Bargain Bin 2

Many times a movie can slip underneath your nose and you may never have caught a whiff. Bargain Bin is an accumulative set of movies I found underrated or hidden gems. Movies I’d like to bring attention to. You may have seen one, or a few, before but I’d like to dig inside the bin and discuss what we find. Perhaps, you may have found your next ‘Movie Night’ entertainment.

Today, I have a selected list of Animated features that may fancy your itch for something light and fun. And at the same time, being captivated by the artistic worlds the stories are surrounded by.

Watership Down (1978)

The movie opens beautifully with a tell-tale backstory of the Watership Down‘s folklore, then transitions to our main characters Hazel (John Hurt) and Fiver. After a vision, the rabbits decide to move away from their warren to escape the evil humans tearing down their land. What follows is a perilous journey, testing each other’s strengths and wits. Beautifully told and masterfully hand drawn. The film can be quite gruesome at times, with images of blood and flesh tearing; it is said this is the most violent PG film ever made. But it’s balanced by the serene landscape and a fateful bird “[perfectly] landing” some dorky comic relief (if only there was more of it). Watership Down became an instant favorite of mine.

PS: The locations you see are actually based off the map the author, Richard Adams, put in his book. Also is based on some real locations in Hampshire, England.

Song of the Sea (2014)

A film i recently watched and had to tell the world about. This is a movie that could rival Ghibli Studios. The animation and the music was just captivating. Literally. When not much was happening and I got up to get a snack, my eyes were still on the screen. Song of the Sea serenades us a bedtime story inducing lucid dreams. This is one of those moments when a family will look back on and say “remember when we watched-“. A magical movie that reminded me similarities that strung to Spirited Away. I knew nothing of this movie, and i suggest you keep it that way and let yourself become enchanted.

PS: Nominated for best Animated movie of the year. I’d like to also point out the backstory of Irish folklore is very interesting. And a selkie is my spirit animal.

Pom Poko (1994)

Three of my childhood years was spent in Japan, this was when i was exposed to the wonderful world of Ghibli. Since then I have grown up watching these films and I have to say, Pom Poko is one of THE most underrated films i have ever seen. Written by legendary Hayao Miyazaki, tells a story of raccoons trying to save their land from the humans who continue to deforest their home. They’re no ordinary raccoons though, these are shapeshifting raccoons. And they will fight to survive; whether that means they put on a psychadelic, full-on trip-out show to strike fear, or simply blend in. I found myself laughing at some of the going ons because it’s actually quite funny. Yes, Pom Poko took me by full surprise.

PS: Hayao Miyazaki is no stranger to telling stories about ‘humans and their deforestation for their industrial greater good’, Princess Mononoke anyone? Pom Poko is just a little more comical.

Ernest and Celestine (2012)

Another animated feature that became an instant favorite of mine. Ernest and Celestine is a French film, in English, delivering the laughs and, i must say, is quite cute. When Celestine befriends the bear, Ernest, which is taboo, they must depart from the city life, but not without the marshmallows. The authority says other wise hence they have unfinished debts to be repaid. I truly cared for what happened between the newly found friendship as they found they are not that different at all. This movie had me laughing at the expressions being made and other situations, all making me fall in love with the genius behind this creative animation. Simply one anyone will enjoy.

PS: Anyone get a flashback to Totoro when the mouse started poking the bear?

Mary and Max (2009)

Mary and Max is a sweet story about long distance friendship. Based on a true story, Mary lives in Australia and writes to her friend, who she has never met, Max, who is living in a New York apartment and is diagnosed with asberger’s syndrome. They send each other letters about their private lives and sometimes a box of local goodies. The stop motion animation is fun and the different color schemes when bouncing back and forth between Australia and New York really adds to the whole experience; giving each other separate moods. Sometimes the subject matter can be dark or unexpected but it’s hard not to care for their friendship and hoping that they one day meet. I enjoyed this movie, lending me a good few chuckles which lead to a near tearjerking end.

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Bargain Bin 1

With so many movies releasing every year it’s hard to keep up. A lot of time is spent on which one to watch?  Hoping you wouldn’t regret your decision after the two hours are up. You may choose one through networking because a friend told you to watch it. Or this other flick was hailed by a bunch of critics. Or perhaps you decided not to listen to anyone and watch some random movie out of the mainstream or whatever the case may be. Well, here’s someone else not to listen to: me.

I have compiled a small list that shouldn’t take up much of your time to skim through; a random selection of movies on different budgets, languages, genres, and other rubbish you may find amusing. Whether whatever weather outside, you sit on fur or leather, this is your chance to be pickey-choosey for your pleasure.

Here you go:

Hunter Prey (2010)

This small film caught me off guard. Whilst i was binge surfing on Netflix I decided to give this movie a try. I knew nothing about it and was rather impressed. A small squad is traveling with a cloaked prisoner on a distant planet when he gets loose and they must find him. Simple right? Hunter Prey is really well done for what it sets out to accomplish. Even though the soldiers’ costumes look like they were borrowed from the Clone Trooper sweat shop, it’s easy to write off for it’s still believable and the make up is also well done. Just please, do not watch the trailer. You are better off not knowing anything since the trailer somewhat ruins the twist and makes it seem more like an action movie.

PS: If you liked Enemy Mine you’d like this.

13 Assassins (2010)

I love Japanese culture and their art style. I love samurai movies even more. Takashi Miike gives himself a break from his outrageous horror/gangster films and brings us a story about thirteen samurai who are set on taking down a corrupt, evil leader. And he is evil. The film is set up in two parts basically, the first is build up. This is when Shinzaemon Shimada collects the twelve other samurai on a suicide mission and in contrary, the evil lord shows us just how evil he is. For some, the first hour may seem slow as it really lets us get to know a little bit about each character. Those who are patient, however, will be rewarded. The last hour is nothing but blood shed as the thirteen face off the many in epic fashion.

