Since we’ve already watched and reviewed the movies coming out this week (Check out my review of Eddie the Eagle and stay tuned for Brian’s thoughts on Triple 9), I figured I’d help out the folks that can’t leave the house, but need something to watch. Plus, looking through the endless streaming abyss that is Netflix can be exhausting, so why not assist in narrowing things down a bit?
You won’t find a lot of big Hollywood movies on this list because I want to direct people to movies they wouldn’t have necessarily known about or watched without an extra little shove (Yes, you should absolutely check out some of the more well-known films if you haven't - Tarantino's catalogue, Nightcrawler, Talladega Nights, Training Day, Etc). And don’t worry - the list below is not too obscure or pretentious. Fellow movie buffs, these may not be deep cuts to you, but I wanted to make this list more for the non-obsessives.
You never know - you might find a new go-to favorite…
The Overnight (2015)
Director: Patrick Brice
Writer: Patrick Brice
Stars: Adam Scott, Taylor Schilling, Jason Schwartzman
This is an interesting and strange little comedy. It’s probably better that you know next to nothing going it other than:
A.) It’s about a couple (played by Adam Scott of Parks & Recreation & Taylor Schilling from Orange Is The New Black) who move to L.A. with their child and are invited to a playdate with another single-child family (played by Jason Schwartzman & Judith Godrèche).
B.) This is most certainly NOT a family film.
Other than that, sit back and enjoy the strange and wonderful ride.
I Love You, Phillip Morris (2009)
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writers: John Requa, Glenn Ficarra
Stars: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann
This one flew under the radar when it came out in 2009. I’m not sure if it was because mainstream audiences weren’t quite ready to embrace gay lead characters in a comedy or if people were expecting something wackier out of Jim Carrey. Regardless, it’s worth a second look for the crazy true-story, and Carrey’s performance (which deserved more credit at the time of release).
Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Mélanie Laurent
Beginners is both a laugher and a crier. It’s a very beautiful character piece about a man through the lens of his relationship with his late father & mother, as well as his new love interest. It got a little attention in the form of an Academy Award for Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of a man who comes out of the closet after the death of his wife. Despite the aforementioned Academy Award, it didn’t make too big of a splash that year. If you don’t mind indie films that make you feel some feelings, give this a try.
Sleepwalk With Me (2012)
Directors: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish
Writers: Mike Birbiglia & Ira Glass
Stars: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn
Mike Birbiglia is one of my favorite stand-up comedians. He doesn’t tell a lot of jokes – his comedy stems from his long-form, very personal stories. Sleepwalk With Me actually started as one of his stand-up routines, turned one-man show. Both the movie and the one man show are available on Netflix, and I highly recommend both.
The basic plot revolves around Mike, his spiraling career/relationship, and the sleeping disorder that worsens as a result of the stress from these issues. It’s a very funny, heartfelt comedy that, like Mike’s stand-up, doesn’t go for the raunchy laughs, but wants to elicit something much deeper and more rewarding.
Liberal Arts (2012)
Director: Josh Radnor
Writers: Harold Manning & Josh Radnor
Stars: Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen, Richard Jenkins
I’ve heard people both praise and rip this movie to shreds. I understand where both are coming from, but I usually end up siding with the former. Josh Radnor (of How I Met Your Mother) writes & directs his second film, and, like his first (Happythankyoumoreplease), it’s largely compared to Garden State. I understand the comparison – the leading man from a TV comedy makes a small, heartfelt indie coming-of-age tale about a thirtysomething white guy that needs to grow the hell up. So, yes – on the surface they’re comparable, but they’re very different films. This one has its flirtations with pretension, but it never crosses the line too hard for me. Richard Jenkins and Elizabeth Olsen are both great in the movie, as well.
If you like those “I need to find myself” indie dramedies, this one definitely is worth a once through.
