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Viewing Recommendations For Your Coronavirus Isolation!

March 16th, 2020

I hope everyone reading this is healthy and doing OK managing the social and economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic.  I am not a doctor (cue the Dan Goor production company “Not a doctor!” soundbite seen at the end of every Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode), so I thought, how can help in my own small way?  The answer: by being your one-stop source for viewing and entertainment recommendations!

Let’s dig in with some ideas for great movies to watch that you might not have seen.

Note #1: None of these movies are virus or pandemic-themed.

Note #2: I’m not going to list super-famous movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark here; I’ve tried to dig a little deeper with my recommendations…

 

Comedies:

In a World… For the past several years, this little movie has been one of my go-to recommendations.  Written, directed, and starring Lake Bell, she plays a young woman trying to get into the movie trailer voice-over business.  The film is sweet and funny and a very interesting look into this aspect of movie-making: the voice-overs for movie trailers.  (Click here for my full review.)

Late Night This comedy/drama came out this past summer; Mindy Kaling wrote it and stars as a young woman who gets hired as the only non-white-male on the writing staff of a late-night talk show (whose host is played by Emma Thompson).  (Click here for my full review.)

The Way Way Back A beautiful, sweet, funny coming-of-age story.  A teenager finds solace from his home life in a part-time summer job at a local, small-time water park, and a friend and almost-father-figure in the park’s amiable manager (played by Sam Rockwell, who is terrific).  I have a sweet spot for the specific sub-culture of summer jobs and how impactful that can be for young people.  (Click here for my full review.)

Adventureland Another terrific coming-of-age movie set in the context of a summer job; this one is about a post-college young man who discovers that his degree in literature doesn’t really qualify him for any sort of employment back home in Pittsburgh, so he winds up working at Adventureland, a somewhat tired old local amusement park.  The cast is amazing: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Martin Starr, Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Reynolds, and more.  (Click here for my full review.)

The Big Sick Comedian Kumail Nanjiani co-wrote this film with his wife, Emily V. Gordon; and he also stars in this very funny, and also dramatic, film that tells the real story of how Emily fell into a coma soon after the two started dating.  (Click here for my full review.)

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Based on the graphic novels by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the film stars Arrested Development’s Michael Cera as the titular Scott, who is looking for love.  The cast is unreal, and this very funny film is extraordinarily original and creative in the way almost every frame is stylized somehow, based on the culture of video games and other pop culture.  (Click here for my full review.)

Bad Words – Another Arrested Development alum, Jason Bateman, directed and stars in this film as a forty-year-old man who exploits a loophole in the rules of the National Quill Spelling Bee competition so that he can enter, beginning a quest to defeat child after child and be crowned champion of the National Bee.  The film is extremely funny, with humor that pushes some boundaries but is never mean-spirited.

This is the End Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Craig Robinson, James Franco, Jonah Hill, and Danny McBride play themselves, attending a housewarming party at James Franco’s new home, a party that is unfortunately interrupted by, well, the end of the world.  This film is insanely funny.  (Click here for my full review.)

 

Dramas:

The Post Spielberg’s 2017 movie about the Pentagon Papers is fantastic and extremely relevant in today’s world.  (Click here for my full review.)

Fast Color This beautiful story of three generations of African-American women with a family secret (that has a sci-fi twist) was one of my favorite movies of 2019.  (Click here for my full review.)

Glengarry Glenn Ross My favorite David Mamet film, this tense drama about con-artist salesmen has some of the best dialogue ever in a movie.  (Though beware: it’s very profane!)  The film is very funny and also heartbreaking.  The cast cannot be beat: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey.  And Alec Baldwin’s one-scene monologue is one of my favorite scenes in a movie ever.  (Click here for my full review.)

The Spanish Prisoner – Another fantastic David Mamet film, this one is a real mind-bender about a man who has invented a potentially lucrative “process” (the film never tells us what this actually is — it’s not important) and all the people who are trying to outsmart him in order to take possession of it.  Steve Martin is fantastic in a serious role!  (Click here for my full review.)

