The Way Way Back

It’s the end of September, and I am already on my Hallowe’en horror grind.  It is taking a lot out of me to push back some great horror posts in favour of something a little more reminiscent of the waning Summer.

From Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, names you’ll recognize from The Descendants, comes the “coming of age” summer flick, The Way Way Back.  It’s just what you need to hold on the fleeting feeling of pool days.

Duncan, 14, goes on summer vacation with his mom, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Behind everyone’s back, he gets a job at the local water park, Water Wizz and befriends the “man child” of an owner, Owen.

Duncan’s self esteem is shot by his mother’s boyfriend, and the pretty girl next door.  At Water Wizz, he makes some unlikely friends and finds some purpose.

A recognizable cast including Steve Carell as big bad boyfriend, Sam Rockwell as Owen (one of the 3 most underrated actors of our time), Toni Collette as “the mom,” Allison Janney, and Liam James as Duncan.

This realistic coming of age comedy is overwhelmingly warm.  Duncan’s smiles are so genuine when in his own, and it’s something you can really sense.

Amazing if you liked Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, 500 Days of Summer, Moonrise Kingdom.

 

Southland Tales

Guys, I am still pretty sure the end of the world is imminent, and we’re way passed Idiocracy.

I give you a less comedic, and yet, completely insane telling of the world’s ultimate demise, Southland Tales. “Not with a whimper, with a bang.”

Set in an alternate LA just before July 4, 2008, this flick tells the interwoven stories of an amnesiac action star (The Rock), a police officer (Sean William Scott), a tripped out soldier (Justin Timberlake), a porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar), and, I don’t know, half the cast of SNL and a gaggle of B list stars, teeing up to a 4th of July celebration that may or may not be the apocalypse.

From the mindhouse of the guy behind Donnie Darko, this bent timeline ensemble is an insanely fun star studded romp that, while pretty out there, rings a little bit true.  Made in 2007, the porn star trying to get a reality show story seemed somewhat far fetched.  Call in 2016, and the satirical alternate LA seems all too real.

Aside from it’s… story, this movie is also a lot of fun when treated like an anthology of scenes.  It has the futuristic campness of an acid trip Blade Runner, a soundtrack that dreams are made of, and scenes that could be standalone short films.  Timberlake has a music video like interlude that is his complete antithesis and, alone, is a great film. (See below if you need convincing)…. (Honestly, it could be a standalone short film about a veteran returning from war, turning to illegitimate work after being left behind by the government after a war injury, PTSD, valuing over masculinity, and vets turning to drugs.  And watch Justin do his best to hide his Justin-ness, and at 2:40, let his Justin-ness spill over into a casual dance move).

It’s campy.  It’s crazy.  It’s real.  It’s allegorical.  It’s biblical. It’s a TRIP. It’s full of space and future bullshit.  It’s sci fi.  It’s comedy. It’s star studded. Honestly, look at the cast.  Most are bona fide standalone characters, but it also gives it that “everyone in hollywood showed up to add a layer of cameo” vibe from bonkers flicks like Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. It’s also full of quotes that are completely unquotable and yet, you’ll want them on an inspirational poster.

It’s also pretty long and comes with a comic book prequel, so save it for a Sunday if you’re willing to dive right in.

Great if you liked: Blade Runner, Idiocracy, Donnie Darko, Dr. Strangelove

Idiocracy

When news of the fact that the writers of Idiocracy were making political ads starring Terry Crews, I knew it was high time I brought this one up.

It’s 2016 North America, and the unfortunate truth is that Idiocracy seems very real.

Luke Wilson stars as a literal average Joe.  Along with a “lady of the night,” (Maya Rudolph) he enlists in a military program to be cryogenically frozen, and wakes up 500 years later in a very different version of America.  The film posits that since those with lower intelligence tend to have more children, humans evolve to be, well, pretty dumb.

Suddenly, Joe is the smartest man on earth.

