The Brother from Another Planet, by John Sayles, 1984
This is an interesting movie. The Brother from Another Planet is the story of an escaped alien slave who flees to earth and finds his way to Harlem, while the men in black (who are white aliens posing as immigration officers) try to track him down.
The alien is played by Joe Morton, best known (by me, anyway) as Dyson in Terminator 2. He has difficulty speaking in human language, so he remains mute for the whole movie, but Morton still conveys a lot in his silent performance. He's gentle, and curious about humans, and all their flaws. A lot of people take a shine to him even though he doesn't talk. He has a knack for fixing electronics like TVs and arcade games. He has few alien features, just weird three-toed chicken feet and a removable eyeball that he can use as a camera.
Anyway, The Brother from Another Planet is pretty good. It's got a low budget, but there aren't a lot of effects, so it's not distractingly cheap. It's a neat little science fiction allegory for the state of race relations in the 1980's, and it has a heart and a social conscience.
The Town, by Ben Affleck, 2010
I missed out on The Town a couple years ago when it was a big mainstream success and all that. It's not really the kind of movie I'd typically be interested in, but a combination of crazy good word of mouth and my excitement over seeing Argo finally caused me to cave. And you know what? I'm glad I did. It's a solid and satisfying movie all around, even though we've seen much of it in other movies before.
Ben Affleck stars as Doug MacRay, the leader and mastermind of a ring of Boston bank robbers. They take the manager, Claire (Rebecca Hall), hostage in the opening heist, and Doug lets her go without hurting her. He knows that his unstable best buddy Jem (Jeremy Renner) will kill her if she can identify them, so Doug keeps tabs on her, and they strike up a relationship. Now Doug must keep Claire safe, keep Jem in check, dodge Jon Hamm and the FBI, who are hot on his trail, and plan and execute his next heist under their noses, all while experiencing deep reservations over the life of crime he's chosen for himself.
Affleck really knows what he's doing, if you're wondering. He had a good script in his hands (which he helped write), surrounded himself with a great supporting cast and crew, and directed the hell out of this thing. The heists are smartly executed and exciting, the characters are all around interesting and engaging, with layers of conflict between them. Jeremy Renner steals the show, but everyone is good. Yes, I would say that Affleck has given his career a second leg that will have much more staying power than his Bruckheimer years. And good for him.
Well, I kept them both mercifully short today. I've just been so busy!