Free Fire

Here’s good news.  Rare is it that I can boast about an indie getting a theater release because usually I am either recommending an oldie or a flick that doesn’t get a theater release.  WELL GOOD NEWS, FAM, this one is coming to select theaters near you.

I had the unique pleasure of seeing Free Fire at the Toronto International Film Festival at (the only program that matters), Midnight Madness.  I had no idea what to expect, but when Shartlo Copley (if it’s not obvious how amazing Sharlto is, go back and check out my post on Hardcore Henry #FeelTheVern) and Brie Larson were on the guest list, I had no sense I’d be disappointed.  Aside from those two giants, this movie is filled to the brim with “oh that’s that guy!”s which just adds to the fun.  I mean, Armie Hammer is a brute named Ord, yw.

Now I don’t use this lightly, but this movie is 1 part Guy Ritchie film and 10 parts Reservoir Dogs.  You heard me. Res-Er-Voir-Dawgs.   There’s an important enough thread of a plot holding everything together, but it is ultimately a 90 minute shoot em up panic in a warehouse.  While it sounds similar to Dogs, it is completely its own unique film, with a similar ratio of action an gore.  Free Fire takes all the shoot em up tropes and combines them with a visually fun period for the sake of costume, vibe, and simplicity and spits out a fun romp you’ll never get bored of.

This is no slasher, but you’ll find yourself cheering for the “kills” as if it was your fourth time through the Jason franchise.  I honestly dare you to not have fun.

Great if you liked: Reservoir Dogs, Shoot Em Up, Inglorious Basterds, Rock N Rolla, Snatch, Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels, Hardcore Henry, District 9, Chappie

Better Off Ted

If you haven’t yet submitted to the mania of Santa Clarita Diet, I suggest you get on it.  The Netflix comedy has me in stitches and I’ve watched it through more than once by now.  Which is why it came as no surprise to me that the show’s creator,  Victor Fresco, is also responsible for one of my favourite lesser known sitcoms, Better Off Ted.

I was introduced to this parody of office culture while nuts deep in a ridiculous office job selling “smart solutions to optimize efficiency.”  Buzz business words that business people don’t think are funny were my jam, so this show hit the sweet spot.

This quick witted comedy focuses on Ted, a VP at a parody of a multinational conglomerate in charge of research and development.  The single father narrates us through his attempts at managing his career, child and love life.  It’s as quick witted as you’ve come to expect from SC Diet, to the brim with quoteable one liners and back and forth.  The cast absolutely excels in their delivery of the ridiculous dialogue while all managing to be charming.  On top of that, it is absolutely silly and over the top and calls out all those weird office tropes that your colleagues seem to think are normal.  (We are all Linda).

This 2 season show is somehow still not on Netflix, so let’s start the campaign to get it there, considering SC Diet seems to be doing pretttty well.  Also, the fake company commercials are so good as a standalone mini series.

Great if you liked: Santa Clarita Diet, Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, The Office, Community, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Archer

The Girl With All the Gifts

You’re kind of a film fan, right? So you’ve probably seen 28 Days Later?  And you remember that feeling you felt when you had stumbled across a lesser known foreign zombie flick and were like “hot dam.”  And on rainy days, scanning for something to do, you long for that feeling again, right?

I found that when I saw The Girl With All the Gifts.

This unsuspecting movie hit me totally by surprise.  It starts in some sort of military bunker where a a teacher is teaching to a group of young students who are strapped to their desks, glared at by seemingly disgusted soldiers.  It doesn’t rush to answer your questions, but it ultimately takes you on a ride through a post human universe where the children are the next mutation of a zombie virus which appears to have wiped out much of humanity.

Mike Carey, writer of both the inspiring novel and screenplay, brings his comic book sensibility to the big screen.  What is at its core a zombie film, reads more like the human panic of V for Vendetta, the confusion of mutation and technology of WE3 and the tests of humanity of The Walking Dead. (Comic book versions of all, to be clear).  It’s a story far deeper than your average “… of the Dead” flick, but doesn’t skimp on the snapping zombies.

I can’t say enough about this roller coaster through the not so distant future.  It’s acted so beautifully and is such a great take on the genre. You’ll also be pretty surprised by a lot of the cast.

A little birdie told me it is screening at The Royal in Toronto and I recommend you all check it out.

