movie recommendation

Layer Cake

As a Guy Ritchie fangirl, this used to be my go to film for those who’ve exhausted his roster of jacked up crime flicks.  Although, produced by the same company behind Snatch and co, Layer Cake is directed by another British Gem, Matthew Vaughan.  You heard me, the very same genius behind, say it with me, Kingsman.

In this audition for James Bond, Daniel Craig stars in this adaptation of JJ Connelly’s novel as a drug dealer planning for his retirement.  When asked by his boss to help locate a missing woman, and getting into a bad deal with stolen pills, his perfect plan gets derailed. Hi-jinx ensue.

This is not a simple rehash of your typical British crime flicks, but it does have that same list of quirky characters, interwoven subplots, and British slang you wish you could pull off without sounding like a twat.  It is a lot more colourful and upbeat in appearance (does that make sense?) than what you’ve seen from Ritchie, but still reminds you of the writing style.  If you’re in it for a complex story, or just for a British drug romp, this is the one, baby.

This also has both one of my favourite soundtracks and favourite scores, since you asked.

Great if you liked: Snatch, Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels, Gangster No. 1, Rock N’ Rolla, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Revolver, Fight Club, Reservoir Dogs

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Coherence

A friend was explaining to me that one of her favourite movies was one about messy timelines and I called said movie (to be posted later on the list) a “poor man’s Primer.” She was instantly insulted, despite not having seen Primer.  So I gave her a list of three superior films in the genre, the aforementioned, Predestination, and Coherence.  Immediately after watching Coherence, she called me to sulk it was over, and to plan our rewatch. It’s that good.

I stumbled across this movie in an imdb rabbit hole, and when it popped up on Netflix, I was instantly psyched.  It does not disappoint.

A group of friends are on their way to a dinner party, the night a comet is passing overhead. *don’t read this if you prefer to go in fresh* The comet causes some sort of quantum decoherence and allows the characters to pass through to alternate timelines.

What’s really exciting about this movie, is that it doesn’t bother to hold your hand.  You are learning what is happening as the characters (and the actors!) are.  You can’t help but be focused in, trying to figure it all out.  That also lends to being a bit scary.  Even better, it leads to rewatches paying off in so many ways.

Much like Saw, this was born out of the desire to make a movie that takes place in one room, and this sci-fi delivers in a completely different way.

Great if you liked: Predesination, Timecrimes, Primer, Pi, Timelapse, Cube, Circle

The Crazies (1973)

Yesterday was a rough day.  The world lost George A. Romero AND Martin Landau.

For those unfamiliar, Romero is the godfather of the modern day zombie.  Before his iterations, there was no head shot, no double tab, no infectious bites.  Romero’s career is riddled with “of the Dead” features that have inspired an entire genre and generation of film makers.  Further, his films were diverse in such a way that they were so before their time.

But almost any casual fan has watched a Romero zombie flick.  Here is my oft missed selection.

The Crazies tells the story of a small town wherein an infection has caused certain people to both laugh at and commit heinous violence.  The infection is born of a failed military operation, and the town is sealed off by personnel attempting to contain the situation and study the results of this accidental test.  A small group of survivors attempt to evade quarantine and save themselves from the military wrath.

This film is so different from your average fright, and is a new take on a ‘zombie’ genre film as the ‘zombies’ are not the rotting bitey corpses you imagine, but psychopathic versions of living people. The opening scene is pure terror and the third act is absolutely devastating.  This oft missed film totally breaks the mould and is absolutely wroth the watch.

Great if you liked: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Night of the Living Dead

End of Watch

It’s buddy cop day.  More specifically, it’s ‘buddy cop flipped on its side’ day.  Loyal followers have already seen the post below which is a buddy cop movie flipped onto it’s 60s Irish side making for a darker over the top comedy.  End of Watch flips the script to make a darker and more dramatic version of the genre.

Michael Peña is BACK (well this one is older, buy ya get me) doing what he does best, being a hilarious movie cop type, in this single camera found footage style cop drama from David Ayer.  Yes, Ayer made this, so expect explosions, oversized weapons dipped in gold, and all of that noise. But in this application, those vehicles actually work to create this beautifully gut wrenching take on the genre.  It’s hard to call a movie with a gold AK47 and a villain named ‘Big Evil,’ subtle, but this film really is.  It flips from found camera footage of two cute cop buddies into a fully directed drama without you even noticing.  You’ll go from laughing to cheering to crying without even noticing.  You’ll go from thinking Ayer is a helicopter loving Joker ruining director to a beautiful genius without even noticing.

Instead of being a cop tale about corruption and drugs and cash, this film is about friendship.  Ayer’s choice to give Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal cameras and the license to improvise add to the realism of the friendship.  The two are more than charming and make this flip on the buddy cop genre more than welcome.

