Bully (2001)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Larry Clark got his start by taking photos of fellow juvenile delinquents, which made up his fantastic book Tulsa. After years as an acclaimed art photographer, he directed the agonizing, but highly regarded film Kids, about the same topic, set in ‘90s New York City. Later he made Bully, which is based on a real life murder perpetrated by, you guessed it, juvenile delinquents. This is Clark’s best film by far. It pushes almost EVERY button, so sensitive folks should flat out avoid it. Bully is so shocking that I am honestly impressed that it has been made available on streaming services in our current “trigger warning” times. In spite of its controversial content, this film managed to receive a lot of critical acclaim at the time of its release. Unfortunately Larry Clark did not continue making films of the same quality. He’s following his obsessions with smaller movies, which I admire, but Bully shows all elements falling into place to make a near-perfect film.

RIP Brad Renfro. I wish we could have seen what movies you’d go on to make.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Hardcore Henry (2015)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This movie will not make you smarter, but it’s a very entertaining action flick. The basic premise of a violent, first-person, sci-fi adventure, that happens to be well-executed, qualifies it as Anomalous Cinema alone. The cherry on top is that Hardcore Henry manages to ramp up the insane action as it goes along. Oh yeah, and Sharlto Copley is excellent in this. He even does a literal song and dance routine. That’s some sprinkles with your cherry. The whole thing could be dismissed as just plain stupid. I say it’s damned fun, and confirmed that on a second viewing last night. So turn off your logic circuits, and enjoy with your favorite psychoactive substance for the proper experience.

Available on Blu-ray from Universal Studios.

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McQueen (2018)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

Nearly ten years ago my partner Suzie dragged me to see Alexander McQueen’s exhibition at The Met in New York. I was not psyched to wait in line for something I wasn’t particularly interested in. Once we got into the show, my feelings quickly changed. I loved what I was seeing, especially the dark influences like Jack the Ripper and Joel-Peter Witkin. I walked out of museum an official Alexander McQueen fan. Suzie and I watched this documentary as soon as it cane out and absolutely loved it. This is obviously a must-see for fashion enthusiasts, and I would recommend this film to anyone interested in art as well. Before I saw that exhibition I didn’t understand the two worlds had such compelling areas of crossover.

Available on Blu-ray from Lion’s Gate.

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The Video Dead (1987)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am a bit biased about this film, as my first experience was in at a revival screening just a few years ago. Seeing a previously missed, good older movie, on celluloid is one of favorite things in life. That means that I like this silly horror movie a little more than I should. I found it to be very amusing from start to finish. I laughed out loud multiple times, and not at unintentionally funny scenes. The Video Dead also has some effective makeup FX and low-budget set pieces. Give it a try, but keep your expectations low.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory (bundled with Terror Vision – which is also a lot of fun).

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Rebecca (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This recommendation is specifically for fans of director Ben Wheatley. I have seen the majority of his film output, and have enjoyed everything. The critical response to Rebecca has been unfavorable as Alfred Hitchcock made a very highly regarded adaptation of the book in 1940. I am a fan of Hitchcock but not enough to watch a mystery / romance (the latter being a genre I avoid). That was not the case with Wheatley’s film, which actually happens to be more faithful to the book. I took this 2020 adaptation for what it is, and I enjoyed it. I’m not going to watch it multiple times like High-Rise, but it’s a damn good film that I absolutely suggest Wheatley fans check out. If you like it, take a look at this article for an added layer. Thank you David Graham for nudging me into giving Rebecca a shot.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Painted Bird (2019)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

The Painted Bird is one of the nastiest art films I’ve seen in recent years, and I admire that. Based on the acclaimed book, a boy is trying to survive on his own during WW2. He runs into every kind of weirdo and sadist you can imagine along the way. The plot reminds me of Sade’s Justine, and the cinematography owes much to Andrei Tarkovsky (particularly one of my favorites, Ivan’s Childhood). If you can’t handle simulated violence against animals, definitely skip this movie. The poor creatures are dispatched right from the beginning, and the mayhem continues throughout. The kid gets abused nearly as bad. You’ll see several famous actors in small roles. I found that (and the use of a Wilhelm Scream) a little distracting, but I imagine it helped get this crazy movie made. You can read an interview with the director here. I look forward to seeing what he does next.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Memories (1995)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am super picky about anime. Something about the genre usually turns me off, with the exception of films like Barefoot Gen, Ninja Scroll, Perfect Blue and a small handful of others. I just added Memories to that short list. It’s an anthology of Katsuhiro Otomo stories directed by three anime heavyweights: Kōji Morimoto (The Animatrix), Tensai Okamura (Ninja Scroll / Ghost in a Shell), and Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira). The whole film is very cohesive and filled with detailed, and psychedelic sci-fi animation. Do you happen to live where weed is legal? Bonus for you.

Available on domestic Blu-ray but it’s out of print / selling for $$$.

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Black ‘47 (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a very good revenge action / drama set during the Irish potato famine. It could easily be a Samurai movie, or Spaghetti Western, but the dark, muddy locations are a visual improvement on those genre’s usual settings. Several writers have made the connection to First Blood, which is indeed driven home by a scene in a “police station” and the music. The good thing is that Black ‘47 goes off in it’s own direction after that. Our anti-hero has much deeper motivation for his revenge than John Rambo. You will recognize several fine actors in this film, but I was most happy to see Hugo Weaving as the manhunter (pictured above). Don’t go into this expecting non-stop action. The pace is deliberate between the explosive scenes, but I was never bored. The balance of drama to action is just about perfect. Watch this instead of one of the zillion straight-to-Netflix shitshows, and I doubt you’ll regret it.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Jallikattu (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am happy to share another excellent movie out of India (you may recall that I recommended Tumbaad not long ago). This story revolves around a rampaging Water Buffalo, but it’s a lot more interesting than that might make you think. Human folly is on full display, with scenes ranging from hilarious to quite dark. There are a few slow moments, but overall this film is awesome, and beautifully shot. The soundtrack is damn good too. Jallikattu is available on Prime, in 4k no less.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Mom and Dad (2017)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

I’m picky about horror comedies, but this is a good one. Nicholas Cage does his thing as dad without slipping into Wicker Man level ridiculousness, and Selma Blair is the perfect choice as mom. The pace is pretty relentless, and the end ramps up the crazy even further. The filmmakers have done an admirable job at keeping the movie effective, and not as silly as it could have easily become in lesser hands.

Available on Blu-ray from Momentum.

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