Great if you liked: The Walking Dead, V for Vendetta, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Morgan, Cloverfield, The Mist, Monsters

Primer

I’ve been sitting on this one a while as it is a part of one of my favourite memories. The first time I watched the amazing hidden gem, Primer,  was with my younger brother. Baffled after first viewing, we spent a couple hours online and with pens and paper trying to map out the whole thing. After that, we headed back into the living room and watched it again on the same night (while standing on an ottoman for the second half since we saw a silverfish and were too scared/ enthralled in our re-watch to deal with it).  I wish I still had the chicken scratch timeline map we’d created during watch #2.

Somewhat like Predestination, this is not a movie to watch while cruising twitter. Seriously, this is a lesson, bring a pen.

This absolutely sparking hidden gem centers around four friends attempting to build an error checking device.  In doing so, they stumble across a finite time travel with specific rules.  In doing so, everything they are is tested in front of the backdrop of “what would you do with that kind of power?”

This movie is as confusing as it is groundbreaking.  On a minimal budget with suggestions of science magic, these 4 friends embark on a journey of time travel that tests every fiber of them and their very humanity.  As these guys fit in the category of your average middle class ‘guy,’ it becomes more relatable than, say, Biff Tannen’s experience in time travel.

While this movie is an actual mindF*** (I’m looking at you, Inception), it is ultimately completely sensical and follows a specific set of rules making it reconcilable with some attention.  That’s because Shane Carruth, writer, director and star (he also composed the score), is a software engineer and mathematics major turned filmmaker.  He planned every second of this movie so well, that you’ll know it makes sense, but probably have to draw it out at least once.

While this trailer isn’t TOO spoilery, I definitely prefer that I went into this movie fresh (I didn’t even know it was about time travel for a bit).  That said, give it a glance to see the tone and vibe of it all.  It’s not the sparkling epic of your average time travel movie, it’s a much more subtle approach to the genre.  Also, if you’ve studied software engineering at all (I have in a very removed way in a philosophy course on the functions of the human mind, so I mean it when I say “at all”), you will really pick up on how those functions were important in the mapping of this flick.

Watch this one when you’re still awake enough to spend time and attention on it.  For me, that meant a 4 am re-watch standing on an ottoman.  Aka, absolute perfection in movie viewing.

Great if you liked: Predestination, Pi, Back to the Future, Inception, Moon, Interstellar, Timecrimes, Timelapse, Arq, Donnie Darko, Looper, 12 Monkeys

Valentine’s Day Special

Happy Val Day, Sab!! (10000 points to anyone who gets that joke).

It’s Valentine’s Day.  A Day I actually kind of dig, because it means guilt free chocolate, wearing red and pink together, hearts on everything, and that there will be amazing candy sales tomorrow.  This all comes from someone who appreciates a val day completely devoid of love story.

So I know a lot of people like to pour up some wine, get some red candy and watch romantic comedies and cry.  To those, I have one question: WHY?!  I prefer to pour up a scotch and watch some action movies.  Nothing reminds you what matters more than crushing a brew and watching Arnold blow a bunch of shit up.  (Terminator 2 is still my favourite in this category, but if you haven’t seen that, log off right now and watch it and honestly, are you lost or something?)  So that in mind, I present you a list of some of my favourite Valentine’s Day movies, completely devoid of love story.

Reservoir Dogs

Listen, I probably don’t have to be the one to tell you about this Tarantino classic, but I will remind you of it’s being devoid of even so much as a stolen glance.  Reservoir Dogs should be the example of what your confusing high school English teacher meant when they said “you follow the rules of writing, then when you’re really great at it, you can break all of them.” This flick focuses on a team of crooks anonymous to each other, attempting a heist, and after turmoil, suspecting that there might be a mole in their ranks.  I love this movie for not showing us the heist, but only the aftermath, and telling the story out of order making for amazing reveals.  It’s bloody, it’s loud, it’s scary, it’s awesome.  Bonus round: note all the references to it in Breaking Bad upon a re-watch.

Dredd

This 2012 not-actually-a-sequel to Judge Dredd is everything right and everything wrong with 3D cinema.  There will never be another Sly, but Karl Urban absolutely kills it as a Judge in Dredd.  In this alternate (or a little too close to…) reality, “Judges” are the new cops and act as “Judge, Jury and Executioner.” (Or is that the tagline to The Punisher? Whatever).

