Thursday, June 13, 2013

Staff Picks (Part Three)

Filmzilla has closed and with it, all the good times...

Somehow we'll soldier on... In lieu of the daily in-person experience you could have had in what is now a much lamented and by-gone era, I've decided to chronicle my Staff Picks wall for you as a sort of guide to some real good movies, or maybe just as a list of movies I happen to like a lot, or maybe you could say that this is really an ultimate (but not quite 100% complete) My Favorite Movies list, or... as the length of the list would coincidentally have it, you could simply call it:

Jon's Hot 100
(Part Three--Numbers 21 thru 30)

You can find Parts One and Two of this list here, so feel free to go on and refresh yourself before diving into Part Three. And of course, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical... Shall we continue?

21. Bodyguards and Assassins

The first film on our list today is a big time Kung fu epic. Part historical drama, part Magnificent Seven, it takes place in 1905, as Sun Yat-sen--Revolutionary and one of the Founding Father's of the Republic of China--journeys to Hong Kong for a high level meeting. In response, the Qing Dynasty secretly sends teams of assassins to take Sun Yat-sen out, a lot of assassins, so sympathetic elements already in Hong Kong assemble a rag-tag group of local bodyguards. It could be viewed as a slow starter by some, but the big climax, a running battle through the Hong Kong streets, is more than worth the wait. The fight on the staircase? That's my favorite. Also, Donnie Yen is one of the stars (as evidenced by the poster above), but he's playing against type, should any of you dislike his more heroic persona. For those of you who don't watch many of these types of movies, Bodyguards and Assassins is a good one to try out.

22. Brick

Brick was the Directorial debut of Writer/Director Rian Johnson, a name that pops up more than once on this list due to his vision, style, and original voice. His movies are pretty good. They're smart and funny and pretty cool. Brick is all of that. It's a Raymond Chandler-esque noir murder mystery with a grizzled P.I., a Femme Fatale, all the familiar tropes of the genre... all set in a modern-day suburban California high school and all of it played straight too, no winking. It's a mash-up, just because, and it completely works. Sure, they all talk funny, but don't worry, that's just the Raymond Chandler, kids, roll with it. It's worth your time.

23. Bridge

The idea behind this documentary scares some people. It's about people who have killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. All caught on security camera. But it's not exploitative. It's not sensational. It's about the Golden Gate Bridge and suicide and why the two seem to go together so often. It's about the people who jumped and the people they left behind. It's about how people deal with death. It's sad and touching and very honest. It's a very cathartic film. It's not scary at all.

24. The Cabin in the Woods

I've mentioned this film before. A lot, actually. That's because it's great. Completely great. An instant classic, even. It languished on the shelf for a few year, a victim of the Weinstein/Miramax split, before finally making it's way to theatres, but all that delay did was cement 2012 as the year of co-writer and co-director Joss Whedon. He dominated with the Avengers, which everyone saw. Cabin in the Woods is the less heralded part of that very good year. Built around a twist that isn't quite a twist, loaded with self-awareness that doesn't fall into parody, it's a slasher film with heart, brains and perspective, funny and gory, but much, much better than you'd ever expect it to be. You don't like slasher films? That's not relevant. Yes, it IS a slasher film, but it's also not a slasher film. Just watch it, it's one of the new mandatory ones.

25. The Carrier

"Cats or Death!" I don't often do this, but this is the best Bad Movie I've ever seen. So earnest, so inept, so weird, and so so stupid. It's about this kid who... I don't know, there was something about his parents and their house getting burned down. He might have done it, maybe. Anyway, he gets attacked by a monster one rainy night. Then the movie seems to forget about all that and becomes about how the kid now has some disease that he accidentally infects inanimate objects with and then when someone else touches that object, they melt. So, naturally, the town immediately devolves into two separate camps wrapped in sheets and using cats to test all the inanimate objects for disease with, because cats can smell it or something. It goes lunatic very quickly. Watch it with friends.

26. Cemetery Man

Cemetery Man seems to still have that "forgotten film" allure because it came out in that mid-90s time period before DVDs were really around, before people were as "into" movies, before Blockbusters were quite as large and all-pervasive as they are now. It's an Italian film that just seemed to get lost in the shuffle. It's known, people know it, but it never seemed to really catch on, not for long, even on the film head circuit. Which is too bad, because it's a really funny dark comedy about a man who works in a cemetery where the recently dead rise from their grave with an insatiable hunger for warm flesh... you know the drill. Well, rather than go through all the trouble and attention and paperwork that such an event would no doubt bring about, he just spends his nights re-killing and re-burying them. The only problem? He's dissatisfied with his work. He questions his purpose? What's a man to do?

27. Children of Men

This is one of my all-time most favorite films, I only gush about Children of Men. The Directing. The Acting. The Story. The World-building. All of the little details. It's so well done. So good. Some of the ways certain scenes are shot are just amazing: the wildings attack on the car, the escape from the farm, the camp revolt? Just amazing. People are sometimes crushed by how dark the film is, but I disagree completely, I find it a hopeful film, blooming with hope. At least at the end anyway. This is one of my favorites, so highest possible recommendation.

28. Chopper

This film was Eric Bana's big American debut (remember when he was a big deal--I kid), anyway, he turns in a tour-de-force performance as Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read, a notorious and charismatic Australian thief, drug dealer, and murderer, who's exploits and subsequent media appearances ended up captivating the nation. Being Australian, the guy is a complete nut. He's famous for cutting off his own ears in order to be transferred out of a prison after his sudden shanking of an inmate had resulted in a contract out on his life. And of course he talked about it, everywhere he could. Blabbed. Telling stories. And the people loved him for it. So this is kind of a bio-pic, but it's full of lies, most likely. Still a great story. And a great performance.

29. City of God

City of God is loosely based on true events in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, hence the title. It's a familiar story, the story of young men with very few options and the inevitable spiral of gang life and death that claims most of them. I'm sure you're thinking: "Seen it before. Heard it before. In fact, I own a VHS copy of Boyz 'n da Hood somewhere around here." Okay, that's valid--not really, but whatever--but this movie has more to offer than a retread. Like phenomenal performances from local, first-time actors. Like amazing camera work. Like a damn good story. It's an excellent movie, one that ages much better than Cuba Gooding Jr. in that ridiculous silk shirt.

30. The Cove

This isn't the saddest documentary I've ever seen (that one appears later on this list), but without a doubt, it is definitely the most horrifying. We all know bad shit happens all over the world, to people, to animals, to the very planet itself, but I guarantee that most of you have never seen a thing like what happens in this one particular cove in one small town in Japan. Never. And once you do, it sticks with you. It's truly awful and something you have to see, because people should know. Now, the upside is that this awful truth is delivered to us in the form of a very entertaining, very exciting, very engrossing documentary framed much like a classic heist film, so at least there's that. Seriously though, you should watch this, so you know and understand.

And that, boys and girls, is Part Three of my big Staff Picks List. Done and done. All for your reading pleasure. I hope you've enjoyed it so far and maybe even found a film or two you might want to check out. Stay tuned, there's more to come!

Your film friend,

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