With Labor Day now in the rearview, steadily accelerating towards fall, we have to prepare say goodbye to summer. I know it’s not something you want to hear, especially since it’s still hitting 100 degrees on the West Coast, but if I’m anything, I’m honest. And soon you’ll no longer be able to post poolside hot dog leg photos on Instagram or skate around your city like David Spade in Police Academy 4, since rain and snow will fall in most U.S. states. Even here in Los Angeles, we’ll feel the effects when it plummets to a whopping 68 degrees. So in preparation for the sudden hibernation on the horizon, I’ve compiled a list of 7 recent movies you most likely haven’t seen, but are available online, in hopes that when you do finally retreat indoors, you decide to watch these gems. Leaving the swimsuits and sun behind might be a bummer, but what better time to catch up on your cinema game than now? And these movies might just make the transition slightly easier. You’re welcome in advance.
Creep (2014, currently on Netflix)
As an avid fan of the Mumblecore movement (The Puffy Chair, Tiny Furniture, Cyrus, etc.) I was always hoping for a thriller within the genre and with Creep, my prayers were answered. Mumblecore movies are categorized as low budget, focusing on mostly dialogue, heavily improvised and usually starring amateur, or very naturalistic, actors. Spearheaded by the Duplass brothers, Mark and Jay, the category has become quite popular in indie cinema, and landed many of its mainstays work in mainstream projects. Creep is actually co-written by Mark Duplass, who is also one of the movie’s two stars. The only other actor you see for the entire duration of the movie is Patrick Brice, the director and other writer. That’s the kind of DIY aesthetic Mumblecore is known for. Think of it this way: If Etsy made movies, they’d be Mumblecore. Creep tells the story of a videographer (Brice) who answers a Craigslist ad from a man (Duplass) who is looking to make a film about his life under dire conditions. Quickly you realize the job is probably nothing like it was advertised. And it gets only weirder from there. Duplass plays the perfect nut job and Brice sets himself as one to watch, especially since rumor has it that Creep is part of a trilogy. So, if you like strange, and creepy, movies, this one should be atop your list. Not Craigslist though. That’s an awful list.
“If Etsy made movies, they’d be Mumblecore.”
Wild Tales (2015, iTunes/Amazon)
This Argentine/Spanish movie was first released internationally in 2014, but after being nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at last year’s Academy Awards, it got a small release here in US theaters in 2015, and for good reason. Directed and written by Damian Szifron, this movie consists of six small, unconnected stories inspired by vengeance. It’s almost like Kill Bill and “Black Mirror” had a baby. From two plane passengers finding a common bond that may be shared by an entire plane to a demolitions expert who has been pushed too far, each tale is as, if not more, riveting than the next. Shot beautifully, Wild Tales takes the multi-story format commonly butchered with cheesiness (Four Rooms, Crash, Vantage Point) and makes it undeniably powerful. You’ll be talking about the stories in Wild Tales for quite some time, so make sure to see this movie and remember, every action has a reaction. Like if you fart on a Tinder date, you won’t have a second date. And don’t avoid it because you have to read the subtitles, idiot.
“Shot beautifully, Wild Tales takes the multi-story format commonly butchered with cheesiness and makes it undeniably powerful.”
Kung Fu Elliot (2015, Amazon Prime/iTunes)
A documentary that is almost too funny to be true, but trust me, it is. Following the life of Elliot “White Lightning” Scott, a man on a quest to become Canada’s first Kung Fu movie star in his own film called Blood Fight. In the tradition of American Movie, Elliot’s grandiose plan is riddled with delusion and aggression, hardly centered in any reality at all and just plain ridiculous. Witnessing two years of his life, we meet a motley crew of weirdos helping his dreams come true, from his supportive girlfriend to the actors who genuinely believe they’re on their way to stardom. It’s the most Canadian shit since poutine. Right up until the end, you won’t know what’s coming next and even then you’ll continually ask yourself, over and over, “Was that real?”—which, in my opinion, is the greatest question you can have after a legit documentary. Long live White Lightning!