This assault on the senses takes place in a tenement, which gives all sorts of The Raid vibes, where Dredd is fighting to take down Ma-Ma (a lady villain, everyone, wuddup), a drug lord distributing Slo-mo, a drug that causes people to experience reality in slow motion (cue the amazing/ terrible use of 3D).  Guys, we have a mixed-gender lead cast and no one so much as flirts.  What else do you want? #IAmTheLaw

The Usual Suspects

Don’t nobody need me to tell them about The Usual Suspects.  I am just here to remind you that this movie hasn’t even a loving peck.  This absolute giant of cinema tells the story via an interrogation of the only survivor of a boat shootout.  If you’ve seen this, you don’t need me, and if you haven’t, I’m gonna let you take care of this one yourself.

This movie is permanently cemented into pop culture for it’s incredible story telling, surprises, cast, and direction.  And there is plenty of gun fire and explosions to satiate you through blowing through that box of chocolates.

These are just a few of my favourite flicks to blow through over anything but wine.  But the list is hardly short.  What are you watching tonight?

Sadako v Kayako

So people have been all abuzz about the release of Rings, the follow up we didn’t ask for, but all kind of wanted since The Ring totally changed the game for a lot of horror fans.  I remember when The Ring was in theaters, and my entire high school told their viewing stories as if we had all survived a natural disaster.  “J Horror” (Japanese horror) had made a big splash for Western cinema fans, and sparked remakes of plenty Japanese horror giants like The Grudge, Dark Water, and One Missed Call.

Much of J Horror focuses on these black haired crawling demons, like the ones we fell in love with in The Ring.  (A lot of them live in toilets… it’s weird).  I don’t mean to brag, but for the premiere, the city of Toronto was covered with locks of black hair and the demons were creepin’ all over.

For those of you who don’t follow along with the Japanese counterparts, the demon from The Ring (or Ringu, the J original), is known as Sadako, and the demon from The Grudge (or Ju-On) is known as Kayako.  So before you go flooding the seats to see the American follow up, check out this unreal death match of your two favourite J Horror demons, Sadako v Kayako.

After two girls accidentally stumble across the legendary Sadako tape, and another upon the Kayako house, they contact a demon expert to try and rid themselves of said demons.  After some failed attempts, they conclude the best method would be to have the demons face off against each other.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.

It’s actually pretty scary and doesn’t skip any J Horror tropes, but has a full heap of that dry horror humour that J Horror does so well.  It manages to be hilarious without being too campy, and is an absolutely unreal follow up for any casual J Horror fan, even if you’ve only seen the remakes.

The promo was for a new horror streaming service called Shudder.  This isn’t an ad for it, but it’s dope and maybe if they see this, they’ll give a girl a few months free, n’am sayin?

Great if you liked: The Ring, The Grudge, Ringu, Ju-On, Freddie vs. Jason, Sinister, Insidious, Death Note, Shaun of the Dead

Equilibrium

Remember all those books you read in high school about the dystopian future? Fahrenheit 451? The Handmaid’s Tale? The Giver? 1984? All ‘dem? Now imagine someone took all of those, added pre-Batman Christian Bale, some ridiculous gun fighting and made it into a badass sci fi action flick. Boom. Equilibrium.

Don’t let writer/ director Kurt Wimmer’s tendency toward unnecessary remakes scare you, this totally original (well, save for the books mentioned above) sci fi is an absolutely wonderful self contained story line.

In the not so distant future, the government has suppressed all emotion with the mandate of preventing war via a drug to be taken at required intervals.  (The giver, anyone? #Soma).  Along with doing so, all sources of emotion are contraband and, if found, burned on site. (451, anyone?).  John Preson is a cleric tasked with maintaining the world order.  After meeting a woman who has been off her drugs, before her execution, Preston questions his emotionless lifestyle.  After slipping up, he seeks out the resistance and considers the uprising.

There was a while when ipod video was still a thing and this was the only flick I had saved on mine, so I watched it far too many times.  But with the current “rise up” climate, this one comes straight back to me.

This is a really fun take on the dystopian drama that will ease you into wanting the more heavy stuff. I just blew through V for Vendetta and am on kind of a resistance rebel kick, and this blends in seamlessly.

And side note, the whole gun fighting thing is actually pretty dope.

Great if you liked: 1984, The Giver, Batman Begins (ugh), The Prestige (also ugh, but same Bale, I guess), The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Minority Report, Gattaca

Dead Set

So I have had Black Mirror teed up for a great TV edition for a while now, and, suddenly, to my delight, Netflix revived the British series and suddenly everyone is talking about and has seen the amazing sci-fi anthology series of which I can’t get enough.

