Last year a Steven Spielberg movie bombed. It doesn’t happen often, and in the case of “The BFG” it didn’t deserve to happen at all. Adapted from Roald Dahl’s beloved novel, it’s essentially a plotless hang-out film, spending most of its time in a ramshackle shack with a little girl (Ruby Barnhill) and a chummy, vegetarian colossus (a motion-captured Mark Rylance). Spielberg reunited with the late screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who penned “E.T.,” and the two films share many affinities. Both are warm yet deeply melancholic, though instead of a chase climax, “The BFG” closes on an out-of-nowhere trip to the Windsor Palace that involves farting corgis.
‘Kubo and the Two Strings’
“Zootopia” is fine and all, but it has nothing on “Kubo and the Two Strings,” the stop-motion wonder that should have taken this year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar. The latest from the reliably eccentric animation house Laika (“Coraline,” “The Boxtrolls”), it’s the bizarre tale of a one-eyed Japanese boy (voice of “Game of Thrones”’ Art Parkinson) who lights off on an adventure with a humorless talking snow monkey (Charlize Theron) and a beetle samurai (Matthew McConaughey). There are endless stunners, from an origami dance to nerve-freezing evil sisters to a giant skeleton monster. Like “The BFG,” it deserves to be a classic; best to get on board now.
If you really want to traumatize your kids, show them the delightful kids movie that helped cause the creation of the PG-13 rating. (The other was “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.”) Joe Dante’s chaotic classic was and is a little too intense for 1984’s helicopter parents, and not just because of all the cackling creatures causing destruction and murder; there’s also the part where Phoebe Cates relates the tale of how her dad died while pretending to be Santa. But at its heart it’s a silly “Looney Tunes” romp, just with claws.
You should all be bingeing “Twin Peaks” before its return next month, but you should also be bingeing on anything David Lynch. That includes his peerlessly cryptic movie from 2001, which, in a way, is only partially a movie. It was supposed to be a TV show, in which Naomi Watts and Laura Harring investigated a series of mysterious crimes. When it was shot down by ABC, European funders came to the rescue, giving Lynch enough money to tack on an ending and get it in theaters. And that’s just what Lynch did. The first 90-or-so minutes is the pilot he filmed, complete with all the characters and story threads that would never be resolved over future episodes. When it abruptly turns into a proper movie, it might be the biggest mindf—k Lynch ever created. Then again, there is more “Twin Peaks” on the way.
‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’
Wes Anderson isn’t always beloved. Much as people flipped for “Moonrise Kingdom,” he was on shaky ground with two films: “The Life Aquatic” and “The Darjeeling Limited.” Of course, it turns out both are underrated, especially “The Life Aquatic,” with Bill Murray as an egomaniacal Jacques Cousteau type struggling to keep his name and his crew in-tact. It’s a tricky film to get a lock on, but once you figure out what it’s doing, it might be Anderson’s most beautiful and heartbreaking film.
‘Escape from New York’
Kurt Russell’s back in big movies again (including “The Fate of the Furious” and “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”), and for that we couldn’t be happier. Time to revisit his classics! A former child star of Disney films like “The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes,” Russell graduated to adulthood by playing the King in John Carpenter’s TV movie “Elvis.” The two reunited for “Escape from New York,” in which Russell burned his squeaky-clean image to the ground. Suddenly he was Snake Plissken, the eyepatch-wearing loner who reluctantly flies into a dystopian New York to rescue the president (Donald Pleasance). In 1981, Carpenter was predicting that Manhattan would turn into a walled-off, island-sized prison. Instead, as we now know, it turned into a haven for the super-rich.
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