July is here, which can only mean three things: the sun’s flaunting how much happier it is than you, your guilt for avoiding nature is exacerbated, and all of your favorite sites seem to assume you don’t know that “summer is in full swing.” Why not avoid all that sunshine nonsense and keep your non-swimsuit-ready, milk white self on your couch? You know your skin looks terrible in harsh light anyways. Realistically, all summer really means is that there’s still slew of movies to numb yourself to on Netflix that you haven’t seen. Or maybe you have. I don’t know your level of dedication. So without further ado, here are the movies that you should use to justify your weight gain this July. And because I’m getting really good at making it look like I’m nice, I pulled one movie from just about every genre that actually matters on Netflix. You know, to make things easy.
What it is: 93/100 (A-)
What it really is: 97/100 (A)
What it really, really is: 234/100 (The one bad '90s action movie that’s actually good.)
Any true film fan knows that when you’re looking for a good action movie that doesn’t bleed into other genres, there’s only one decade you go to—the '90s. Enter Total Recall. People wonder why we don’t have a big “action star” anymore. The answer is obvious—everyone actually tries to act and speak English now. Think about it—what do Stallone, Van Damme, and Schwarzenegger have in common? They can’t act (besides maybe Stallone) or complete a coherent sentence. That’s the only way someone can win a blind karate death match and still make us cheer. Total Recall is about a man in the near future who has memories of being a secret agent implanted into his brain to add a little oomph to his dull life. The problem occurs when the recall machine reveals he’s already carrying those memories and that he’s actually a double agent who had his memory wiped and must venture out to discover the truth about who he is and take down some sort of corrupt government. I think. Or is any of that true? Memory’s a tricky thing. Are they just the implanted memories making him believe he’s a rogue agent? Or is he really one? Is he truly just in a chair, stuck in his brain, fighting his way to what he thinks is the truth but is really just a lobotomy? You won’t know the answer until the last frame of this movie, and if you weren’t watching, you still might miss it. The key to Total Recall’s success lies in its ability to raise more questions by answering previous ones; it doesn’t just answer some and add more, everything’s linked. With a tight script and a fully realized, playful sense of direction, this iconic '90s classic has engrained itself into action film culture like no other. And with an ending that’s still being debated 25 years later, Total Recall’s going to stick in your head for quite some time. Oh, and the remake sucks. See you at the party, Richter.
What it is: 88/100 (B+)
What it really is: 93/100 (A)
What it really, really is: The Lead Loses His Penis So He Gets Off By Stabbing Himself and Jiggling It/100 (A++++)
Straight drama is a difficult thing to define and pick out because in reality, there are only two types of stories: tragedies and comedies. And by definition, the only difference between the two is that comedies end happily and tragedies do not. Drama is technically an element of a story, like butter on popcorn. So how do you pick one when every movie ever made has it? You stop overanalyzing everything and just pop in (on) Moebius. That’s right, I made the one drama I chose a foreign film because fuck you. Moebius is a film without dialogue or music created by the insanely prolific South Korean director Kim Ki-duk. Now, when I say no dialogue or music, I mean no dialogue or music. Yes, there’s sound, but no, no one talks. And it manages to do it without 45 minutes of shitty, indie nature shots. We’re talking a quick hour and 28 minutes worth of straight narrative with a character in every frame. On top of that, it’s actually one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. How does it pull it off so perfectly? By making the story about one of the few things that warrants silence. The masterpiece that is Moebius starts by following a Korean family; wife, husband, and son. Fed up with her husband’s incessant cheating, the wife fights back in the only logical way: she cuts off her son’s penis, eats it, and disappears. Bam, the movie begins. Korean filmmakers have a knack for using unconventional stories to take us to an unexplored side of a familiar theme or emotion. So underneath the trademark South Korean dark humor is a beautiful message about shame, love, coming into your own, and forgiveness. I’d spell out the message, but it’s better to figure it out with an hour and a half of beautiful imagery than a sentence in an article.
