For your non-Superbowl weekend watching consideration: my list of “perfect” movies. For a lad of my famously manly, virile bearing, it may surprise (nay, dismay) some of my fans to find many dreaded rom-coms on the list, but let’s face it. I want to approach the world optimistically and I believe in love: not gonna find a lot of that stuff in the more tedious art-house offerings like “Atonement,” which offered great acting and was beautifully composed, but was a wretched cheat at the end.
This is an entirely subjective collection of films that, for whatever reason, really worked for me. I don’t have a single “favorite” film. It’s more like I have favorites of a kind of film. I’m going to avoid the obvious classics, such as “North by Northwest” (if you haven’t seen it in it’s uncut glory, we have nothing further to discuss) as well as recent classics (“Avengers,” “Captain America Winter Soldier,” etc.) . These are typically more modern, contemporary films that didn’t or haven’t received the love they should, damnit. If I’ve reviewed them else where, I’ll add a link to that, as well.
Finally, I have to tell you that I’m not going to go into great detail about the plots. One of the things that made these films so memorable were the ways they avoided convention and commonality (even if, like “Just Friends,” they tended a bit toward raunchy humor).
Safety Not Guaranteed – Funny, quirky, moving. Great date night stuff if you have a slightly off-beat sense of humor. (Seth Rogan lovers need not apply…this is actually smart and emotionally grounded material)
Drive Angry – The Best Supernatural Revenge B-Movie You’ve Never Seen. “This 2011 movie (one can’t call it a “film”) is like a 70’s Drive-In movie brought forward 30 years: higher budget, better tech, and actors whose names are known by more people than their dealer. The basic plot sounds promising: Man breaks out of prison to avenge the daughter he left behind and to protect her baby. The fact the prison is actually Hell and the convict’s name is Milton, John Milton, only makes it better. With such a cornucopia of low-brow entertainment, it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s got guns, breasts, shoot-outs, gratuitous nudity, explosions, nekkid women fist-fights, corrupt Southern sheriffs, and more breasts: DNA ripped right from the very Id of the Drive-In.”
Just Friends – Another film I just tripped over one day. A very, very funny Ryan Reynolds as the cynical Cinderella in reverse, Anna Farris at her most unhinged, and Amy Smart as the really decent girl who got away. A lot of sly bits, a lot of fall-over laughing stuff, and more heart than anyone would expect under the slapstick.
About Time – for those who know, this is probably one of the more unexpected choices. It’s written and directed by Richard Curtis (don’t miss “The Tall Guy,” with Jeff Goldblum and young Emma Watson, either), a certified lefty. Curtis was the creator and director of the justifiably derided “Blow Up the Global Warming and Invariably White Skeptics” PSA. All of that aside, this is a wonderful rom-com about a guy who can travel back in time (only in his own life). Curtis walks a narrow line, and just when you’re wincing in fear that he’s going to lurch into “oh, ick!” territory, the entire film shifts and becomes about…well, you have to see it yourself. Very, very funny with awesome turns by Rachel McAdams, Billy Nighy, and Domhall Gleason.
StarMan – Lost alien trying to get home? Not ET, no, it’s Jeff Bridges as the alien, and a luminous Karen Allen as the grieving earthling who’s pressed into service to get him back. Directed by John Carpenter (earning Bridges an Academy Award nomination), this came out about 1980. Another road movie, but a journey well worth taking. If you’ve only seen it on basic cable, you owe it to yourself to see the full, uncut version.
Edge of Tomorrow – another good film that was just killed by a lousy advertising campaign that made it look like “Alien Groundhog Day” (another perfect film and if you haven’t seen Harold Ramis’ masterpiece, are you unworthy of associating with civilized people anywhere). Great SF, smart SF, with a funny, capable, convincing Tom Cruise and a tough, fatalistic Emily Blunt as the only two people who might be able to save the world from the squiggly extraterrestrial bad guys. Final note: I paid full price to see this. Twice. I can offer no higher praise, especially in these tough economic times. I’ve ordered my bluray, and I’ll slap that puppy in the player the day it arrives.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – There were a couple of “End of the World Comedies” that came out about the same time (“This is the End,” a stoner vanity project from Seth Rogan and Co., and “The World’s End,” less of a vanity project, but still not a satisfying story), and this was probably the least financially successful of all of them. With Steve Carrell (the thinking man’s Jim Carrey, minus the Tourette’s-like over-reactions) and Kiera Knightley as unknowing neighbors facing Armageddon together. A comedy about the apocalypse that is also an emotionally touching road-movie about love.
Crazy Stupid Love – Another Steve Carrell film (again, under the hand of a director who probably regularly reminded him “You’re playing a recognizable human being, not a slapstick caricature”), with tremendous supporting work from Ryan Gosling, Emma Thompson, Julia Moore, and a terrifically game Marisa Tomei (proving her Academy Award for “My Cousin Vinnie” wasn’t some glitch in the voting system). A man’s marriage breaks up after almost 20 years, and he navigates the minefield of being newly single with the help of Ladies Man Gosling. On the surface, pretty stock, but the writing is tight, the twists are unexpected, and the laughs (and a few tears) are consistent.
Equilibriuum – the film that got Christian Bale his Batman gig and one that barely had any theatrical release in the US. Enough people saw it, however, that word spread. I know I got it from Netflix about 5 years ago and immediately bought my own copy (and now have the BluRay). Clearly a low-budget effort, it forced the writer/director to rely on an intelligent story rather than jamming it with effects (ala, say, “Avatar, aka Dances With Smurfs”). It’s a wonderful dystopian film, with stunning action pieces…let’s face it, this is the movie we all hoped Matrix 2/3 would be.
If there’s one thing these films have it common, it is, in the Prince’s humble and royal opinion, what all the best movies are about. They’re all about love, in one form or another. Enjoy!
It’s not a perfect film, by any means, but it’s perfectly insane. Sunshine, a terrific SF film that goes completely off the rails at the end, not from a lack of ambition, but from an excess of courage. Still, great acting (Chris Evans, the once and future Captain America, in the movie that convinced people could actually act), terrific effects, awesome music. Check it out…you’ll be surprised.