our screening of Die Hard tonight, here are some movies you should watch instead.
Zombie Girl: The Movie (2009; dir. Justin Johnson, Aaron Marshall, Erik Mauck) The perfect movie if you’ve been feeling cynical about movies. This documentary is about Emily Hagens, the 12-year-old writer/director of a feature-length zombie movie called Pathogen. The cameras follow her progress from pre-production through the movie’s Alamo Drafthouse premiere (though sadly, we never get to see any of the final product). Emily may be young, but the process is as hard as any shoot, with the added stress of wrangling junior high school actors. The film’s best moments are between Emily and her ultra-supportive mom, who is more than happy to hold the boom mic, apply zombie makeup, and even pull an all-nighter to make a decapitated stunt head. That’s love. That’s Zombie Girl.
The Wild Hunt (2009; dir. Alexandre Franchi) I’ve been talking about this movie for a while, but never in an official way on the site (I keep telling Patrick to watch it, but he’s too busy with breakdancing David Bowie movies or something). If you think Live-Action Role Playing is for cute dorks with cardboard shields, you’re probably right. But in this movie, it’s far spookier juju. A commoner named Erik tracks his runaway girlfriend, Lyn, to a LARPing retreat in the wilds of Quebec (see, I told you it was scary), where simmering tensions and unstable minds turn a mock ritual into something far more dangerous.
Grizzly Man (2005; dir. Werner Herzog) For part of Timothy Treadwell’s life, he enjoyed a peace that is unimaginable to most of us -- the peace of living in the wild with grizzly bears.
I Need That Record! (2008; dir. Brendon Toller) Interesting documentary about record collecting, but the film is actually about the spirit of community that is broken once all the record stores close.
Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) (2010; dir. John Sheinfeld) Watch this terrific documentary and find out!
Chinatown (1978; dir. Roman Polanski) Oh my God! Chinatown is available on Netflix Instant? I’m watching it right now with my sister… my daughter… my sister… my daughter… I’m watching it with my sister AND my daughter!
The Devil’s Double (2011; dir. Lee Tamahori) Dominic Cooper plays the man who (allegedly) acted as the body double for Uday Hussein (Saddam’s son), and gets sucked into the graft and privilege of a dictator’s life as Iraq crumbles around him. Cooper does a great job playing the two lead roles of Uday Hussein and Latif Yahia, the man who is trying to maintain his integrity, and his performance is the main reason to watch. Like most movies of this type, some of the historical accuracy is debatable (especially since Yahia's claims are disputed) but that doesn't take away from the weight of a story of an ordinary man trying to make decisions in difficult circumstances.
Goon (2011, dir; Michael Dowse) Seann William Scott (of Stifler fame, although why do they spell it that way? Wouldn't "stifler" be someone who stifles? Wouldn't "Stiffler" make more sense? I'll stop) plays a thick-skulled, bull-necked, affable simpleton who ends up as a minor league hockey enforcer after he knocks out a player during a scuffle in the stands. We're used to Scott hamming it up for comedy, but he does well playing a completely earnest character, and I was pleasantly surprised and appreciative of his performance. Fun fact: Jay Baruchel and Evan Goldberg have screenplay writing credits on this one.
Hellboy (2004; dir. Guillermo Del Toro) It doesn’t seem to get mentioned much when magazines or websites rattle off their lists of best comic book movies ever made, but Hellboy deserves to be in the conversation. Like most of Del Toro’s films, it’s a beautiful looking movie with fantastic designs (some are his, while even more are Hellboy creator Mike Mignola’s). But what makes Hellboy stand out to me is its attempt to actually have three dimensional characters. It’d be easy to ignore the people and relationships that inhabit the Hellboy world, and instead give us a kick-ass monster action movie. Thankfully Hellboy manages to give us both.
Small Soldiers (1998; dir. Joe Dante) One of the most underrated movies from Joe Dante, my favorite director. Swallowed up in the summer of 1998 among much "bigger" movies like Armageddon and Godzilla, written off as just another version of Gremlins, deemed too smart and/or violent for kids but appearing too kiddie for adults -- there were too many reasons the movie undeservedly failed at the box office. It's a great satire of the way that Americans are indoctrinated to war through pop culture (namely movies) and corporations who market it to us through toys. Lots of Dante's usual in-jokes, plus voice work from the surviving members of The Dirty Dozen and Spinal Tap.