The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is easily the finest drama I’ve seen since I started this website. I am a bit biased as I’m a big fan of Ian Holm. Most people know Holm’s supporting roles, particularly as Ash in Alien. Its a pity he didn’t get more lead parts because he was flawless in this film. Sir Ian does a bit of a monologue at around 39 minutes into the movie that blew my mind. I very rarely hit pause because an actor just knocked it out of the park, but that’s exactly what happened. The film is excellent beyond just it’s lead. It looks great, the script is perfect, and it has a fantastic, reverb drenched, ambient score too. I give The Sweet Hereafter my highest recommendation.

A Blu-ray was released by New Line Cinema but it appears to be out of print.

Samsara (2011)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is a collection of awe-inspiring footage shot in 25 countries, over five years, with no dialog. You’ll see everything from man-made and natural wonders to some of the worst places on earth. You also get a wide variety of beautiful creative expression and grim human stupidity. Watch this one big. No phone. No tablet. No laptop. BIG. Samsara is a visual learning experience.

FYI – If you enjoy this film, you should really check out the pioneer of this kind of documentary, Koyaanisqatsi (1982). Also, the people behind Samsara made a very similar film in 1992 called Baraka that’s nearly as good.

Available on Blu-ray from MPI.

Embrace of the Serpent (2015)

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Hulu | imdb | trailer

Here’s a very well-made, history-based, dark, jungle adventure. Well, two adventures. Part of it involves a search for what they refer to in the movie as Caapi (William S. Burroughs called it Yage). If you’ve seen any of the Italian cannibal exploitation movies, this is their grown-up, arthouse descendant (with a bit of Altered States mixed in).

Available on Blu-ray from Oscilloscope.

Vengeance (1970)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

John Boorman’s Point Blank was a very influential movie. It informed the fractured storyline of Oldboy. It also inspired the look and feel of Vengeance. That makes this movie lean more towards an art film than Five Elements Ninjas. What will bring you down to earth from the fancy heights of cinema is the straight-up, no frills english dubbing by all the same voices that looped the other Shaw Brothers films around the same time. I was hoping there would be the original Chinese dub available to take that cheesy edge off, but that option was not available. In spite of that minor flaw, this is a very good, artsy, dark martial arts movie that I personally found quite enjoyable. It’s got a bit more drama than fists a-flyin’ but I give it high marks for it’s look and style.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

Deep Red (1975)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here’s another highly regarded Dario Argento giallo film. It’s a strange one in the sense of it’s highs and lows. The highs are some very artistic sequences and murder scenes, reinforced by the very first soundtrack appearance by the mighty Goblin. The lows are that the film is extremely convoluted, and sometimes excruciatingly slow. Don’t be discouraged. It is absolutely worth the effort to get to the crazy ending.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.

What Have You Done to Solange? (1972)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here we have a beautifully filmed, very sleazy, but excellent giallo. This was part one of Massimo Dallamano’s “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy so, yeah… not for sensitive viewers. The film features one of my favorite cult actors Fabio Testi, as well as the debut performance of Camille Keaton (pictured above), and music by Ennio Morricone. Solange is essential if you’re interested in the giallo subgenre. You might need to take a shower after watching, but it’s worth it.

FYI – My favorite Morricone music is from this era. If you’d like to hear more, check out the album Crime and Dissonance. It’s flat-out amazing.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.

Five Elements Ninjas (1982)

Main image – my photo of a hand-painted Ghanaian poster for “Five Elements Ninjas.”

Streaming on Amazon Prime and Netflix | imdb | trailer

Now THIS is a Saturday Night movie! Five Elements Ninjas is one of my top five favorite martial arts films of all time. The Shaw Brothers serve up a heaping helping of non-stop, insane, bloody ninja action. The film is often ridiculous, and utterly improbable, but it all works together beautifully somehow. Enjoy with your favorite psychoactive for maximum impact.

Available on Blu-ray from Tokyo Shock.

The Gift (2000)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Sam Raimi is very hit of miss for me after Evil Dead 2. This one I really enjoyed. Yes, even more than A Simple Plan or Drag Me To Hell. What we have here is a well-made horror mystery with some downright disturbing moments. I think what I like best about The Gift is that is that it is unique among Raimi’s work. It’s also pretty original among horror and suspense films period. While not prefect, it’s a damn good movie for sure.

Not available on Blu-ray.

Season of the Witch (1972)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I am a big fan of George A. Romero (through Land of the Dead anyway) but missed this one until just now. I think this will be hard for some folks to get into because of the fashion of the time and the average looking actors. Please trust me, it’s worth looking past all that and just enjoying this mild, but very good, nightmarish horror thriller. It’s got a lot of depth to it. Even after a few drinks I noticed multiple possible angles going on. I have to admire Romero for making this film. Watch Season of the Witch with a little patience and I think you’ll enjoy it.

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.