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The Belko Experiment

Image result for the belko experimentI can hardly count how many movies I have said were my “best Midnight Madness experience ever” at this point.  But if there is a film that fits the bill of quality, gore, fear and sheer madness that works so well with the live tiff Midnight crown, it’s The Belko Experiment.

I went into this one like “oh, cute, the guy from The Newsroom is in it.” The world building is so strong, that a quick opening montage and you are right on board with this spooky corporate allegory and you know this will be far from “cute.”

Americans are recruited to work at a cushy office in Colombia.  Over the top security is justified by the dangerous area and workers are treated to the cliche office of their dreams.  When the building locks down and  a mysterious voice floods the intercoms demanding employees participate in a bloody game, the foreseeable chaos ensues.

This Battle Royale meets Office Space take isn’t the only one of its kind, but it is no doubt the most successful.  It is the absolute best blend of gore and fear, completely balanced to keep it a legit thriller despite the splashing blood.  It also prompted me to update my zombie contingency plan for the office.  My monitor riser makes an amazing shield.

Great if you liked: Battle Royale, The Hunger Games, Mom and Dad, Shaun of the Dead, Mayhem, The Final Girls

 

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John Dies at the End

Image result for john dies at the end posterSorry, twitterverse, this movie’s title is a spoiler.  You’ll also never believe what happens at the end of The Sixth Sense.

This movie is weird as hell.  Is that enough of a selling point?  I immediately fell in love with this for being so strange and weird and fun and remember it being an hours long universe building mind trip, but it’s 100 minutes long.

After a party, Chase wakes to discover is friend, John, is missing.  After getting some mysterious phone calls from what appears to be a clairvoyant John, Chase sets on a mission to solve the mystery of the new drug, “soy sauce,” and save the planet from what might be an otherworldly, sinister force.   Along the way, he encounters ghost hunters, evil beings, and maybe an alternative universe or two. This movie takes you so many places, you will honestly feel both older and revitalized by the end of it.

Told by Chase to a reporter, the transcendence of a linear timeline in the plot is stacked with non-linear story telling, and it’s used with careful purpose.  Watching the level headed Chase transform throughout the narrative via his own telling is relateable enough to have you wonder if you’d, you know, hunt ghosts or whatever.

In the same way you fell for the “whatever is going on,” weirdness of Dirk Gentley, you’ll fall for this.  You will spend some time trying to reason the transcendence of space and time, and ultimately land on having a great time.

Great if you liked: Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Service, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, A Scanner Darkly, Bubba Ho Tep, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, Phantasm.

Cube

I told IMDB that I liked this movie, and it started recommending movies to me like “Sphere” and “Triangle” as if the only qualification was that I liked movies titled for shapes. That said, Triangle looks dope. (And NGL, Circle is very similar and will probably be up here eventually).

Cube is like the expanded Saw franchise without the gore. Before Saw 2, there were lots of cool indie sci fi films that asked what would happen if strangers (to each other and the audience) were in an unfathomable predicament and had to reason their way out. Cube is one of the best of these.

Six strangers wake up trapped in a seemingly endless maze filled with twists, turns and traps.  Each stranger is attempting to reason why they have been selected for this deadly game and why they have been put near the others.  If you’re like me, math stresses you out, so prepare to be stressed.  The attempts to solve the cube are so frustrating for you and the characters, you’ll be scratching your head angry at every past high school math teacher for not making you care more.

Films like this are great because you never know who is telling the truth, it raises ethical questions of who’s lives matter most, and forces you to wonder how you would behave to stay alive.

A fun tidbit is that there is a sequal to this called “Cube 2: Hypercube” and a disappointingly named third called “Cube 0” as if no one noticed how good “Cube Cubed” would have been.

I recommend this for a rainy Sunday inside, which will hopefully happen at some point this sunny October, ammiright?

Great if you liked: Saw, Exam, Circle, Triangle, Identity, Coherence

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

 

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