What it is: 94/100 (A)
What it really is: 97/100 (A)
What it really, really is: Hopefully the Beginning of a Horror Revival/100 (My Prayers Being Answered+)
Look, I nerd out on shit, but nothing, and I mean fucking nothing, gets me more excited than a horror movie. But after James Wan and his crew of wannabe James Wans pumped out haunted house movie after haunted house movie, I began to realize horror needed a delicate, cerebral touch that only a woman could bring to the table. And fuck, was I right. Australian director Jennifer Kent came out of nowhere and showed the world how you make a god damn horror movie with her first feature film, The Babadook. More atmospheric and poignant than it is scary, The Babadook focuses on a widow and her son whose father was killed driving our leading lady to the hospital to deliver him. The horror actually takes a backseat to the flick’s main focus, grief. This movie is structured and built with the most basic horror paradigm, but fills it with horror-challenging content. The real genius of The Babadook is the Oscar-worthy performance from Essie Davis and the film’s lack of a “big” soundtrack (weirdly enough). Our strong female lead isn’t your average protective mother filled with unconditional love. She winces when her son tries to hug her because to Essie, his presence is just a personification of her lost husband. So the movie’s really about her coming to terms with her loss and properly grieving.
True horror films are only elaborate metaphors for a bigger picture, not to see how many times you can make someone jump. Monsters are emotions, blood is rebirth, and death is isolation. And it’s the one genre exclusively about women (yes, I am right, think about it). And that right there is what everyone besides Jennifer Kent doesn’t understand.
What it is: 83/100 (B)
What it really is: 89/100 (B+)
What it really, really is: It’s About a Man Refusing to Poop Out Drugs/100 (A++++++)
Great dramatic, horror, romantic, crime, and sports movies don’t age. Films in the same caliber of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre regardless of genre are still some of the best flicks out there. The audiences’ sense of romance, horror, etc. hasn’t evolved too much over the years. But with comedy, what was groundbreaking two days ago is a childish today. My theory is that the British should probably be in charge of the world’s humor palette since we’re just now catching up to their dry, fast-talking sensibilities. Now, the film The Mule is not British by any means—it’s Australian actually—but it does borrow a bit of its character interactions, pacing, and love for vague, scary mobsters. But it combines it with American candor. The Mule follows your average every man—except he has a hefty amount of drugs safely stored in his stomach when he’s intercepted by the police, but refuses to, well, shit that shit out. That’s when your classic gangsters get involved and the entire situation escalates in a fashion that only a dark comedy can pull off. What’s interesting is that writer of Saw, Leigh Whannell, penned this flick as well, which makes sense once you watch it. Angus Sampson—who you’ll recognize but won’t be able to pinpoint immediately—takes the lead with fucking Hugo Weaving (aka Mr. Anderson from The Matrix). If you’re in the mood to spend an hour and a half watching a situation go from bad to worse while laughing the entire time, The Mule is the movie for you.
What it is: 96/100 (A)
What it really is: 100/100 (A+++)
What it really, really is: Adrian/100 (Adrian+++)
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big fan of sports movies. Here, I can make you watch every sports movie ever made in about 5 seconds. “There’s no way you can pull that off, kid.” “Yes, I can.” “No, you can’t.” “Watch me.” “Oh shit, you did it. And now the whole team are good friends.” Credits. But I’ll also admit that the formula gets me every fucking time. But since Rocky 7 is coming out soon and looks amazing, let’s revisit Rocky for a moment. So as I’m sure you know, Rocky is a movie starring and written by Sylvester Stallone who, much like the film’s protagonist, had to fight his ass of to get this feature off the ground. But it’s cool, it won three Oscars. We all know this movie’s about an aging boxer down on his luck when the heavyweight champ gives him a shot at the title just so he’ll look good. But he underestimates Rocky and his need to prove himself. But what people tend to forget is that the boxing match is only about 10 minutes, you’re thinking of Rocky 2. Rocky’s honestly an indie-feeling flick, much like the first Rambo—you’re also thinking of Rambo 2. And (SPOILER) the fact that Rocky totally fucking loses in the end, but that’s what makes it amazing. When you revisit, take notice of the fact that Rocky knows he lost and doesn’t even listen to the score cards—he’s the first to take the champ all 15 rounds. He proved himself. Also, there’s never been a bad boxing movie (Rocky 5 doesn’t count, he never fought in the ring, it’s a street fighting movie), so you know this one still has the ability to get our blood boiling. Rocky is a classic forever, and there’s fucking 5 more to watch after this one so you’d better start soon.