Charlie Brooker is nothing short of brilliant in his anthology of short films about the dangers of technology.  So, what do I do now that it’s no longer the obscure?  Suggest to you an earlier Brooker work: Dead Set.

This 5 part series answers the hypothetical of what would happen in the Big Brother house if a zompocalypse happened.  (I know you’ve been wondering).

Dead Set has the grittiness and… Britishness… of 28 Days Later with the unpredictable story of the Big Brother house, which, honestly, seems like a pretty solid place to hole up. *Changes Zombie Apocalypse Contingency Plan*

It’s a really great addition to the zombie drama.  It’s also low key brilliant since the Big Brother house is likely populated by specifically selected characters to create big drama, kind of like the characters of movie would be, particularly in a zombie or cabin in the woods trope film.  So seeing the fictional cast of a would be reality show interact in an apocalypse is welcome and a lot of fun.

It’s also 5 episodes and one season which makes for a nice light binge without having to commit to 40 seasons of new zombie drama (I’m looking at you, The Walking Dead).

Great if you liked: 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, The Walking Dead, Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Black Mirror, Big Brother

Trick ‘r Treat

First of all, Happy highest of the holidays, Halloween.
If you’re anything like me, you have been crushing horror all month long and are looking for an exciting finale.
I spent my weekend re-watching the Freddy franchise, and hitting up some new (pretty dope) horror with Oculus.
But tonight is the night for a lesser known hallo-flick, that is a certifiable cult classic, Trick ‘r Treat.

This bizarre anthology tells five interwoven stories of Halloween mayhem.  A couple face some fright after one disrespects the hallow-rules, a boring white collar moonlights as something more sinister, a group of gals hit the town looking for dates, some bullies get what’s coming and a living infamous man is tormented by the fan favourite “interwoven” demon.

It’s a bit gory, kinda scary, VERY Halloween-y, and full of laughs… if you’re morbid.  The fun part is that it is a laugh full of surprises, that are actually kind of scary.  To the point you can’t tell if you feel right having nightmares or not. You can also feel the cast having fun as their ‘psycho’ alter egoes.

It’s super weird and can sit right up there with other Halloween cult faves you’ve watched to death.  I’ve certainly added it to my October ritual. It WILL remind you to respect Halloween customs and it also contains one of the all time best werewolf transformations.

Excellent if you liked: Four Rooms, Krampus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Hocus Pocus, Gremlins, Vampire’s Suck, What We Do in the Shadows, Grindhouse, From Dusk ‘Til Dawn.

The Final Girls

Look, if you’re really looking towards full Hallowe’en horror, I don’t need to be the one to tell you to fire up “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th,” or “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”  (And if I do, please stop what you’re doing and marathon those real quick and then come on back.)

Since I expect you’ve already watched (and loved) those franchises in their entirety, I bring you the camp horror comedy that plays to my all time favourite trope, The Final Girls.

Carpenter’s original “Halloween,” is a horror ‘mother movie’ ™ that sparked an onslaught of horror franchises and the meta/camp ones that followed. (re: Scream).  On purpose or not, it created the trope of the final girl; the, often ‘virginal,’ girl who outlasts everyone and comes up against the slashing killer in one climactic stand off.

The Final Girls uses this trope, among others, to give us a comedic camp horror film filled to the brim with heart.

Max loses her mom, Amanda, at a young age.  Amanda is famous for playing a cult classic scream queen named Nancy. (Nancy.  Guys.).  Every year, the local theater screens the cult classic, and Max struggles with it and the memory of her mother.

While in attendance at the screening, Max and her friends somehow end up in the move (read: Last Action Hero), surrounded by your horror movie tropes, and the final girl, Nancy.  Max and her friends have to team up with the characters to defeat the weapon wielding slasher and end the film.

While it spreads across much of the genre, this film feels the most like Friday the 13th complete with a Jason style killer.  It let’s the characters take back their tropes as a means of surviving to the end of the film.  The slutty chick who gets killed whilst being slutty? Taken back by Angela Trimbur, who, upon learning of her part, gives an amazing performance in the way of a sacrificial sexy strip tease to lure the killer to the campers.  (Her dance is unbelievable, and arguably feminist in her taking back her sexuality as a means of tackling the killer, over a character being reduced to an over-sexualized victim).

The Final Girls is a fun romp for all horror fans, is heartbreaking, is moving, is cute, is hilarious, and is kinda scary.  No doubt the medicine for the genre fan who’s seen it all.

Great if you liked: Friday the 13th, Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Guest, Green Room, Grindhouse, Last Action Hero