American Movie (1999)

Streaming on The Criterion Channel | imdb | trailer 

CRITERION CHANNEL?!?! Yep. This is a one-off, special recommendation that was intended for the book version of Anomalous Cinema. The Criterion Channel just added this film to their lineup for July, so I figured I might as well just share what I wrote. I have a feeling that Criterion will be releasing it on disc very soon. The streaming version looks MUCH better than any previous edition of the film I’ve seen before.

Mark Borchardt is a struggling filmmaker, and a documentary crew follows him as he completes his first fully-realized short feature. When this movie was initially released, it was an independent hit, but it fell into obscurity for the last ten years. Director Chris Smith has gone on to direct the very good Netflix documentary Fyre, and produce the massively over-hyped series Tiger King. I have seen American Movie multiple times, and it never gets old. It’s funny as hell, touching, thought-provoking, and a serious statement about someone fighting to make their art. I am also partial to it because it reminds me of the days helping my friend Isaac Williams make his first feature The Mind in 2006-7. I was a part-time boom operator, PA, and did the original score. If a shooting day went by without a quote from this documentary, followed by much laughter, I would be shocked. This documentary is must-see Anomalous Cinema.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Blood Sabbath (1972)

Streaming on YouTube (Sorry! It was on Amazon Prime last week.) | imdb | trailer (VHS Promo – YouTube sign-in required)

A young man stumbles upon a coven (Mark Borchardt pronunciation required) of witches and mayhem ensues. By all normal standards, this is an awful movie. By Anomalous Cinema standards, this is a delightful movie. I will refer you to the superior Stephen Thrower review in his book Nightmare USA. If you don’t have access to that book, all you may care about is that Dyanne Thorne from the notorious Ilsa film series co-stars, and is awesomely cheesy. Here are couple of interesting points Mr. Thrower didn’t mention: 1) The lead “young man” is played by Anthony Geary, better known among some of you older folks as Luke Spencer on the ABC daytime drama General Hospital. 2) The Priest is played by Steve Gravers, whose voice many cult movie folks will recognize immediately as Blackwolf from Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards. Additionally, I found the music to be effectively creepy for such a low-budget affair. If it’s been a while since you’ve seen a “so bad it’s good” movie, I believe you need to experience Blood Sabbath.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Lady Vengeance (2005)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

This is the final part of Park Chan-Wook’s loose “Revenge Trilogy” (although it can be watched on it’s own). A woman seeks to right the wrongs of her false imprisonment, and her child being taken away. This film didn’t get as much attention as Oldboy, but it’s arguably just as good. Dark, poetic, funny at times. Oh yes… it’s also brutal as hell. 

The domestic Blu-ray is out of print.

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Small Town Crime (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a solid crime thriller with some good, at times extremely graphic, bursts of action. The cinematography looks great as well. Saturated colors and deep shadows are featured. It’s nice to see Robert Forster (Jackie Brown, Walking the Edge, Alligator, etc) given lots of screen time. Small Town Crime is an enjoyable dark film, with a lot packed into 90 minutes.

Available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

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The Sisters Brothers (2018)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

It seems impossible, but this film successfully blends a violent western with a bit of dark comedy. It all looks beautiful as well. The Sisters Brothers is deliberately paced between shootouts, and runs on the long side, but I was never bored. Recommended weirdness.

Available on Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox.

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First Love (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

I believe this is the most recent Takashi Miike movie that is currently streaming in the USA. It has a unique look, no fake grain but all the detail. I’d call it video crafted with care. The sets look amazing. The production designer is a genius. Every interior scene looks almost like an art installation. As you’d expect, there are some very entertaining action sequences amid the strange comedy / drama too. First Love also features one particularly freaky knob turn. In the end I was very happy to have watched this weird, but modest movie. Miike keeps being Miike, and I love it.

Available on Blu-ray from Well Go.

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You’re Next (2011)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer 

Most trailers that look like this one equal a garbage film. That is 100% not the case here. You’re Next is a very entertaining combo of horror, action, and comedy. Simple. Watch and enjoy. The cherry on top is that the Mom is Barbara Crampton of Re-Animator and From Beyond.

Available on Blu-ray from Lion’s Gate.

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Night in Paradise (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Here’s a very good South Korean dramatic crime thriller. The cinematography is beautiful, and the performances are all strong. There are a few good shootout scenes too. They are only hampered by unrealistic gun action, which is a very common problem in movies. If you’ve never fired a gun, you won’t notice. The barely-kicking guns were easy for me to ignore because this really is an enjoyable, dark movie. The only other blemish is that the film on the slow side. However the climax is well worth the wait. I wish Netflix would invest in more movies like this. That streaming service has a real crap hoarding problem.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Croupier (1998)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I like Clive Owen, and this is a pretty damned good drama with him as the lead. It’s got many twists and turns, a little skin, and some brawling too. Not a bad way to spend 90 minutes, compared to the vast universe of crap that is Netflix these days.

Available on Blu-ray from Henstooth.

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Outlaw King (2018)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

After the death of Braveheart’s William Wallace, came Robert the Bruce. This film is based on the true story of the 14th century Scottish hero. It’s an entertaining but imperfect action / biopic. Any flaws are made up for with the battle sequence at the end. Outlaw King manages to touch on the good parts of historical war films like Mel Gibson made, without spoiling things with their Hollywood cheese. This was directed by the man behind the excellent Hell or High Water, which also starred Chris Pine. He does a damn good job in the lead role too.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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