code black

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The Basics:  A documentary profiling young doctors in the U.S.’s busiest emergency department.

The Bottom Line:  I am wayyyy too biased to watch this movie.  For those unclear on my actual profession, I am a software analyst for a large healthcare system.  What that essentially means is, as charting moves from entirely paper to entirely electronic, I ease that transition and help fine tune doctors’ workflows.

Gosh, even that sounds like jargon.  Try again.  I help to make computers in hospital settings function efficiently.

I’ve spent time in EDs, surgery areas, patient floors, pediatrics, ICU, recovery… it’s vital and humbling and I’ve heard the arguments made by this documentary countless times by many good people.  Of course I cringe when docs complain about computers on camera, but that’s reflexive at this point.

If you aren’t immersed in this world, I suggest seeing Code Black.  If it’s your lifestyle, still seek it out - it might connect you back to purpose, or at least refuel your motivation.

Rating:  8 (of 10).

reign over me

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The Basics:  College roommates are reunited in loss post-September 11.

The Bottom Line:  My beloved Valerie loaned me this, essentially because I’m her “feely friend” and she’s my “thinky friend”.  It’s nice being someone’s feely friend, I must say, and to meet in the middle.

Some of the choices made by this film are obviously strange (one character in particular seems displaced from an entirely different movie), but Don Cheadle and Adam Sandler – yep, of all people – provide strong performances worth seeing.  In escalating circumstances, their compassion is genuine.

More than tragic events, I feel like this is a movie about how important friendship truly is in adult life.  For its silly turns, it has touching moments, and that’s just enough.

Rating:  6 (of 10).

starred up

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The Basics:  A young offender transitions from juvenile detention to the adult prison housing his estranged father.

The Bottom Line:  Very violent, intensely gripping.  It’s as though the director knows the accents of his actors are difficult to understand, so he makes the choice to focus on action and body language, and it works.  Jack O’Connell and Ben Mendelsohn never break or flinch.  Starred Up is graphic and scary, and a real achievement.

Rating:  8 (of 10).

top five

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The Basics:  A successful comedian struggles to be taken seriously now that he’s sober.

The Bottom Line:  Yeah, this isn’t some heavy, substantial film, and sure, the romantic subplot is a bit fluffy, but Chris Rock is a funny and insightful guy so this is a funny and insightful movie.  Even aside from the impressive casting depth, it’s hard to think of too many other modern comics pulling this off.

Rating:  7 (of 10).

margin call

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The Basics:  A look into the immediate chaos of Wall Street during the 2008 financial crisis.

The Bottom Line:  A talky, confident first feature that manages to make corporate speak palatable and somehow fascinating.  Though it does meander, tension pulses throughout and the ensemble cast is strong.  The effects of the economy on the average working citizen are only briefly touched upon, but the understated end scene makes up for any missing emotion.

Rating:  7 (of 10).

to write love on her arms

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The Basics:  Based on the life story of Renee Yohe, whose recovery caused the foundation of To Write Love On Her Arms.

The Bottom Line:  A tepid movie with a good heart.  I hope its target demographic (teens and tweens whose suffering is wrongly attributed to hormones or immaturity) finds this helpful and inspiring.  Depression and addiction are real and often misunderstood when framed by youth, and it would be cold to believe this won’t reach many in need.  Its portrayals of serious illnesses are particularly toothless, but self-censorship probably aids it in finding a larger audience.

Rating:  5 (of 10).

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