After a few mishaps, Joe is on the run from the government, but is also the only man alive smart enough to help the downward spiraling future.  Crops are dying, since they’ve only been fed Brawndo (it’s got electrolytes!), the world has become a messy Costco, and the doctors and lawyers? You’ll see. Also, Terry Crews plays the president.

This is a guilty pleasure flick that boarders on the offensive, and in doing so, paints a very real picture of the scary future.  I thought The Purge: Election Year was a pretty solid warning…. but this might be even more accurate. Along with the preview below, I post this opening scene…. enjoy.

Great if you liked: Futurama, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Galaxy Quest, Space Balls, Office Space

Predestination

It’s Tuesday.  Perfect time for some thinking Sci-Fi in Predestination.

Ethan Hawke stars as a Temporal agent on the hunt for a criminal, the Fizzle Bomber, who has eluded him through time.  A Temporal agent’s duties involve intricate travels through time to ensure their law enforcement exists “through eternity.” On his final mission, he is to take out his elusive white whale.

Dripping with unseen hints, a story is told to the agent by a bar patron (who oddly looks a lot like Leonardo DiCaprio) of  Jane, of a shattered career, lost love, and the amazing feats of human kind.

You could see two different trailers for this film and think they’re completely unrelated.  But they’re not.  Watch closely.

Predestination is great for, among other reasons, the fact that it plays with our linear sense of time.  Typically, we see time as a straight line from past, present to future.  For our Temporal Agent, his past, present and future transcends our timeline and exists in a line linear to his age, but not through that of our universe. (Whoooaaaa).

This is one of the highest quality, in both production value and story, sci fi films that I have seen come out of the festival circuit.  Based on a short story by the legendary Robert A. Heinlein, and adapted for film by the makers of Daybreakers, this is not one to go missed.

Amazing if you liked: Daybreakers, Looper, Source Code, In Time, Snowpiercer, Minority Report

The Guest

I have been on quite a classic horror binge as of late, which is a great way to remind myself of all of the amazing tropes parodied by my favourite genre: modern camp horror.

Few have done camp horror quite as well as Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the writer director duo behind The Guest.

Coming off the success of their sleeper hit, You’re Next, the duo took their new found big budget and turned it into the camp horror dreams were made of (and then sprinkled in a bunch of action).

Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) stars as “David,” a soldier returning from active duty and visiting the family of his fallen platoon member.  The Peterson family invites David to stay with them for a few days, where slowly his strange behaviour begins to show its face, mostly to the daughter, a teenage waitress forced to have David tag-a-long in her day to day life as a social high schooler.

This flick dives so far into awesome camp that it is mashing of two of my all time favourite films, Terminator 2 and Halloween, which is somehow also funny, and goes next level into some Jason Bourne, and German Sci Fi places.

Every detail makes this film fun, from the classic 80’s style euro synth music, to the long shots of solo characters.  You won’t know whether to love or hate David, but you’ll definitely want to recycle some of his lines to sound cool (re: ‘cash is easy to get’ and ‘awesome’).  It’s also a great spot for Maika Monroe who is quickly making her name as the Scream Queen of the Y generation.

Great if you liked: You’re Next, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, It Follows, The Final Girls, V/H/S, Rec, The Strangers, Terminator, Terminator 2

Goon

April 20th is #CanFilmDay (a bit late on the uptake here). So to celebrate, many a cinephile threw on a Canadian flick.
The lesser known hockey comedy, Goon, was my Canadian film of choice.

Based on the real life minor hockey player, Doug Smith, Goon tells the heart warming story of Doug Glatt, a bouncer turned enforcer with a heart of gold who goes on to have a career as a goon in minor hockey.

After thinking there weren’t enough “hockey comedies,” Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg (you’ll know him from penning Seth Rogen flicks like Superbad and Pineapple Express) took to adapting Smith’s autobiography for the big screen.

