Most of this week's picks are good movies from 2016 you might have missed...plus a little Brown Sugar.
Joshy (2016, dir. Jeff Baena) This is a minor, heavily improvised, borderline-mumblecore comedy that I first saw as part of the Chicago Critics Film Festival earlier this year. It that achieves success based on its incredible cast, which includes Thomas Middleditch, Brett Gellman, Nick Kroll, Adam Pally, Jenny Slate, Alison Brie, Lauren Graham (sort of?), Joe and Kris Swanberg and a very, very funny Alex Ross Perry. The plot, about a group of friends who get together at a rental house for a friend's bachelor weekend, is just an excuse to put these people in a room and have them hang out together. There are problems both big and small, realizations both major and minor and few real resolutions; it manages to avoid most of the cliches you would expect from a movie like this. Your mileage may vary based on your feelings about the cast, but I had a good time with it. (Watch on Hulu)
De Palma (2016, dir. Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow) I get why a lot of people (including our very own JB) don't think this is a particularly good documentary, since it's just Brian De Palma sitting down and talking about his work, interspersed with clips from his movies. But as someone who names De Palma among his all-time favorite filmmakers, I'm in heaven watching this movie. First, seeing the clips reminds me that I want to watch every Brian De Palma movie immediately. Second, he's not a guy who has spoken at much length about his work, so getting him to open up and be very candid about what works and what doesn't is a real opportunity for us fans. If anything, I'm bummed that the doc isn't an hour longer. Most of his later work gets overlooked and I want to her him talk about Femme Fatale. (Watch on Amazon Prime Video)
Harvest Lake (2016, dir. Scott Schirmer) I've talked about this movie a number of times over the course of the last year. It's one of my favorite horror films of 2016, but I also know it's the kind of movie that's going to leave a lot of people frustrated. A group of friends (among them Tristan Risk and Ellie Church) spend the weekend at a cabin where a mysterious force in the lake begins exerting some sort of power over them. There's nothing very visceral or immediate about it, which is what so many horror fans want out of their genre movies. Instead, this one is dreamy and deliberately paced while also being incredibly sexually charged and beautifully photographed. Between this and Plank Face -- both released this year -- director Scott Schirmer and the folks at Bandit Motion Pictures have really become filmmakers to watch. (Watch on Amazon Prime Video)
Outlaws and Angels (2016, dir. J.T. Mollner) I probably would have completely skipped this western from first time feature writer/director JT Mollner if I hadn't read a really positive review from Meredith Borders at Birth.Movies.Death. It stars Chad Michael Murray (pass) and Luke Wilson (pass) and Ben Browder of Farscape (interested) and Teri Polo (I have no feelings about this) and Francesca Eastwood, daughter of Clint Eastwood and Frances Fisher, in what I believe is her first starring role. It's also shot on 35mm and really violent and impossible to predict where it's going from where it begins. Not enough movies are like that. More a chamber drama than a conventional western, this one is quirky and nasty but never dull. (Watch on Amazon Prime Video)
Truck Turner (1974, dir. Jonathan Kaplan) Two weeks ago, a new subscription streaming service was launched called Brown Sugar devoted entirely to Blaxploitation movies (thanks to Josh Pearlman [a prince] for the tip). Naturally, I signed up as fast as possible. While it doesn't yet appear to be available on any third-party platforms (Roku, Apple TV, etc.) and doesn't carry most of its movies in HD, there's a pretty deep library and a shitload of terrific movies. It's basically just this and watching old Shaw Brothers movies that have allowed to me to manage my serotonin levels post-election. I only saw Truck Turner for the first time a few years ago and it immediately became one of my favorite Blaxploitation movies ever made. Every single thing about it is great, from the sleepy lead performance (and kickass score!) from Isaac Hayes to Jonathan Kaplan's fast, funny direction to Yaphet Kotto playing a badass to a super foxy Nichelle Nichols playing a madame and clearly inspiring Katt Williams' entire persona. I love, love this movie and so far love, love Brown Sugar (Watch on Brown Sugar)