‘Blood Diamond’ (Dec. 31)
Quick quiz: Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for the Oscar for best actor for “The Departed” (2006), right? Wrong. He was nominated that year, but it was for a different film: Edward Zwick’s sharp-edged action-drama, set during the Sierra Leone Civil War, starring DiCaprio as a smuggler and mercenary whose initial interest in the conflict is purely monetary. That changes, however, as he joins forces with a fisherman (Djimon Hounsou, also nominated for an Oscar) whose discovery of a giant diamond has put him in the sights of a local warlord. The narrative is predictable, sure. But DiCaprio, Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly, another co-star, are acting up a storm, and Zwick shows his usual adeptness at staging big action sequences.
‘Blow’ (Dec. 31)
It would be easy to dismiss this 2001 crime drama as “Goodfellas” Lite — it’s based on the true story of a cocaine kingpin, telling the thrilling story of his rise and fall in a jittery, hyperkinetic style, and features a stellar ensemble cast. But as Scorsese cosplay goes, it’s lively and entertaining. The director, the late Ted Demme (“The Ref”), knows when to turn up the heat and when to let it simmer; the screenplay (by the veteran scribes David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes) is detail-oriented and fascinating; and Johnny Depp turns in one of his best performances as George Jung, who made a fortune running drugs for Pablo Escobar. Ray Liotta even turns up as George’s father, an explicit “Goodfellas” shout-out that plays like a blessing on the project.
‘Blue Jasmine’ (Dec. 31)
Woody Allen’s last great movie, this 2013 comedy-drama won Cate Blanchett an Oscar for best actress, and Andrew Dice Clay the best reviews of his career as a bitter and estranged family member. Blanchett stars as Jasmine, once a rich socialite in New York City, whose husband (Alec Baldwin) fell from grace in a Bernie Madoff-style scandal; she finds herself living in San Francisco with her sister (the wonderful Sally Hawkins) and her working-class boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale, borderline feral). The echoes of “A Streetcar Named Desire” are unmistakable, and undoubtedly intentional; as he did with his Ingmar Bergman riffs, Allen is not just quoting an iconic work but putting his story and characters in conversation with it, and the results are both thoughtful and thrilling.
‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (Dec. 31)
True to form, Stanley Kubrick’s final film — unveiled four months after his death in 1999 — confounded audiences and critics upon its release, only to grow in reputation and estimation in the ensuing years. Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, then still real-life spouses, star as a wealthy Manhattan couple who find their seemingly idyllic marriage rocked by her confessions of desire for a passing stranger. Blind with jealousy, he journeys into the New York night, searching for an illicit affair but stumbling upon something far more insidious. Moody, odd and darkly funny, it boasts one of the greatest closing lines in all of cinema.
‘Men in Black’ I / II / 3 (Dec. 31)
Barry Sonnenfeld’s original 1997 “Men in Black” remains one of the great popcorn movies — a witty, briskly-paced treat that manages to both send up big-budget, effects-heavy extravaganzas, and simultaneously work as one. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are a pitch-perfect matchup of wisecracking cool and stone-faced professionalism, an oddball buddy movie pairing for the books. Their 2002 follow-up can’t match the laughs or energy of the original, but it’s still a hoot, with Rosario Dawson a welcome addition to the cast. And the final installment, released a decade later, draws on a time-travel plot that primarily serves as a showcase for Josh Brolin’s flawless impression of his “No Country For Old Men” co-star Jones. But it’s such a delicious piece of mimicry, you don’t really mind.