Sean William Scott plays the sweeter than sugar, Glatt, paired up against his hero/ rival, Ross Rhea played by Liev Schreiber. Marc- Andre Grondin is in the part he was meant to play, a drugged out parody of Kris Letang. And, of course, Kim Coates as my mentor, Coach.

When you combine an unlikely hockey hero story with the comedy styling of this cast and crew, you’re left with a hilarious version of every pickup game you’ve ever played, and every bar you’ve ever been to with hockey players (not NHL players… something about the NHL takes away comedic hotheadedness and replaces it with cockiness).

On top of that, there is more than a light dusting of hilarious Canadian humour like references to Donair sauce and phrases like “yeerrr feckin alright, eh.”

Goon is absolutely hilarious no matter who you are, but especially if you are from the great white north or have ever been near a hockey team. (The “divorced guys” locker room pep talk is a staple in many a locker room I’ve seen).  Check this one out if you’re looking for a laugh.

Great if you liked:  Slapshot, The Mighty Ducks, Youngblood, American Pie, The Love Guru, Happy Gilmore, Wayne’s World, Superbad, Knocked Up, Pineapple Express, Funny People, The Green Hornet, 50/50, The Watch, This is the End, Neighbors, The Interview and The Night Before

Son of Batman

If you have your ear anywhere near the comic book grindstone, you will have heard that they are FINALLY making a Batman animated film for “The Killing Joke” which has just gotten itself an R rating. (This is so insanely exciting because it’s my fave comic book ever and is absolutely twisted).

If you’re not familiar with the Batman animated films, well…. you’re welcome for telling you about them.  Batman animated films are not quite what you would expect.  They tend to borrow heavily from the comic book ethos and are often a page by page retelling of the dark comic books up on the small screen.  There are a lot of amazing ones (and a chunk of them are on Netflix) so if you’re a comic book fan looking for a lazier way to digest some reading, or a casual fan looking to scope the comic book vibe, these are for you.

Son of Batman makes the list because, while it follows the comic book retelling onto the small screen, it’s actually kind of a distant cousin to its comic book counter part, Batman and Son. (Guys, the Batman and Son comic story line is a whole other article for a whole other website…).

Ra’s Al Ghul, his daughter, Talia, and his grandson, Damian, are training the League of Assassins when attacked by a rival terrorist group, lead by Slade Wilson (yes the very same character Deadpool is parodying). Ra’s is killed, and Talia brings her son to Gotham to be protected by his father, Batman.  Damian possesses the raw skill of his father and mother and the training of the League, but the defiance associated with being raised by the Al Ghul clan.

Story takes off from there and unreal characters pop by like Killer Croc (you’ll know him from the Suicide Squad trailers) and (*heart melts*) Nightwing. Also, those voice actors, tho.

This is a great one to cut your teeth on, or if you’re a hard comic book fan and have read all the print stories and want something different.  It’ll be perfect to make you a fan just in time for The Killing Joke.

Fun Fact, watching this is how I learned I have been pronouncing “Ra’s” wrong for 25 years. (Raysh? Yeah right).

Great if you liked: Batman, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Attack on Arkham, The Dark Knight Returns, Batman and Robin, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Batman v Superman, Man of Steel, Batman Beyond, The Avengers, The Winter Soldier

The World’s End

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright never fail to make movie magic, and The Worlds End is no exception.

You might recognize this dream team from Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz (both of which will for sure pop up on here eventually).

Before he was stealing our hearts as Benji in the MI franchise or as Scotty aboard the Enterprise, Pegg was making comedy magic with a weird horror vibe with this dream team.

The World’s end is a beautiful story about five friends who fell out of touch after some real life turmoil.  Gary King (Pegg) wants to get the group together to take another attempt at their legendary pub crawl in the guys’ hometown.  After lots of begging, they agree, and set upon their mission to have a pint at The First Post, then on to The Old Familiar, The Famous Cock, The Cross Hands, The Good Companions, The Trusty Servant, The Two-Headed Dog, The Mermaid, The Beehive, The King’s Head, and The Hole in the Wall for a measure of the same, all before the last bittersweet pint in that most fateful terminus, The World’s End.

