Cracked's 8 Favorite Movies of July 2019
It's the thick of the summer, and you know what you should be doing. Hiking? Swimming? Gazing out at the stars on a clear, contemplative night and acknowledging with awe and wonderment the miracle of your individual existence amidst the overwhelming vastness of the great cosmos? Heck no! You should be inside, with the air conditioner blasting, watching Blu-rays and streaming like a sensible citizen! There's a lot of fresh material out there, from giant superhero flicks to prestige TV to newly available classics to oddball indies you might have missed. And we're here to help.
The 21st entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, while certainly a financial success, didn't easily snap into place with the rest of the series. A new character from earlier in the timeline jumping back-and-forth with flashbacks can do that.
Brie Larson's turn as the amnesiac Kree Starforce special agent / USAF top gun / '90s fashion plate did not have the loopy humor of Thor: Ragnarok, visual crackle of Ant-Man And The Wasp, historical sweep of Black Panther, or the kick in the feels of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2. And those looking for a superhero girl power champion were undoubtedly better-served by Wonder Woman. But before we had a chance to assess Carol Danvers qua Carol Danvers, the movie got shunted aside in the run-up to the mighty Avengers: Endgame only a few weeks later. Thank Mar-Vell for Blu-ray and streaming!
The time for reassessment is now. Because this movie rules. Annette Bening as a mind-reading AI, Ben Mendelsohn drinking Pulp Fiction's milkshake, and the origins of Nick Fury's missing eye are just three reasons. Jude Law becoming the poster boy for "Debate me!" bozos looking to annoy women online is further icing on the cake.
Hedwig And The Angry Inch
It's been two decades since John Cameron Mitchell's East German glam-rock queer icon made her debut in an Off-Broadway theater that's now the bar of a stylish boutique hotel. At the time, it was a mostly dormant ballroom attached to a decrepit hotel built in 1908. (Fun fact: When it had the florid name of the American Seaman's Friend Society Sailors' Home and Institute, it housed survivors of the Titanic.) The story of Hedwig, the Teutonic genderfluid chanteuse, her protege/muse Tommy Gnosis, husband Yitzahk, and its colorful interpretation of Aristophanes' speech from Plato's Symposiums, has been delighting theater kids ever since.
The 2001 movie version is at long last getting the Criterion treatment it deserves, with a new batch of interviews, a conversation between composer Stephen Trask and rock journo David Fricke, a look into Hedwig memorabilia, and a new essay from America's most fashion-forward film critic, Stephanie Zacharek.
The Hummingbird Project
Do you know anything about day trading? Of course you do. You retired at age 29 after amassing a fortune, and now you spend your hours reading Cracked, like all righteous geniuses of leisure. On the off-chance this doesn't apply to you, know that in the world of high-tech economics, fortunes aren't made in seconds, but fractions of seconds. Hence this weird drama starring Jesse Eisenberg (that absolutely nobody saw, but we swear is good) about the surprisingly thrilling arms race surrounding trade-reflective pings and a quixotic quest to quietly drill a fiber-optic cable from Kansas to New Jersey.
Eisenberg is outstanding as a visionary businessman in too deep, Alexander Skarsgard is wonderfully against type as a savant-like computer genius, and Salma Hayek is dynamite as a cutthroat businesswoman who can smell competition even if it's buried under shale. The worlds of technology, finance, construction, and the Amish (yes, the Amish) all lock horns in this very original story. This film may be about boring, but it is anything but.
Orange Is The New Black, Seasons 1-5
Those without Netflix need no longer be in the dark about its top-shelf original program. As Season 7 readies for its debut, this reasonably priced 20-disc set (DVD only) affords one the opportunity to get (mostly) caught up.
The comedy/drama, based on the unlikely criminal Piper Kerman's wide-eyed memoir, has come a long way since its 2013 debut, standing as Netflix's longest-running original series. Start at the beginning to see how a privileged upper-middle-class gal ends up in a federal prison, who exactly is "Crazy Eyes," why Captain Janeway serves our lead character a tampon sandwich, and what happens when Jason Biggs details the concept of edging to his parents. There's a reason this show is popular.
The Silence Of The Lambs
Only three films in history have won the "Big Five" Oscars -- Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Screenplay. And of those three, only one includes a shot of a man tucking his junk while lip-syncing to an obscure New Wave track while a kidnapped girl at the bottom of a well tries to lure a poodle to its doom. But enough about Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night!