What it is: 88/100 (B+)
What it really is: 90/100 (A-)
What it really, really is: A Cheap Shot Right in the Heart/100 (A++)
There should be no shame in loving a good romantic movie. In fact, the best romantic film trumps the best of any other genre in my eyes because love is the hardest thing to fake. Sort of. So a little movie known as Beginners came out back in 2011 and got a little slept on, but praised within the community that was smart enough to put it on. Beginners follows Oliver (Ewan McGregor) as his cancer-ridden father (Christopher Plummer) comes out of the closet. A few years after his passing, Oliver slinks into a depression that’s basically both cured and enhanced when he comes across an actress named Anna (Melanie Laurent). What ensues is one of those heartbreakingly realistic love stories with that wonderful dash of Hollywood sprinkled on top. Director and writer Mike Mills created a feeling that I honestly can’t put words to, the only way to feel his message is to let the beautiful cinematography and perfectly-executed photo montages just wash over you. Beginners taps into the same realm that the Before Sunrise trilogy boasts—filling the film with almost horrifyingly realistic and genuinely true dialogue about fear, love, and everything in between. If you’re looking for a cerebral but not complicated love story, Beginners is for you.
What it is: 91/100 (A-)
What it really is: 96/100 (A)
What it really, really is: The Birth of a Directing Legend/100 (Nolan Begins++)
We all have our opinions about Inception, Interstellar, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, but have you seen his first film? It may just be his best. But not really at all, Batman’s the best. But in 1998, a young collegiate named Christopher Nolan got a group of friends and spent a whole year shooting Following on the weekends. The result is a black and white example of how to execute a simple, effective, and riveting drama with just about two characters. Following is about a novelist who innocently shadows strangers as a source for inspiration. But when a charismatic man in a suit grows wise to his being followed, he leads our hero through a crime route and formally inducts him into his world of burglary. Nolan establishes his trademark non-linear storytelling talents and proves his ability to balance interesting plot with fascinating characters. The result is an incredibly short (in a good way) crime thriller that breezes by before you’re even aware you may have just seen your new favorite film. It’s essentially a modest version of Memento with the aesthetic of Man Bites Dog. And I know how much you love Memento.
Fear and Loathing in Vegas
What it is: 78/100 (C+)
What it really is: 83/100 (B)
What it really, really is: Johnny Depp Bald/100 (A++++)
Look, I’m gonna level with you all here. I haven’t seen too many stoner movies. And the ones I have seen, I don’t remember for obvious reasons. So I’m just going to pick the pinnacle stoner film that I can without losing any sort of legitimacy: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Yes, I remember being in high school, thinking that adoring Fear and Loathing got me closer to being as cool as Hunter S. Thompson. It does not. If I’m being genuine, I sort of can’t stand this movie. But that doesn’t mean I won’t watch it another 89 times before I die. Based Hunter S. Thompson’s roman a clef novel of the same name, Vegas follows Johnny Depp aka Raoul Duke aka Hunter Thompson and his lawyer as they head out to the city of sin to find the American Dream, which is portrayed as an incoherent, drug-fueled dance through Vegas without responsibility and promise of a possible fortune—reward without work. What ensues is a deliberately hard to follow plot that seems to snowball from nothing into nothing. But I mean that in a positive way. Realistically, the depth of its insight into the American Dream and failure of the '60s counterculture don’t come close to its novel counterpart. But it is one of those films that you can either read into or get stoned and marvel at how it portrays drug effects. I mean, it’s insanely hard to recreate the feelings of taking a dose of adrenaline from a human gland without losing 90% of its audience. But it pulls it off and it still doesn’t look dated.