“It’s the most Canadian shit since poutine.”
The Wolfpack (2015, On Demand)
Another unreal documentary, The Wolfpack is also ALL TRUE. The movie follows six brothers who have spent their entire lives homeschooled and locked in a 4-bedroom Manhattan housing project, held captive by their over-controlling father, the only inhabitant with a door key. Everything the brothers know about the outside world comes from movies (they own over 5,000), a form of media they adore and meticulously try to recreate. If Kung Fu Elliot is an updated American Movie, then this movie is your new Grey Gardens. Their dreams of escape and a normal upbringing are heart wrenching, as I found myself yelling at the screen numerous times, hoping they still can find a chance for normalcy. The director, Crystal Moselle, randomly stumbled upon the boys one day, which is like finding a jackpot lottery ticket in an ashtray. She understandably became so enthralled with their tale that she made this movie. Never has a more surreal home life been depicted on screen, and it’ll leave you wanting to know more about these remarkable young men who are just now able to make their mark on this world.
“The director, Crystal Moselle, randomly stumbled upon the boys one day, which is like finding a jackpot lottery ticket in an ashtray.”
Cop Car (2015, iTunes)
Since I list Duel and Joyride as two of my guilty pleasures, it comes as no surprise that this road thriller would make the list. Starring two newcomer boys, James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Welford, this slow burning action flick tells the story of two runaway 10-year-olds who stumble upon what they think is an abandoned cop car and take it for a joyride. When the car’s owner, an officer played by Kevin Bacon, wants his property back, and reveals that the trunk may have some unexpected cargo, things quickly take a turn for the worse. The real star of this nail biter however is director Jon Watts, who is a relative newcomer, but has since been tapped to helm the next Spiderman reboot (’cause we need more of those). Every shot is stunning and gives the movie a totally unexpected layer of beauty that pushes the ending into an even more intense corner that seems almost impossible to escape–but it does! If you dig Midnight movies, you’ll love this new entry into the lexicon. Remember when Kevin Bacon showed his dick in Wild Things? The late-’90s were weird.
“If you dig Midnight movies, you’ll love this new entry into the lexicon.”
The Overnight (2015, On Demand/iTunes)
From Patrick Brice, the man who brought you earlier entry Creep, this dark comedy might just be the weirdest film to the make the list. Starring Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman, and Judith Godreche, the movie is about a new couple to Los Angeles (Scott and Schilling) who are having trouble making friends. When a trip to the playground with their son ends with a new pal (Schwartzman), a dinner playdate is set, but the hangout with Schwartzman and his wife ends up being a little more than they asked for. It’s strange and awkward and so funny, and there isn’t a viewer in the world who can see the final scene coming. If it were up to me, every movie would be like this and Creep and anything else where very talented actors just get to be silly and improv. Don’t watch this one with your kids, unless your kids are down for freaky shit. Also, don’t really have kids. The whole thing is weird.
“It’s strange and awkward and so funny, and there isn’t a viewer in the world who can see the final scene coming.”
The Guest (2014, Netflix)
HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS MOVIE EXISTED? Directed by Adam Wingard, known from horror sleeper You’re Next and involvement in the anthologies V/H/S, this horror thriller takes a little bit of inspiration from every genre possible. Starring Dan Stevens from “Downton Abbey,” Maika Monroe, and Lance Reddick, The Guest is about a former solider who appears on the doorstep of a family who recently lost their son in Afghanistan. He explains that he promised his deceased pal that he’d look over the family, and so here he is. And although there are some suspicions about his origin, they invite him to stay at their house for as long as he likes, and things just ramp up from there. Around three quarters in, the movie makes a total 180 and we’re basically in a shoot-em-up Rambo situation. This is a real hidden gem if you’re looking to Netflix and chill, but actually see the movie. If you’re just looking to hook-up, may I suggest Bruce Almighty (2003, Netflix).
“This is a real hidden gem if you’re looking to Netflix and chill, but actually see the movie.”