The Prestige This is my very favorite Christopher Nolan movie.  High Jackman and Christian Bale play magicians locked in a fierce rivalry.  The entire film is structured as a mind-bending series of illusions and misdirections.  It’s extraordinary.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Writer/director Shane Black has never been better, nor has star Robert Downey Jr.  The film is a twisty crime yarn that’s also a meta story about making movies.  It’s funny (the dialogue is so great!!) and tense and exciting.  I love it a lot.

The Royal Tenenbaums My favorite Wes Anderson movie is funny enough that I almost listed it in the “comedy” section, above, but it’s so rich and heartbreaking I had to list it here.  The film tells the story of the many broken people in the very weird Tenenbaum family.  Gene Hackman gives one of his greatest performances ever, and, hey, also pretty great are: Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels The first and still the best of Guy Ritchie’s fast-paced, funny and twisty and tense crime capers.  (Click here for my full review.)

Gone Baby Gone – Ben Affleck’s directorial debut is still his best film, a gorgeously made, heartbreaking mystery revolving around a missing child, adapted from the novel by Dennis Lehane.  Casey Affleck is spectacular in the lead role, and so too are Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, and Amy Ryan.  (Click here for my full review.)

Hugo This is probably not Martin Scorsese’s best film, but it might just be the one that gives me the most joy to watch.  Adapted from the wonderful novel by Brian Selznik, the film is a wonderfully playful mystery that winds up being all about the history and love of cinema itself.  (Click here for my full review.)

Run Lola Run – This amazing German film is a fast-paced thrill ride with a fantastic narrative twist that cannot be spoiled.  The plot revolves around around a desperate young woman who needs to get her hands on a lot of money in less than 20 minutes in order to save her boyfriend from death at the hands of gangsters.  (Watch this in the subtitled version, NOT the bad English dub.)  (Click here for my full review.)

 

Sci-Fi:

Prospect – One of my very favorite 2019 films, this independently-made film was created on a tiny budget and yet it somehow looks spectacular.  It’s a very cool, completely original story, focusing on a young girl who winds up stranded on an alien world and is forced to partner with a dangerous rogue (played by The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal) in order to survive.  (Click here for my full review.)

Vanilla Sky – My favorite Cameron Crowe film is a fantastically mind-warping tale of a rich young man (Tom Cruise) caught between two women (Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz) who may or may not be completely insane.  The film’s fractured narrative unfolds as a wonderful puzzle that all fits together perfectly in the end.

Moon Duncan Jones’ first film is still my favorite: this very clever super-low-budget sci-fi movie (that, like Prospect, somehow looks amazing despite its small budget) stars Sam Rockwell as a man working alone on the moon who discovers a clone of himself.  And things get weirder from there.  (Click here for my full review.)

Ex Machina This amazing piece of speculative fiction is, essentially, a closed-room mystery revolving around three characters: young Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson), brilliant inventor Nathan (Oscar Isaac), and Ava (Alicia Vikander), the humanoid robot created by Nathan who may or may not be sentient.  (Click here for my full review.)

Attack the Block Written & directed by Joe Cornish, this howlingly funny film is also an awesome sci-fi adventure, one that explores what would happen if aliens came and, instead of invading a major city like New York, they chose to attack a lower-class London housing block.  (Click here for my full review.)

 

For Younger Viewers:

The Iron Giant – Before he made The Incredibles, Brad Bird co-wrote and directed this wonderful animated film about a boy and his giant alien robot friend.  Beware: you might get a little sniffly at the end.  (Also, while this is animated, it’s not for little kids.  The film deals, in a beautiful, poignant manner, with some sophisticated issues about death and loss.)

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm – Still the best Batman movie ever made, this animated epic tells the dual story of Batman’s origin as well as a “present day” story of conflict with a new vigilante in Gotham City called the Phantasm.  This complex and emotionally rich story is amazing.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – My favorite Spider-Man movie of all time!  This gorgeously animated, very funny, and beautifully heartfelt film tells the story of Miles Morales, the son of an African American father and a Puerto Rican mother, who finds himself taking up the mantle of Spider-Man…

Wall-E – I mean, truly, you can’t go wrong with ANY Pixar film… but this might just be my favorite.

 

If that’s not enough, c’mon back tomorrow for some TV show recommendations…!

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