Movies to See Right Now

Janet Leigh in PSYCHO and 78/52: HITCHCOCK’S SHOWER SCENE

Slim pickings in theaters this week.  I’ll be writing about Mark Felt – The Man Who Brought Down the White House, which I really can’t recommend.  I haven’t yet seen The Florida Project.

I have written this week about the documentary 78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, the podcast Inside Psycho and the classic Psycho itself.

My pre-Halloween DVD/Stream of the Week is Unfriended. It’s on both my lists of I Hadn’t Seen This Before and Low Budget, High Quality Horror of 2015.  Unfriended is available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.

October 30 on Turner Classic Movies, we meet Robert Young as one of cinema’s least sympathetic protagonists in They Won’t Believe Me (1947). A decade before Father Knows Best and two decades before Marcus Welby, M.D., Young plays a weak-willed and impulsive gold-digging womanizer. He’s married for money, but he also wants his girlfriend (the rapturous Jane Greer) AND his second girlfriend (a gloriously slutty Susan Hayward) AND his wife’s money. He’s making every conceivable bad choice until, WHAM BANG, circumstance creates a situation where he can get everything he wants …until it all falls apart. They Won’t Believe Me has one of the most ironic endings in the movies.

Robert Young and Susan Hayward in THEY WON’T BELIEVE ME

DVD/Stream of the Week: UNFRIENDED – run from your webcams!!!

UNFRIENDED
UNFRIENDED

In the very satisfying horror film Unfriended, it’s the one-year anniversary of a teenage girl’s suicide, and her bullying peers convene via webcams on social media. But their computers are hijacked by an Unknown Force who starts wreaking revenge. The kids become annoyed, then worried and, finally, panicked for their lives.

Here’s something I’ve never seen before: the entire movie is compiled of the characters’ screenshots. The critic Christy Lemire says that “Unfriended is a gimmick with a ridiculous premise, but damned if it doesn’t work”, and she’s right. Writer Nelson Greaves and Director Levan Gabriadze came up with this device, and their originality pays off with a fun and effective movie.

It’s on both my lists of I Hadn’t Seen This Before and Low Budget, High Quality Horror of 2015. Unfriended is available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.

Movies to See Right Now

Steve Carell (right) in THE BIG SHORT
Steve Carell (right) in THE BIG SHORT

Still in theaters, here are five choices from my Best Movies of 2015, all with some Oscar nominations:

  • 45 Years with Charlotte Rampling’s enthralling Oscar-nominated performance.
  • The Revenant, an awesome and authentic survival tale that must be seen on the BIG SCREEN. I predict that The Revenant will be the biggest winner at the Oscars.
  • The Irish romantic drama Brooklyn is an audience-pleaser with a superb performance by Saoirse Ronan.
  • Spotlight – a riveting, edge-of-your-seat drama with some especially compelling performances.
  • The Big Short – a supremely entertaining thriller – both funny and anger-provoking.

The Coen Brothers’ disappointingly empty comedy Hail, Caesar contains some cool Hollywood parodies.

My DVD/Stream of the Week is the entirely novel low budget, high quality horror film Unfriended. It’s on both my lists of I Hadn’t Seen This Before and Low Budget, High Quality Horror of 2015. Unfriended is available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.

On February 15, Turner Classic Movies will broadcast the John Huston masterpiece The Treasure of the Sierra Madre with its superb performances by Walter Huston and Humphrey Bogart. And we don’t need no stinkin’ badges.

Walter Huston, Tim Holt and Humphrey Bogart in THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE
Walter Huston, Tim Holt and Humphrey Bogart in THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE
Alfonso Bedoya in THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE: Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges.
Alfonso Bedoya in THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE: Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.

DVD/Stream of the Week: UNFRIENDED – run from your webcams!!!

UNFRIENDED
UNFRIENDED

In the very satisfying horror film Unfriended, it’s the one-year anniversary of a teenage girl’s suicide, and her bullying peers convene via webcams on social media.  But their computers are hijacked by an Unknown Force who starts wreaking revenge. The kids become annoyed, then worried and, finally, panicked for their lives.

Here’s something I’ve never seen before:  the entire movie is compiled of the characters’ screenshots.  The critic Christy Lemire says that “Unfriended is a gimmick with a ridiculous premise, but damned if it doesn’t work”, and she’s right.  Writer Nelson Greaves and Director Levan Gabriadze came up with this device, and their originality pays off with a fun and effective movie.

