Fear INC. (2016)
Horror is, without a doubt, my favorite film genre, and Fear INC., surprisingly, surpassed any of the expectations I had for it. Fear INC. capitalizes on the recent trend of immersive and extreme horror experiences (McKamey Manor, The Victim Experience at Freakling Bros., Blackout, etc.), resulting in a film that is both comedic and terrifying while offering up a substantial helping of meta-commentary on the horror genre and its constructions. Similar in tone to Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010), The Final Girls (2015), and Cabin in the Woods (2011), Fear INC. is definitely worth checking out.
Thelma & Louise (1991)
Thelma & Louise is a classic road movie that has held up depressingly well despite the passage of 25+ years. As two women (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) take to the road, looking for a break from society’s expectations and treatment of women, they find themselves further entrenched in and unable to extricate themselves from the consequences wrought by these expectations and treatments. When the film was released in 1991, it sparked a considerable public debate, culminating in a Time Magazine cover story, “Why Thelma & Louise Strikes a Nerve” (also see “Gender Bender Over Thelma & Louise”). Marita Sturken notes that, “In the summer of 1991, Thelma & Louise was talked about. It was talked about in the media, in film reviews, on television talk shows, in letters to the editor, over the dinner table, in the local bar, at the water cooler and in the bedroom. It was detested and beloved.” Patt Morrison wrote an epic review of the film for the Los Angeles Times; the movie inspired Tori Amos to write “Me and a Gun,” which explores her own kidnapping at the hands of a fan; in 2011, The Atlantic declared it “The Last Great Film About Women;” and the film is the subject of the recent book, Off the Cliff: How the Making of Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood to the Edge, published this June. One of my all-time favorite films, Thelma & Louise is an epic that is well worth a Friday night viewing (or re-viewing).
The Girls in the Band (2011)
Directed by Judy Chaikin, The Girls in the Band is a documentary that highlights the marginalized women who were jazz and big band instrumentalists. The movie explores the struggles of women within the context of the jazz and big band movements; to its credit, the documentary deftly handles race, pointing out the differences between the black woman’s and white woman’s experience and position in the cultural landscape and how this variance affected black women’s position in the musical landscape. An engaging and inspirational documentary, it’s a must-see for music lovers.
The Red Riding Trilogy (2009)
“Little girl goes missing, the pack salivates. If it bleeds, it leads, right?” (Eddie Dunford). Comprised of Red Riding 1974, Red Riding 1980, and Red Riding 1983, this British made for TV movie trilogy represents five hours of crime drama based on the true crime of the Yorkshire Ripper. The made for TV trilogy is based on author David Peace’s quartet, which was adapted by Toni Grisoni, and features three different, and excellent, directors—one for each segment (Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, and Anand Tucker). The trilogy follows a string of murders—the killing of more than a dozen women and girls—that took place in Northern England over a ten-year period, honing in on the systemic ineptitude, privilege, corruption, and brutality of the West Yorkshire Police. David Denby, in The New Yorker, calls the trilogy, “An exhausting, morbidly fascinating, and finally thrilling experience,” and it is one that is well worth the waste of a day.
Blue Caprice (2013)
Blue Caprice is an intense biopic starring Isaiah Washington (John) and Tequan Richmond (Lee) that reconstructs the Beltway sniper shootings in D.C., during 2002. The film focuses primarily on the bond between Lee and John. Lee, who is orphaned, is rescued by John, brought to the States, and largely manipulated into becoming a murderer by John—who serves as a morally bankrupted father figure. The film, with its moody score and cool palette, is thought provoking as it underscores the power of relationships, and Washington and Richmond churn out compelling performances—in fact, it may be one of Washington’s best performances. The film gets off to a slow start, but it picks up and the intensity of the relationship between John and Lee as well as Washington’s performance, which drives the film, makes it worth the watch.
Tangerines may be a particularly relevant film right now as it emphasizes humanity in the face of conflict. Written and directed by Zaza Urushadze, Tangerines is an anti-war movie bearing the message that our humanity can be stronger than the differences that separate us. Set in an Estonian village during the 1992 conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia, Ivo, a tangerine farmer who has stayed behind, despite the encroaching conflict, to harvest his fruit, finds himself in the position of taking in two injured soldiers (one from Georgia and one from Abkhazia) and caring for them. Restricted to the house during their recovery, the two enemies, with Ivo’s assistance, find common ground. We could all do far worse than spending an afternoon with Tangerines.
Burning Love (2012) – This satire from famed comedy troupe The State ran for three seasons and only got better as it went along. It’s target with this particular show was the ever-popular Bachelor. Directed by and starring Ken Marino, the series follows a lead trying to find their “true love.” All three hilarious seasons are on hulu and worth a watch, but the real standout of the show is June Diane Raphael as Julie who has her moment as the lead in season two. If you’re a fan of Wet Hot American Summer or anything from The State, this show is a must watch.
All Good Things (2010) – Andrew Jarecki’s precursor to his hit 2015 docuseries The Jinx, looked at the life of David Marks (AKA Robert Durst) and what led up to the alleged murders of multiple women in his life. Ryan Gosling and Kirsten Dunst shine in this underrated film that expertly blends true crime with drama good enough to stand on its own.
Jawbreaker (1999) – This cult classic film is one of those films that define 90’s teen movies. It was Mean Girls before Regina George was even a thought in Tina Fey’s mind. It’s everything that’s good about a teen comedy wrapped up into one. It’s campy, funny, and never takes itself too seriously. Rose McGowan was born to play the queen bee in this Mean Girls meets Heathers 90’s classic.
Queen Sugar (Season 1) – Ava DuVernay (Selma, 13th) created and executive produced this series, along with directing the first episode. The series, which airs on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN follows an estranged family that has to set aside their differences to save their ailing sugar cane farm. DuVernay is the selling-point, for me, guaranteeing I’ll check out the first episode. The series stars Rutina Wesley (True Blood), Dawn Lyen-Gardner (Art School Confidential), and Kofi Siriboe (Whiplash).
Preacher (Season 1) – A disillusioned preacher with a troubled past is given the Voice of God and tries to figure out why. He’s accompanied by an Irish vampire, and a violent ex-girlfriend. Everything about that sounds like it’s right up my alley, and the comic (by Garth Ennis and the late Steve Dillon) is highly-acclaimed. Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter) stars as the preacher, Jesse Custer, with Joe Gilgun (Misfits) as Cassidy, and Ruth Negga (Agents of SHIELD) as Rose. Although the comic has never quite grabbed me, I plan to check out the first season of the TV show to see if I have any better luck with that.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (Season 1) – This series is based on a couple of lesser-known mystery novels by the late Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame). It’s been years since I’ve read them, but I remember really enjoying the original, and its follow-up The Long, Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. The series was created and written by Max Landis (Chronicle) and stars Samuel Barnett (Penny Dreadful) and Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings trilogy).
New in Theaters This Week. . .
[Click the posters for more information]