Riders of Justice (2020)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

This is a surprisingly good, big-budget, action comedy from Denmark. I actually laughed out loud a few times, AND things got pretty gory on occasion. The violence is more extreme than I would have expected from a Scandinavian blockbuster. I love Mads Mikkelsen, but he’s not always in good films. Luckily this turned out to be a perfect choice for him, and a very entertaining movie too.

Blu-ray available on Magnolia.

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The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here we have an excellent biopic on the artist Louis Wain. You may be familiar with his fanciful to psychotic feline creations. Do you love cats? Are you ready to cry? Well then this movie is for you. It may seem cutsie at first glance, but things get weird and dark later on. I really enjoyed it in spite of my heartstrings being ripped out of my body.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Mars at Sunrise (2014)

Streaming on Netflix (also available for free on YouTube) | imdb | trailer

This is a challenging, darkly surrealistic, feature based on the experiences of Palestinian artist Hani Zurob. Critics did not really care for it, but I thought it was quite good. Mars at Sunrise is not unlike a full-length video art piece. It’s jarring and confusing, but beautiful. I will admit that I have an unusually high tolerance for more free-form, artistic expression that doesn’t concern itself with narrative. This film is only 75 minutes long, so just check it out if I haven’t scared you off already.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Salvador (1986)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is a fact-based film dealing with the Salvadoran Civil War, which was still happening at the time of production. It’s aged a bit, sometimes feeling like an episode of Miami Vice, but this is still an excellent movie. It even got a couple of Academy Award nominations. I normally avoid recommending Oscar-related films, but I figured this piece of history is not well known among younger people. Oliver Stone leans heavily in favor of the leftist FMLN rebels, but you can read the facts, and make up your own mind if you feel the need. James Woods is good here. Luckily this is the Woods we love from Videodrome, not the mess of a human being he became later.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Exorcist III (1990)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

The original Exorcist remains one of the greatest horror movies ever made. Sadly part II, The Heretic, was awful. However this film is surprisingly good. Part III was written and directed by the original Exorcist author (based on his book “Legion”), and is as dark as can be. George C. Scott is great here. He has a monologue about “what he believes,” which is unhinged genius. Fun fact: there was no actual exorcism in the original book or script, so they tacked one on. Luckily, it all works.

Available on Blu-ray from Scream Factory.

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1984 (1984)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is an excellent adaptation of George Orwell’s essential dystopian novel. It’s also the last appearance of Richard Burton, and he is fantastic. You would never know he struggled to get through each take because of his health. This is also my favorite John Hurt performance. The movie looks amazing thanks to Roger Deakins (DP on Sicario, Fargo, and a ton of others). A rare “bleach bypass” film processing technique was used for that grim, desaturated look. It’s amazing that some scenes were shot on the exact days referenced in Winston Smith’s diary. A ton of care and detail was put into this film, but please read the book first.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection.

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The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

A young sailor joins a yacht cruise, and ends up involved in a murder plot. This is a near perfect slice of film noir that only exists because of a desperate situation. Orson Welles needed $55,000 to stage a production with his Mercury Theater. He agreed to make the movie if one of the producers would pay him the needed funds in two days. It all worked out, and we have this excellent work of cinema as a result. This is one if my favorites of the ‘40s, and should not be missed.

Available on Blu-ray from Mill Creek.

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Memories of Murder (2003)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

Here’s a dark, beautiful, high quality murder thriller directed by Bong Joon Ho. I have avoided recommending it so far as I thought all the excitement over Parasite would have lead you to watch it already. What? You haven’t seen Memories of Murder yet? Well get on it. 

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection.

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Chappie (2015)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

I missed this movie when it first came out. I figure a few of you did too. It’s not as good as Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, but I found this very entertaining. Thankfully Chappie has that same level of high quality CG. Yes, it is a bit cheesy at times. Let that slide and you get lots of R rated action to make up for it. I have to admit that Ninja and Yo-Landi are good in this too. Shockingly good.

BONUS: Check out Blomkamp’s Oats Studio videos on YouTube. There are a lot of great short films available for free.

Available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures.

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The Game (1997)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

This is a good early David Fincher film that doesn’t get mentioned often. If you have nothing but contempt for rich people, don’t watch The Game. If you just want to see an intricate thriller that will keep you guessing until the end, you’ll probably enjoy this. It’s not very violent, it’s got zero nudity, but it’s a solid film for adults anyway. Michael Douglas is great, the film has Deborah Unger from Cronenberg’s Crash, and Sean Penn before he went off the rails too. The Netflix version has had the film grain over-filtered, and could really use the shadows and colors punched up, but those are not deal-breakers. The Game is good cinema that can probably be enjoyed in any state of mind.

Available on Blu-ray from Universal.

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