It's rare that a film so gross (and not in a historical way) gets awards attention, but we guess 1991 was a magical time when those who distributed trophies recognized that the entertainment business should be in the business of entertaining people. (Oh snap! Watch out, he doesn't care whose toes he steps on!)
Anyway, Anthony Hopkins talking about eating a human liver with fava beans is high-quality cinema. He rode the Hannibal Lecter train for a few more sequels (and don't forget that Silence was not the first appearance for the character), but it was Jonathan Demme's iteration that took these pulp minerals and smelted them into gold. This masterpiece recently started streaming for free on Amazon Prime, so watch it again. It's even better than you remember.
Mel Brooks' last truly great film (fight me, Life Stinks stans!), Spaceballs has more laughs than any Star Wars film, if you don't count the "I hate sand" moment from Attack Of The Clones. (Not even Brooks could poke fun at dialogue like that.)
Newly streaming for nary an extra space buck on Amazon Prime, the tale of Lone Starr and Barf rescuing Princess Vespa from Dark Helmet and Colonel Sanderz is ripe for rediscovery. Of note, the biggest laugh in the entire picture is delivered by Tim Russ, who would later find notoriety elsewhere in the galaxy as Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. (And, oh yes, Brooks extends some japes at that franchise too. Who can forget "Snotty beamed me twice last night. It was wonderful!")
Shields up! Incoming factoid! The reason we never got to play with Spaceballs action figures (thus keeping kids from doing Joan Rivers impressions on the playground for years) was that George Lucas, who could have been a jerk and nixed the whole project, specifically asked Brooks not to make them. This even though Brooks' character, Yogurt, makes such a big deal about "merchandising! merchandising! Where the real money from the movie is made!" Lucas was apparently worried that little plastic Bill Pullmans, Rick Moranises, Daphne Zunigas, and John Candys would look too much like products from his own line. Brooks didn't fight it.
Too bad. We'd have bought Spaceballs: The Flamethrower.
However, when streaming Spaceballs, older viewers may need to be on hand to explain to younger viewers just what the deal was with Michael Winslow. The '80s were weird!
Under The Silver Lake
Here's how you know a movie is good: when a studio does everything it can to bury it.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell (a man with three first names, so you know he's gotta mean business) wowed critics and audiences in 2014 with It Follows. He was given a carte blanche for his next project, and brought this 140-minute puzzle to the Cannes Film Festival in 2018, with the intention of opening it stateside in June. That date got pushed to December, and then the following April, where it kinda dribbled out into a handful of theaters with minimal promotion.
There are some who suggested that the movie blurred the lines between portraying less-than-virtuous attitudes with actually representing those attitudes. You'll have to decide for yourself if this is the case. (Note: If you decide that the movie itself is immoral, you are a yutz. The movie is smart and knows exactly what it is doing.)
As you make that inquiry, you'll watch Andrew Garfield play a bozo loser Angeleno with no job, no prospects, and no idea how to treat women, who falls into a pit of conspiracy theories and pop culture obsession. Oh god, we know, this sounds like that one dude you used to hang out with and now can't stand who won't leave you alone on Facebook. But that's why this movie is great. Internet-fueled brain worms are real, and while Mitchell (or was it Robert? No, it's Mitchell) doesn't throw any angry vlogger vids on the screen -- he's much more enamored of film noir -- the dangerous "redpill" phenomenon is what this movie is really all about. But it's also a very funny mystery that borders at times with sci-fi, and features great LA locations and a top-notch performance from Garfield. One of the best movies of the year.
Currently ranked #5 in 2019's domestic box office, Jordan Peele's followup to Get Out is the only film in the top 15 that isn't a sequel, remake, or based on a preexisting property. Hollywood! Maybe that's fitting, though, considering how Us tells the tale of vengeance-fueled doubles out to grab what's owed them. Or maybe we're stretching the metaphor a little thin. This movie's world-building is such that it easily lends itself to just about any kind of interpretation.
That's part of why it is so terrifying. The movie doesn't 100% make sense when you hold it up to the light (where do the Tethered get, like, material to sew their outfits?), but as you are watching, it is absolutely spellbinding. Lupita Nyong'o's nightmarish doppelganger, with her eerie, reedy vocalization, causes a nails-on-chalkboard reaction that is biological. Much like the tormented characters, you cannot turn away, nor can you really run from their accusations.
"Is the version of myself I sacrifice for comfort the true version of myself?" Peele may have you wondering in between the set pieces of slow-motion dread. "Oh wow, I thought I was going to watch a fun horror movie, not spend a night in therapy!" Like the world we can't see or understand, complex themes work beneath the surface here.
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