Along the way, they notice that their town has changed in a way they can’t quite put their finger on.  People seem ageless, strange, and… robotic.  The gang tries to solve the mystery, and survive it, but King never allows them to lose focus of making it to that last fateful pub.  Wright’s style really shines here in the doomsday at a pub niche he has created.  (His pint pouring quick cuts are a thing of beauty).

A hilarious romp about drunken friends that is more gifable than anything you’ve ever seen, non stop laughs, and a strange end of the world sub plot you don’t plan for, but on top of that, a really heart warming story about growing up, the troubles with our pasts, addictions, loss, and friendship.

I love this flick more than words, and could listen to Pegg fumble his way through the names of pubs non stop. And if you’re wondering, yes, he falls trying to climb a fence.

Great if you liked: Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, This is the End, Zombieland

In Bruges

 

As I sat watching the first two awards announced at the Oscars, fighting with my cable box for its inability to play “Room,” I realized all I needed for real Sunday entertainment was my DVD collection, and In Bruges.

A go-to for a lot of film fans trying to help out a bored friend, this British flick is at the top of British (…Irish) Drama game.

Colin Farrell stars as Ray, a hitman, who along with his “co-worker,” Ken (Brendan Gleeson) has been sent to Bruges, Belgium to await orders from their boss, Harry.

The plot unfolds in such an artful way that I don’t want to delve into it any more here.

Martin McDonagh, (the brilliant genius behind Seven Psychopaths), does what he does best here.  He creates a simple story about a lost hit man and coats it with a thick layer of allegory, meta-plot, blatant hints you don’t see, and a perfect peppering of humour.

Farrell, (who is, IMO, one of the top 3 most underrated actors of our time) really shines here as Ray.  He even won the Golden Globe for Best Actor for it…. (Sorry, Oscars and DDL, this was Colin’s year).

By treating “crime” the way it does, it really takes you into the life of these hitmen and out of your every day.  It’s dark, it’s sad, it’s funny, and it’s exciting, a difficult combo on which McDonagh doesn’t disappoint.

Great if you liked: Seven Psychopaths, Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, Lucky Number Slevin, Rock N Rolla

Hardcore Henry

It’s a fact that this is an over zealous post.  This was supposed to be buried in the vault for a little while but I am JUST SO EXCITED THAT THIS MOVIE HAS AN OFFICIAL RELEASE DATE.

Back when this was still called “Hardcore,” I was fortunate enough to catch this masterpiece at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it was pretty tough to survive the 90 minute run time without blinking ONCE.

In this movie version of an RPG, you wake up, Henry, with no memory of who you are, being put back together by your beautiful wife.  As she is finishing up installing your voice module, some ‘hell breaks loose’ and, well, you’re off for the best action packed thrill ride you’ll ever see through your own eyes.

The POV of this film is more amazing than you’re imagining.  It has the “one long shot” vibe of Birdman, with the frantic sci fi of the best RPG and some Looper vibes.  What’s even more amazing is that a lot of this flick was shot with go-pros and cameras literally strapped to a guy running.  I’ll reference you to the “bridge free run” scene which was literally filmed without safety harnesses, and just some stunt men running, one of them strapped with cameras.  My heart was in my throat enough without knowing that.

This death defying romp is more fun than you could ever imagine and is completely insane, courtesy of the eccentric Jimmy(s) brought to life by Sharlto Popley.  There’s a dance scene.  That’s all you need to know. (And, no, it’s nothing like Spider-man 3).

I can’t recommend this one enough, and if you can, try your best to catch this one in theaters after it’s exciting April 9, 2016 release.  Ugh, congrats, Ilya Naishuller, you killed it.

Amazing if you liked: any RPG game, Looper, Rare Exports, Big Game, The Sixth Day, 28 Weeks Later, Dredd, Judge Dredd