5 Best Movies to Watch by Ken Leung

Staff & contributors

Director Noah Baumbach’s autobiographical film is a strikingly realistic take on divorce and the turmoil it sets on an already-dysfunctional family. Bernard (Jeff Daniels) is a selfish decadent writer who’s splitting with his unfaithful wife Joan (Laura Linney). Their two sons, Walt (Jesse Eisenberg) and Frank (Owen Kline), are taking different sides that reflect their personality. This separation only reinforces their insecurities as they quickly fall into depression and grow away from their friends. The parents, however, find unconventional lovers just as quickly, Bernard with a student of his, and Jane with her son’s tennis coach. The Squid and the Whale is a funny, emotional, and gripping story that finds a perfect balance in tone despite dealing with bitter divorce and troubled adolescence.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Adam Rose, Alexandra Daddario, Anna Paquin, Bobby Shue, Britta Phillips, David Benger, Dean Wareham, Eli Gelb, Elizabeth Meriwether, Greta Kline, Halley Feiffer, James Hamilton, Jeff Daniels, Jesse Eisenberg, Jo Yang, Ken Leung, Laura Linney, Maryann Plunkett, Michael Countryman, Michael Santiago, Nico Baumbach, Owen Kline, Peggy Gormley, Peter Newman, William Baldwin

Director: Noah Baumbach

Rating: R

Robert Redford and Brad Pitt make quite the ensemble in this edgy game of espionage. With performances as strong as their jawlines, this action-packed rescue mission will keep you in suspense! Be sure to keep up with all the witty banter and interesting plot twists shifting between flashbacks and present-day scenarios. Keep in mind that this isn't your average spy movie, with a more realistic approach and a character-driven storyline, most of the flash happens cinematically.

Genre: Action, Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Pang, Amidou, Andrew Grainger, Balázs Tardy, Benedict Wong, Bill Buell, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Charlotte Rampling, Colin Stinton, Dale Dye, David Hemmings, David K.S. Tse, David Tse, Demetri Goritsas, Eddie Yeoh, Freddie Joe Farnsworth, Garrick Hagon, Hon Ping Tang, Ian Porter, Imre Csuja, In-sook Chappell, James Aubrey, Joerg Stadler, Ken Leung, Kimberly Tufo, Larry Bryggman, Logan Wong, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Matthew Marsh, Michael Paul Chan, Mohamed Quatib, Nabil Massad, Omid Djalili, Peter Linka, Robert Redford, Rufus Wright, Shane Rimmer, Stephen Dillane, Stuart Milligan, Ted Maynard, Todd Boyce, Tom Hodgkins, Tony Xu

Director: Tony Scott

Rating: R

When Big Tech and trolls have all but villainized the internet, it's hard to forget that good can come out of it sometimes. But Missing makes a case for its usefulness by making it the sole means by which an 18-year-old tries to find her missing mother. Played by Storm Reid, June Allen is endlessly creative in the digital sphere, which makes sense given she's from a generation that grew up with cutting-edge technology. She makes use of geotrackers, earth cams, and even digital watches to get ahead of the authorities, who for their part, are tied down by legalities and red tape. Missing shows us the potential of the internet, what it can do if used resourcefully and for good, and it's a refreshing take given the (understandably) many films that are fearful of tech. 

Missing embraces all this newness and builds a solid thriller out of it, making it a worthy and possibly seminal entry in the screenlife genre. 

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Amy Landecker, Briana McLean, Daniel Henney, Danielle Nottingham, Esteban Dager, Jalil Jay Lynch, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Javier Grajeda, Jill Remez, Joaquim de Almeida, Karina Noelle Castillo, Kelly Stables, Ken Leung, Kimberly Cheng, Lisa Yamada, Mauricio Mendoza, Megan Suri, Michael Segovia, Monica Bhatnagar, Nia Long, Oscar Camacho, Rick Chambers, Roy Abramsohn, Scott Menville, Sean O'Bryan, Storm Reid, Thomas Barbusca, Tim Griffin, Tracy Vilar, Wolfie Trausch, Zeke Alton

Director: Nicholas D. Johnson, Will Merrick

Rating: PG-13

Welcome to the Dollhouse tells the story of Dawn, an unpopular seventh-grader mercilessly bullied at school and ignored at home. Her day-to-day is painful to watch; her classmates make fun of her, her teachers never believe her, and her parents punish her, blatantly favoring her other siblings over her. But all this she puts up with, as if going through the murky in-between stage that is adolescence isn't confusing enough. Dawn finds no respite elsewhere, except perhaps in her friend Ralphy (another target of bullying) and her crush, the high schooler Steve.  

A Sundance jury winner back in '96, Welcome to the Dollhouse is as darkly funny as it is grim. It takes on a deadpan approach in handling its more serious topics; it doesn't make fun of them so much as it shines them in a new and blinding light. It's difficult to look away from this frank and well-balanced film; a sure good watch for anyone curious to know what it's really like to be a teenage loner.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Angela Pietropinto, Bill Buell, Brendan Sexton III, Christina Brucato, Christina Vidal, Daria Kalinina, Eric Mabius, Heather Matarazzo, Ken Leung, Matthew Faber, Rica Martens, Richard Gould, Siri Howard, Stacey Moseley, Teddy Coluca, Victoria Davis, Will Lyman

Director: Todd Solondz

Rating: R