It’s on both my lists of I Hadn’t Seen This Before and Low Budget, High Quality Horror of 2015. Unfriended is available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.

2015 at the Movies: I hadn’t seen this before

TANGERINE
TANGERINE

I love original approaches to cinema, and here are some from 2015 that work especially well:

Tangerine:  This raucous and raunchy high energy comedy was shot on an iPhone. This is not a gimmick. The intimacy and urgency of this character-driven movie is a good fit with the iPhone. There really isn’t any call for helicopter shots or the like. The richness of the colors has been enhanced in post-production, so the iPhone cinematography isn’t any distraction at all. (See the shot above.)

Unfriended: This low-budget, high quality horror flick is about teenagers convening over social media.  The ENTIRE MOVIE is comprised of their web cam screen shots.  It works.

The Tribe: Although the The Tribe comes from Ukraine, we’re not going to hear any Ukrainian. Nor will we see any English subtitles. It’s set in a residential high school for the deaf, and the entire movie is in sign language. It’s novel for the hearing to experience an entire movie in which we hear only the sound of ambient noises – footsteps, creaking doors and the like – and we know that these sounds are NOT heard by the movie characters.

Wild Tales: This Argentine dark, dark comedy is one of my favorite movies of 2015.  One key to its success is that it is an anthology. In a very wise move, writer-director Damián Szifron resisted any impulse to stretch one of the stories into a feature-length movie. Each of the stories is just the right length to extract every laugh and pack a punch.

Creed: Director Ryan Coogler and cinematographer Maryse Alberti have combined for the most impressive boxing scene since Raging Bull. The three-minute rounds are photographed as uninterrupted action (no cuts are apparent) from WITHIN the ring. We feel like we’re in the ring with the fighters – right at shoulder-level.

Victoria: The German indie thriller is filmed in one shot. One 138 minute shot. And this is reputedly a barn-burner of a thriller, not My Dinner With Andre. Victoria was in theaters for about a minute this year, and I haven’t seen it yet, which really annoys me. It’s available to stream on Amazon and iTunes, so I’ve downloaded it and hope to catch up to it over the Holidays.

WILD TALES
WILD TALES

2015 at the Movies: low-budget, high quality horror

UNFRIENDED
UNFRIENDED

The Movie Gourmet doesn’t watch many horror movies, but 2015 featured some that were unusually inventive, scary and non-gory.  It’s great to see young filmmakers bringing some intelligence and surprise (not just shockers) to this genre.

  • It Follows: Writer-director David Robert Mitchell has created a very scary horror film with an excellent soundtrack and a minimum of makeup, special effects and hardly any blood.  19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) has sex with a guy who then tells her that he has passed on to her a kind of supernatural infection – a monster will follow her and kill her if she doesn’t pass it on to someone else. The monster shambles along at zombie speed and takes the form of a different human being each time.  It Follows is available on DVD from both Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Xbox Video.
  • Unfriended:  It’s the one-year anniversary of a teenage girl’s suicide, and her bullying peers convene via webcams on social media – but their computers are hijacked by an Unknown Force who starts wreaking revenge.  Here’s a new one:  the entire movie is compiled of the characters’ screenshots.  Unfriended is available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and to stream from Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.
  • The House on Pine Street:  So here’s the thing with every movie ghost story – either the ghost is real or the protagonist is crazy enough to hallucinate one. The beauty of The House on Pine Street is that the story is right down the middle – ya just don’t know until the end when the story takes us definitively in one direction – and then suddenly lurches right back to the other extreme.  I saw The House on Pine Street at Cinequest, and it’s now available to stream on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube and Google Play.
Emily Goss in THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET
Emily Goss in THE HOUSE ON PINE STREET

UNFRIENDED: run from your webcams!!

UNFRIENDED
UNFRIENDED

In the very satisfying horror film Unfriended, it’s the one-year anniversary of a teenage girl’s suicide, and her bullying peers convene via webcams on social media. But their computers are hijacked by an Unknown Force who starts wreaking revenge. The kids become annoyed, then worried and, finally, panicked for their lives.

Here’s something I’ve never seen before: the entire movie is compiled of the characters’ screenshots. The critic Christy Lemire says that “Unfriended is a gimmick with a ridiculous premise, but damned if it doesn’t work”, and she’s right. Writer Nelson Greaves and Director Levan Gabriadze came up with this device, and their originality pays off with a fun and effective movie. Unfriended is available to rent on DVD from Netflix and Redbox and streaming from Amazon Video, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play and Flixster.