Perfect Sense (2011)
Director: David Mackenzie
Writer: Kim Fupz Aakeson
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Eva Green
I just realized that I have three Ewan McGregor movies on this list…I knew I liked him as an actor, but this is borderline stalking. My bad, Ewan.
Stalking or not, this is an excellent mix of the sci-fi, thriller, and romance genres. Ewan and Eva Green both deliver great performances that anchor the movie, and while it’s most prominently a love story, the grounded sci-fi/outbreak elements play nicely in the film, as well.
Also, the ending is perfect. They probably wrote the damn thing just to do the ending. Either way, way to go. I dug it.
The One I Love (2014)
Director: Charlie McDowell
Writer: Justin Lader
Stars: Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss
This one’s a doozy. It’s another film where it’s best that you don’t know much going in. On the surface, it’s about a struggling couple who, at the recommendation of their friends, retreat to a secluded getaway to repair their relationship. I will say nothing more except get ready for the twist.
Mark Duplass does his ever-dependable everyman acting, while Elizabeth Moss is allowed to stretch her wings a bit more than we’d seen previously.
Have fun with that ending…
The Monster Squad (1987)
Director: Fred Dekker
Writers: Shane Black, Fred Dekker
Stars: Andre Gower, Robby Kiger, Stephen Macht
This one is a bit of a personal plug for me. I grew up worshiping this film. I saw it when I was probably way too young, but I’m so glad my parents let me, as it’s become a real classic in my household. The poster above is on my man-cave wall to this day.
It’s a kids vs. the classic universal monsters movie, but it doesn’t talk down to the kids like so many films do today. Then again, this movie would never be allowed to exist today, as it’s far scarier and dirtier than any kids movie is allowed to be in modern times. Man, the 80’s were the best, right?!
The closest comparison you’re going to get today is Goosebumps – and, trust me, Goosebumps is nothing compared to The Monster Squad.
The Monster Squad is like The Goonies meets Fright Night. If you love 80’s movies like me, it’s a can’t miss.
(UPDATE: I've been informed that this one is coming down on Tuesday, so hurry up and stream it while you still can!)
Director: Patrick Brice
Writers: Patrick Brice & Mark Duplass
Stars: Patrick Brice, Mark Duplass
I’m just as sick of found footage movies as you likely are, but hear me out with this one…it’s actually good. Mark Duplass makes the list again, and he’s exactly what the title implies.
The movie does what all found footage films should, but have forgotten in recent years – it keeps things basic. This movie is as bare bones as it gets. It sticks with mainly 2 characters and builds the tension bit by bit until you get to a well-executed and creepy finish.
I don’t know if I’m recommending it because it’s a solid found-footage horror flick or because it’s so basic that it feels like my friends and I could do it.
Blue Ruin (2013)
Director: Jeremy Saulnier
Writer: Jeremy Saulnier
Stars: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves
Blue Ruin is a small, personal indie thriller that just blew me away when I first saw it. I had never seen any of the actors before, I’d never seen any of Jeremy Saulnier’s other films, and I hadn’t even seen a trailer for the damn thing. I just heard great things – seeing a movie in that way can be the best way to do it for these little indies. All you need to know is that it’s a simple, well-executed, straightforward thriller – just watch it.
Wet Hot American Summer (2001)
Director: David Wain
Writers: Michael Showalter, David Wain
Stars: Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Paul Rudd
OK, so this one is starting to become fairly well-known due to the recent Netflix TV show revival, but for those of you that have been putting it off or only watched the new show, watch this damn movie. The strange brand of humor isn’t for everyone, but if it clicks with you, it clicks HARD. A friend showed this one to me back in the early 2000’s and it was instantly one of my all-time favorites.
Plus, the cast is phenomenal – you’ll recognize a lot of people that went on to become huge (Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Christopher Meloni, etc).
It’s a comedy that is truly its own thing, which very few movies can take credit for. If you only get to one movie on this list, let this be the one!