Great if you liked: The Fast and the Furious, Nightcrawler, Dog Day Afternoon, Cerpico, Donnie Brasco, Training Day, Street Kings

War on Everyone

In a love letter to the buddy cop films of the 60’s, War on Everyone takes the genre to the dark places Rush Hour doesn’t. (New to Netflix which is exciting yo).

Writer/ director John Michael McDonagh (brother of Martin McDonagh of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths) is an Irish movie thoroughbred making this his American film debut.  And boy, can you ever sense it.  This film spills over with Irish style humour you’ll recognize from your McDonagh brother favourites, which can be jarring in an American accent if I’m being really honest.

Honestly, Michael Peña to everyone else; do you even buddy cop?  In another film that turns buddy cop on its nose, End of Watch, this guy shines bright like a diamond.  This perfect pair up brings the comedy in this somewhat twisted flick.

Much like it’s buddy cop counter parts, War on Everyone isn’t winning any awards for ‘political correctness,’ but it approaches that style of humour through the right lens (in my humble opinion) and lets you laugh (this is a discussion for another time but I am happy to have it.  In a word, my thoughts are that there’s a difference between being in on the joke and the joke relying on an offensive premise).  There’s not much more to say than that if you wanted an Irish/ British approach to the buddy cop genre, by which I mean it’s grittier and more taboo, with a shockingly perfect cast, this is it, buddy.  It also includes easily my top 5 favourite one liner of all time and it’s killing me not to spoil it.

Great if you liked: End of Watch, In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake, Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon

 

Funny Games

Image result for funny games movie posterListen, you get it. This is a horror game, so as soon as I post something not horror (below), I need to sandwich it so it looks like my tastes are diverse.
So today, we are taking it back to scary with Funny Games.

Before Michael Pitt shook his creep persona from Murder by Numbers and started stealing hearts and liquor as Jimmy Dormody, and before The Strangers was serving us creepy home invasion realness, there was Funny Games. (In fact, even 10 years before that, there was the original).

If you ask me, horror is mostly fun because it is gratuitous and unbeleivable.  But the home invasion sub-gendre scares me top to bottom for it’s ability to seem absolutely plausible.  Funny Games takes it even further by pulling this sh** in the daylight. *Full body shudder.*

Sadistic Peter and Paul come across the vacation home of a family of three, and take them hostage, forcing them to participate in twisted games.  The simplicity of this take on the invasion, paired with the sadistic games, daylight, and helplessness of a family not expecting such an attack makes this film so scary.  There is a sense of dread associated with not being prepared for the very simple attack of two unarmed intruders.

Intentionally or not, this serves up the psychotic scare reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange, made more familiar in the psychos’ all white outfits and use of objects for beatings.

While not the penultimate home invasion movie, this certainly stirred up my own fear, and features great performances, including that of Naomi Watts and Tim Roth, masters of the creep, in protagonist positions.

Watch this whatever time of day you want, because it is not going to make daylight feel safe for you anyway.

Great if you liked: The Strangers, A Clockwork Orange, Copycat, Last House on the Left, Vacancy, The Collector, Panic Room, You’re Next, Cape Fear, Fatal Attraction

The Grand Seduction

It’s Thursday.  I treated myself to some banana cake because I deserve it.  You know what you deserve?  Something feel good.

I’ve said this over and over, so many hidden gems tend to be horror and sci fi, and while those are my favourite, so no complaints, it leaves little room for your nice warm and fuzzies.  Well this early Spring Thursday, I bring you a warm and fuzzy by way of The Grand Seduction.

I know what you’re thinking, “I see Taylor Kitsch as a doctor.  I am sold.  Say no more!”  BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE.

In Eastern Canada (Newfoundland, specifically), there is a strange abundance of Irish accents and fishing towns.  This fishing village is in desperate need of jobs, jobs that would come with the building of a new factory.  In order to get the factory in their village, they’ll have to get the numbers, get the workers, get the space, and get a permanent doctor.  After getting into some trouble with the law, Dr. Paul Lewis is sent to the town to temporarily fill in as their full time medic.  The people of the village, desperate to get him to stay, plot to sell their charming village to the good doc by any means necessary.

Yep, it’s pretty creepy, and the villagers are nothing short of that.  But this incredibly cute story shows the will and determination of a village coming together to save what they have by any means necessary.  The cast is as charming as the town their trying to protect.  You might even be convinced to visit…. unless you like ethnic food and 40 hipster coffee joints on every corner (which I do, so… not for me).  Even Kitsch totally sells it as a caring and charming doc, made to blush when flattered by the ladies.

This departure from your average romantic comedy or slapstick laugh fest is a super cute and super unique feel good laugh.  I almost struggle to compare it to a mainstream you’re likely to have seen.  This is what “charm” looks like on screen, and you deserve that on a Thursday. (Fun fact, this appears to be a remake).  Learn more about the wonderful province of NL here.

Great if you liked: The Way Way Back, honestly, I have no idea, this is such a departure from anything I have seen…

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

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