Movies We Think You'll Like
Ah, autumn has come. The crisp air, leaves exploding into color, comfy sweaters, and apple cinnamon donut crumbs all over your car point to such! It's impossible not to love this time of year. And as ever, our official policy is to ignore all that, lock ourselves indoors, check out what movies we can watch, and try to forget that we're inexorably marching toward the barren wastes of winter.
To call this "Superbad with girls!" is reductive and silly and probably a little bit sexist. It is, however, rather succinct and accurate. Beanie Feldstein (Jonah Hill's sister!) and Kaitlyn Dever play best friends, with Feldstein ebullient, outsized, and brash, and Dever more quiet and somewhat neurasthenic. The two are facing the end of high school, but there's one last night of partying to look forward to, plus a wacky third wheel tagging along who kinda steals the show. Can their friendship last? OK wow, that sounds exactly like Superbad. But hey, formulas exist for a reason. Luckily, Superbad was (and is!) a scream, plus it also had some heart, so it's no insult.
The laughs are rich, things get surreal (there's a whole trip-out sequence when everything turns into Barbie dolls), and it actually has a righteous message for young women looking down the barrel of a patriarchal society. The movie is directed by Olivia Wilde, who has sincere comic chops. Hopefully this is not a one-and-done from her. Rent it or check out the Blu-ray.
The Dead Don't Die
You get no lies from me, ever: Other than his very first, just-out-of-school feature Permanent Vacation, this is the worst movie Jim Jarmusch has ever made. But that's kinda like saying "This gallon of water here in the middle of the desert isn't as cold as I'd like." The deadpan, ultra-cool "downtown" style Jarmusch has perfected over the decades is still must-see material for anyone serious about American cinema, and this very slow, not-very-serious zombie comedy is part of that tradition.
Adam Driver, Bill Murray, and Chloe Sevigny are cops in a sleepy town who start to notice some strange goings-on. Eventually (and boy, it sure takes a while), corpses emerge from the cemetery, driven by whatever craving defined them in life. To that end, the undead Iggy Pop (a coffee nut, I suppose) marches his way to the diner to find a cup of Joe. That he also attacks a waitress and eats her entrails is just extra.
Things lead to an absurd climax (featuring a sword-wielding Tilda Swinton), which many viewers will think is plain dumb, but others who are in on the joke will find dryly enjoyable. Check it out yourself and see which side you're on. Rent or Blu-ray, it's your choice.
One of the great, gross sci-fi horror movies is newly available on Amazon Prime Video. Hit "Play" and be amazed at how well the special effects hold up 22 years later.
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (never have middle initials been so important!), the man who later brought us all 16 Resident Evil movies, the movie stars Laurence Fishburne, Kathleen Quinlan, and Joely Richardson on the lookout for a missing spaceship. They end up happening upon a rift in spacetime (hate when that happens) created by Sam Neill's newfangled "gravity drive." Next thing you know, the ship is alive, man, and the kills are some of the nastiest (though still entertaining) that you are likely to see in a largeish-budget space movie.
Looking at it from 2019 is also fun, as you'll get a peek at a young Jason Isaacs as a doctor.
Marvel and DC are fine, but Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes is still the best movie adapted from a comic book, and probably always will be. Ghost World stars Thora Birch as Enid Coleslaw, a disaffected teen who will never sell out, and Scarlett Johansson as her best pal through high school who soon begins adapting to the "real world." I can think of few finer depictions of pre-9/11 hatred of American consumer values. It is newly available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
The film is a series of vignettes, opening with Birch spasm-dancing to "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" from the Bollywood classic Gumnaam, and culminating in an ending that's either cautiously optimistic or the most bleak thing imaginable. Ghost World is also notable for Steve Buscemi's performance as a middle-aged shut-in who hates everything about modern society, yells at babies from his car, and sleeps with an underage girl, but is still somehow likable. The movies!
Dim the lights, turn on the lava lamp, and get ready to space out with The Planets, five episodes from PBS' long-running science series Nova. Narrated by Zachary Quinto, this gorgeous show opens with the math rock of Muse and features some of the most cutting-edge space visualizations created, along with new real extraterrestrial footage. Various experts provide both the broad and granular view concerning Earth's neighbors.
The series begins with Mercury, then makes its way past the third rock from the Sun to the gas giants, including the funniest planet of all, Uranus. Pluto gets a shout-out, as Kuiper Belt objects are notable, but we all need to stop bellyaching about that big ice ball not being a planet. It's been decided, it's over, let's move on. This is perfect viewing for both close study as well as hazy late nights, even to have on in the background during a party -- maybe on mute while you blaze Gustav Holst through good speakers. Get your science on with Blu-ray or streaming.
Gore Verbinski's gorgeously detailed, deeply stylized animated western is one of the best kid-friendly movies of the last decade, and it's made its way to Prime. It follows the adventures of a pet chameleon who accidentally ends up in the Mojave, protecting the town of Dirt from greedy baddies.
The breezy plot and overall tone is far more surreal and trippy than what's usually crammed down Junior's throat. This is oftentimes a recipe for box office trouble, but luckily, this mix of High Noon and Chinatown told via Southwestern critters connected with audiences. I mean, when you've got Ned Beatty voicing a doddering tortoise mayor, you know you've got something that will connect! It's available to rent right now.
The Road Warrior
The ride to Mad Max: Fury Road, also known as the finest action movie of the last decade (and maybe ever), begins here. The original (either with or without a dubbed-over Mel Gibson, there are two versions) is a terrific low-budget film about a spirited highway patrolman who isn't afraid to ignore the speed limit to get his man. But other than some rather tight leather pants, nothing in the movie gets too fantastical.
Then came Mad Max 2 (often called The Road Warrior), and that's when "not far into the future" became the post-apocalyptic wasteland we all picture when we think of these movies. As society fades into memory, all spare time apparently goes to building badass automobiles and whacked-out costumes.
In The Road Warrior, Max fights Lord Humungus, a marble slab of a man wearing metal undergarments and a helmet that's part Man In The Iron Mask and part '80s goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers. As Max zooms along to rescue a helpless desert town (a plot not dissimilar from Rango, come to think of it), everything builds to an action climax that, 38 years later, remains one of the most gripping ever filmed. And it's streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
This movie was savaged this summer, and I am in no way suggesting that it is good. But it isn't terrible. Based on Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Dark Phoenix Saga run on Marvel comics (as was X-Men: The Last Stand, also a bit of a disappointment), the movie definitely has a few things going for it. I for one never tire of watching Michael Fassbender strain his face and neck muscles as he pretends to exert magnetic power. Similarly, any Professor X trip to Cerebro (whether it is Patrick Stewart or James McAvoy) is gonna get me going "Whoa."
Sophie Turner is good as Jean Grey, switching between being frightened and guilt-ridden to being a swaggering badass. The script is all over the place (like introducing major motivating factors in the very last scene!), but that ain't her fault. Nor is it the fault of any of the mutants that a major set piece is just basically a bunch of guys trying to cross a street. This is probably the last X-Men movie for a while, and for that alone, it's worth checking out. Some of the action is great, though maybe not as great the unimpressed reaction you'll give at the end. "Wait, that's it!?" is hardly thing you should say after a whole slew of movies, unless you've got a sense of humor about these things. Check out the Blu-ray or rent it.
For more, check out 5 Reasons Movies Keep Getting Worse:
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