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This Time Of Year, There's Plenty To See At The Movies


Film critics can be a fickle bunch. They often complain that there's nothing good out there to see except for this time of year when they complain there is too much good stuff to see. To help us navigate this bounty of great films, we have asked MORNING EDITION and Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan for a few of the films he thinks are really worth our time. He joins us now from the studios of NPR West. Good morning, Ken.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: All right. Let's get to your first film on your list. Ken, this is a documentary. It opens today in New York and Los Angeles. It's open for just a week and then it'll be open for wider release next year. It is called "I Am Not Your Negro." Tell us about this film.

TURAN: Well, this is a film essay about the life and thought of James Baldwin, and it uses nothing but Baldwin's own words. You hear him speaking himself, and you hear Samuel L. Jackson reading his words. And here's an example of that.


SAMUEL L. JACKSON: I knew a blonde girl in the village a long time ago, and eventually we never walked out of the house together. She was far safer walking the streets alone then when walking with me, a brutal and humiliating fact. This happens all the time in America, but Americans have yet to realize what a sinister fact this is and what it says about them.

TURAN: This film uses all the tools of cinema. It's directed by a guy named Raoul Peck. He's a veteran filmmaker, made both dramatic and documentary films. It's a very alive and exciting film cinematically, and it's just been blowing people away because no one expects it to be as involving as it is.

MARTIN: OK. Now to another movie on your list - this one is titled "Manchester By The Sea." This is out now. What do you want us to know about this one?

TURAN: Well, this is a new film by Kenneth Lonergan who's a writer, director, a playwright. The film people might remember is "You Can Count On Me" from a number of years back. Kenneth Lonergan really is just like a poet of the human condition. He understands people in pain. He understands the humor in painful situations. This is about a man played by Casey Affleck who has to go back to the town he grew up in and has to become the guardian of his teenage nephew, something he doesn't want to do. Here's a clip of him talking to a lawyer about it.


CASEY AFFLECK: (As Lee Chandler) Well, I can't be his guardian. I mean, I can't.

JOSH HAMILTON: (As Wes) Well, naturally I assumed Joe had discussed all this with you.

AFFLECK: (As Lee Chandler) No. He didn't. No.

TURAN: You know, you can hear it in his voice. Actors love Kenneth Lonergan's films because the emotion is so honest.


TURAN: Casey Affleck does a great job. Also Michelle Williams who people also know is just devastating in a supporting role. This is a film that everyone's going to be talking about.

MARTIN: OK. So you've given us two films that are worth our while. A third is a foreign film. It's called "Land Of Mine," and it's from Denmark, right?

TURAN: Yeah. And it's a World War II film, and you might be thinking, well, how many World War II films can we see? Haven't we seen everything we can possibly see about World War II? But this is something different. Germany buried landmines on the west coast of Denmark during the war because they thought that's where the allies would invade. And after the war, the Danes wanted all these landmines out, and German POWs were used to dig up the mines which was very, very dangerous work. So you've got that human interaction, and also you've got the problem of these things are bombs. They might explode at any moment. If you remember "The Hurt Locker," this tends to happen in films. They go off.

MARTIN: Yeah (laughter). So I think we're set. You have given us three great choices to occupy our time over the holidays with friends and family. Ken, thank you so much.

TURAN: Well, thank you. It's a great time to see movies this time of the year. All the good guys are out.

MARTIN: Kenneth Turan. He's film critic for MORNING EDITION and The Los Angeles Times. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.