Summer is over. With the help of the inexorable passage of time, you frittered it way. What did you do, stay home and stream movies? Buy Blu-rays? No? You went out? You hiked in the woods, made a bonfire on the beach, caught lightning bugs in a jar, churned your own ice cream, fell in love under the stars, read all seven volumes of A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu in a hammock? Oh, OK, my bad. Well, you are probably exhausted and just want to chill with some movies. As ever, we've got some recommendations.
This Swedish sci-fi drama is based on a poem (that's like a song without even any music) by Nobel laureate Harry Martinson. The result, from filmmakers Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja, is a mishmash of survival horror and dystopian social commentary.
As Earth's environment becomes less viable for humans (I like to picture our boiling oceans like a dog shaking off fleas; the planet will survive, it's the people who are screwed), those with money are taking space cruise liners to Mars. Our nameless heroine (Emelie Jonsson) works in a stall on one ship's enormous promenade. As passengers get nostalgic for Terran nature, the "Mima" (think Star Trek's holodeck times 100) can zap your brain to recycle a pleasant memory. Unfortunately, an accident sets the ship off-course, marooning everyone in this miniature false utopia.
What's best about Aniara, apart from the sleek design and clever special effects, is how seriously it charts out the What would this be like? process. I'll never get lost in deep space (or at least, I don't think I will), but after this movie, I'd know what to expect.
So maybe you've heard of it? The biggest grosser in the history of movies (Gone With The Wind races in, panting and shaking its fist, to cry out "Unadjusted for inflation!"), Joe and Anthony Russo have put together a staggering, satisfying heist picture conclusion to an unprecedented 22 connected films. It's not crazy to suggest that Marvel consider walking away from the table now before everyone gets bored of superheroes, but, uh, did I mention how much money it made? It's going to be a long time until they call it quits.
The home releases of Avengers: Endgame are as stuffed with extra features, and Amazon offers a streaming option packed with bonuses too. They total a whopping seven hours and three minutes, meaning even the stoutest comic book enthusiast will have to take at least a bathroom break. An already-famous deleted scene involves all of our heroes "taking a knee" when someone falls in battle. I'm not saying who; maybe you are one of the six people who haven't seen the movie yet.
Walt Disney Studios
The last corner of comic book fandom where only the hardcore converts dwell is the DC Universe Animated Original Movies. Out in plain view, but ignored by many, this (mostly) PG-13 series of DTDVD films now has 35 entries. The animation style (and overall quality) has varied since Superman: Doomsday hit shelves in 2007, but devotees are clearly gobbling them up.
The DCUAOM titles are usually based on comic book storylines, and Batman: Hush comes from Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee's 12-issue arc from 2002-2003. In it, the Caped Crusader ends up facing down most of his rogues gallery as part of a struggle with a new villain called Hush. Additionally, he begins a dangerous romance with Catwoman. Jason O'Mara returns to voice Bruce Wayne/Batman, Jennifer Morrison voices Selina Kyle/Catwoman, and real-life married couple Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn are Clark Kent and Lois Lane, so that's nice.
You've always had a dream to visit a three-star hotel off a highway during a programmers' convention in the early 1980s. And you'd want it to somehow all happen in analog black-and-white video.
Director Andrew Bujalski would go on to make last year's celebrated punch-the-clock drama Support the Girls, but this oddball indie dates back to 2013. It plays like a humorous nightmare, as if the characters from Eraserhead were nerds who liked to play Zork.
Part of its success is as a recreated time capsule of a time when working "in computers" meant you may be a math genius, but you might also be a counterculture freak. (As 20th-century historian Jesse Jarnow explains in his seminal work Heads: A Biography Of Psychedelic Americans, the first trans-university ARPANETs were used to exchange Grateful Dead lyrics.) But it's also a great horror yarn about tech paranoia, in addition to a comedy thoroughly basted in absurdity. Don't get rooked into missing this one!
There have been some challengers, like Equilibrium or Jupiter Ascending, but for bonkers big-budget beautiful sci-fi, there's nothing quite like The Fifth Element. If you've somehow never seen it, know that a free streaming option is available for those of you with an Amazon Prime account.
Here's just a taste.
Milla Jovovich stars as Leeloo Minai Lekatariba-Laminai-Tchai Ekbat de Sebat, a supreme being with orange hair and, like, weird suspenders that don't fit in a way suspenders usually do. One day she falls into Korben Dallas' (Bruce Willis) sky taxi, and together they must evade Gary Oldman's villainous Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg. Man, I could just sit here and type out the awesome character names all day. Anyway, the movie is gorgeous and silly and reminiscent of when we were all young, or at least younger. Even two decades later, it feels ahead of its time.
Whereas Bohemian Rhapsody scraped by just through being energetic, Rocketman proves that you can make a movie about a queer British rocker from the 1970s stricken with woe and not have people saying "God, this script is TERRIBLE."
The director-star team of Dexter Fletcher and Taron Egerton have re-teamed (What, you never saw Eddie the Eagle? It rules!) for what could have been a standard biopic, but has just enough oomph to make it essential. Importantly, they've done away with slavish devotion to, uh, the truth (leave your "He didn't write that song yet!" criticisms aside) to give us the essence of Elton John with some lavish, propulsive musical numbers. The two-disc Blu-ray has 75 minutes of bonus materials, plus a nicely printed booklet for hardcore fans.
Chinese director Zhang Yimou has made some of the most visually expressive martial arts epics in all of history, and his latest, Shadow, can easily sit alongside his earlier hits Hero and House Of Flying Daggers.
Shadow is a study in gray -- and not just as a commentary on good and evil, but in its very color scheme. Deng Chao is a cunning commander who grooms a young man (also played by Deng) to be his body double. The plan is to trick a cowardly king into saving face against an enemy. This leads to an amazing rain-soaked action finale that involves the most deadly and well-choreographed use of umbrellas ever put to film. Note: All that gray eventually gets tinted deep red.
Sometimes Eddie Griffin comedies from 2002 don't get a Blu-ray release until 2019. Sure, it's already on DVD, and you can stream it, and I suspect there's a basic cable channel out there showing it next Tuesday at 2 a.m., but somebody wants to see Undercover Brother in high resolution ... and maybe that somebody is you!
Griffin is half Shaft, half 007 in this dopey comedy mixing blaxploitation tropes and '90s action flicks. Chris Kattan, Dave Chappelle, and Denise Richards co-star. Richards was placed posterior-prominent on the poster, and this is the type of movie that is kinda-sorta making fun of movies that put their starlets posterior-prominent on the poster. She is deployed against our hero (Undercover Brother) as "black man's Kryptonite," which might be a little offensive, but 2002 was a long, long time ago. Writer John Ridley later won an Oscar for 12 Years A Slave, so it's OK to laugh, I think?
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