Kneel Before VOD: December 8th
Netflix: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The release of The Avengers cemented the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the next big movie franchise (which it has now become with $13.5 billion at the box office across 17 titles). But it was with their 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy that Marvel Studios showed that they could make a huge success from a property that not many people had previously heard of, an even riskier proposition. Regardless, the titular team consisting of Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot became famous overnight, so a sequel was inevitable. Vol. 2 is certainly more character-driven and takes on a narrative approach which received comparisons to Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, best exemplified by splitting the team up and featuring a sins-of-the-father style narrative. It makes for an entertaining, action-packed sequel that earns its spot as one of the year’s best blockbusters.
Amazon Prime: Crank: High Voltage
The original Crank movie was essentially a 21st century spin on the classic film noir D.O.A., where a man facing his mortal end only has a short amount of time to extract justice before he expires. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s film goes balls-to-the-wall with their approach—kinetic and tasteless to say the least, and Crank: High Voltage doubles down in these respects to the point where you can’t believe what you’re watching. Protagonist Chev Chelios (Jason Statham), a poisoned hitman who must keep his adrenaline going to stay alive, is resurrected after falling out of a helicopter and smashing into the hood of the car, and due to a surgical procedure must stay juiced with electricity to stay alive. The near-nauseating, absurd sequences that Neveldine/Taylor pack the story with make it a ride worth taking, as we wait longingly for Crank 3D to materialize.
HBO Go: Jack Frost
Even though it’s meant to be a heartwarming family film, Jack Frost is considerably fucked up and disturbing. Michael Keaton plays a deadbeat dad (literally named Jack Frost) who dies in a blizzard on Christmas, and comes back a year later as a snowman after his son makes a wish (on a magic harmonica no less). We get the usual assortment of silly gags and moments to distract from the frigid, horror aspects of this story, though there are a ton of weird sexual innuendos also there for the parents, such as Jack lamenting his lack of a penis (you know, for kids!). If you’re looking for a holiday season offering that gets weirder the more you think about it, Jack Frost should be right up your alley.
Perhaps one of the most quotable films of the 2000s that still holds up ten years later, it’s interesting to see the impact that Superbad has had on the teen comedy sub-genre. Not only making household names out of Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, and Emma Stone, it fostered a number of imitators out of a simple premise about lame high schoolers trying to get laid. It’s also the purest expression of friendship that co-writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have created, ostensibly arising from their own past experiences, which makes the ludicrous situations of the film all the more hilarious in their own cringe-inducing way.
Antonioni’s first entirely English-language production is all about the act of seeing and how truth can be conflated with perception. A London photographer (David Hemmings) fixated around glamour models believes he may have captured evidence of a murder on film, becoming obsessed with voyeuristic principles in the process. Simple on the surface, it becomes more engrossing over the course of its runtime, and remains as effective over 50 years later.
Also Streaming: Godzilla (plus 13 other kaiju films within the franchise), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, House of Flying Daggers, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, A Face in the Crowd, Dawson City: Frozen Time