The Hospital (1971)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Crazy. Awkward. Stupid at times. Lots of “overacting.” Totally inappropriate by modern standards. At least two full-blown George C. Scott yelling rants. A very ‘70s sexual assault that is somehow also consensual. Oh, and it’s a comedy! In the end, a challenging, but quite amusing example of Anomalous Cinema. I also enjoyed seeing Diana Rigg (The Avengers, Theater of Blood, etc.) and Richard Dysart (who we all know best from The Thing).

Blu-ray available from Twilight Time.

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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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Bloody Sunday (2002)

Streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

On January 30, 1972 British troops opened fire on a civil rights protest in Ireland. This is a well-made dramatization of the events. From what I have read, it is historically accurate, minus a few minor errors. Bloody Sunday is just as grim and violent as you would imagine, but important viewing for everyone.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I didn’t expect much when I first saw this film. I ended up very pleasantly surprised. It’s an excellent thriller that looks damn-near perfect. Nocturnal Animals is more centered in drama than violence, but it’s still very dark in all the best ways. Some critics even called it “cynical.” No wonder I liked it so much.

Available on Blu-ray from Universal.

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Ran (1985)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is Akira Kurasawa’s samurai adaptation of Shakespeare’s King Lear. I was a twelve year old Japanophile back when this came out, and begged my mom to take me. It was not at all what I expected. I was probably hoping for something closer to Revenge of the Ninja. However it left an impression on this future cinema nerd for sure. This is a deliberately paced, epic drama, with some impressive fight and battle sequences. The title translates to “chaos,” and there’s a lot of that too. Other than the fact that this is a nearly perfect work of filmmaking, there is one part that makes this absolute Anomalous Cinema. A pitch black post-battle sequence that is so morbidly beautiful that it absolutely blew my mind the last time I watched the film. The imagery, along with Tōru Takemitsu’s fantastic score, make for one of the most powerful scenes I’ve ever experienced. I feel sorry for my mom, but it wasn’t nearly as traumatic as when she took me to see Full Metal Jacket. I’m positive she regretted that choice.

Blu-ray available from Lion’s Gate.

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Bad Day for the Cut (2017)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is simply a very good, deliberately paced, revenge drama. The artwork might make you think Bad Day… is a violent shoot-em-up. No, but that’s really ok. The performances by Nigel O’Neill and Susan Lynch alone make it well worth a watch.

Available on Blu-ray from Well Go.

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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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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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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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