one of this crop was a sequel, it's all the more telling to see how dependent each of these films is on those that have come before it. Guardians of the Galaxy owes as much to the original Star Wars as it does to J.J. Abrams' cinematic reboot of Star Trek. Piranha brought the monster movie closer to home (a threat in our rivers and lakes is more troubling than on our borders) but is drowning when compared to Jaws, which came three years earlier. What would A Most Wanted Man be without decades of espionage thrillers to draw upon and learn from? In this industry you're often swimming with sharks, but there's so many wonders under the water that inspirations never cease.
Share your thoughts on any of these films or what you watched last week in the comments below!