PS: I love the wide range of colors presented in every frame. Most notably when Japan’s landscape is shown. 

Session 9 (2001)

A little known horror film that came across my way through a friend. This wasn’t a movie i thought he would even like in the first place so when i watched it I was surprised that HE was the one who found it. Session 9 doesn’t need jump scares, no need for gore, just the real Danvers Mental Hospital to film in. At first, everything seems easy enough for our asbestos cleaning crew in an eerie, haunting asylum. But not everything is what it seems in this psychological horror. Hiding secrets can result in brutal fatalitie. Brad Anderson’s editing, shots, and music is what really creeps up your nerves. As well as the session tapes. There’s something about this place that will leave you feeling mental.

PS: Even though the movie isn’t widely known, those who have seen the ending and were left scratching their skull were not satisfied for it’s rather ambiguous. This is a movie worth watching with some people who are open for conversation. I, myself, loved this film for it will have you thinking for days to come.

The Fisher King (1991)

What to say about this delightful movie? I blessed myself when i purchased this without giving it a first look and  it was the one of the best decisions i ever made. It’s a story about fate and moving on from the past. When a radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) who lost his fame due to assisting a woman’s suicide, crosses paths with a looney hobo (Robin Williams) with a tragic past, becomes a comedic tale of redemption and love. Jack (Jeff) befriends the bum hoping he can help him find his true love and aid his past. All performances  are top-notch giving Robin enough room to be weird and heart warming, and letting Jeff be the down-beat cool guy. A favorite of mine from Terry Gilliam.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I’m a little butt hurt this movie isn’t more well known, or to my knowledge it is not. You have a kick a** cast and amazing one liners. Scrap that, the whole script must be heard. Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr are perfect together, seeing that Val nearly steals the show in every scene.  Their chemistry and delivery couldn’t be any more pluperfect. The story line is a little everywhere which will take you a couple times to re-watch this. That’s not a complaint though, do yourself a favor and have fun solving this jazzed up mystery. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

PS: Still reading? Stop, i found your movie. 

Spring (2014)

Spring (2014) – IMDb

From the minds of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (Resolution) comes a fantasy tale of love disguised as a creature feature. Spring is a different movie and is similar to Richard Linklater’s talkie, but romantic Before trilogy with a monster twist. The movie is set on the coast of Italy, a beautiful setting with a labyrinth of brick roads. Age old buildings tower above the white cliffs overlooking the ocean with a taste of vino and smell of greenery in the air. This is where our protagonist, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), escapes from drama in the U.S. of A. after his mother passes, and he loses his job. He arrives in Italy and makes some quick acquaintances who help him to a few drinks and some fun.  Suddenly, Evan meets this beautiful ‘goddess’ of a woman, Louise (Nadia Hilker).  She is beautiful. If she told me she was a 2,000 year old mythical goddess, I would believe her. Louise is a man’s fantasy come true, inviting Evan to come away with her when they first meet. As easy as he could take her up on this offer, he simply wants to sit down and have a drink with her, get to know her more.  However, love has a way of ‘transforming’ things.

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker have wonderful chemistry. At first, you can sense Evan wants this girl, whether it’s lust or love; and you can sense Louise being distant with him, but still likes his close company. The dialogue between them feels like we’re listening in on a conversation between two complete strangers who found a connection. The writing is authentic and quirky, and each character has their own characterized way of speaking, even the smaller roles. Spring is a slow paced movie, but is still ever so engrossing with the dynamic writing, beautiful scenery, and the unfolding of the mysterious, pretty lady’s dark, inner secret. The move is not scary, naturally. It has horror elements and themes, and the climatic monster reveal is both shocking and peculiar.

I blindly purchased Spring due to it’s interesting setting and plot, and after from what I heard, and instinct was telling me, we found each other at a local Best Buy as fate has brought us. I enjoyed this movie and the connection between the two leads. Lou Taylor Pucci is a well rounded actor. I have seen him in a few flicks now and find find his talent underrated. In Spring, he is charismatic and very likable as Evan, even funny; same goes for Nadia Hilker’s role. Although, I watched a special featurette where the makers felt the ending was premature, so they went out and shot an extended ending with their iPhones. To be honest, I was happy with the original ending and thought the new one turned Evan into an unlikable character.

Anyways, Spring is a unique film. It’s labeled horror, but it’s different and not what you’d expect. If you’re expecting something like Species or The Howling, then this might not be for you. If you want something fresh, change of pace, like HoneymoonI do recommend it as a date night movie. Spring stands out from the rest of the body horror/creature feature flock, possibly becoming a cult classic.

Honeymoon (2014)

Honeymoon (2014) – IMDb

This movie is quite unnerving, especially if you stick around until the end. Honeymoon starts slow, showing you how these two newly wed love birds, Paul and Bea, are affectionate towards one another. You watch their relationship and can’t help but care about their blissful existence. Movies usually start after development about twenty some odd minutes in, and it’s somewhere after these twenty minutes things begin to change. You feel this change in relationship, in the atmosphere. It goes from happy to eerie and to downright creepy. Honeymoon isn’t a horror that’s all in your face and relies on bloodshed and heavy special effects. Although, where there is in small doses, it makes all that much more effective. The movie is more psychological since you watch this mystery unravel through Paul’s eyes, watching his new wife act so oddly, like a stranger, and like him, neither of us really know what’s going on.

The movie begins with Paul and Bea discuss their wedding and proposal to the camera. It’s light, funny, and maybe some could relate. Next, they arrive at their honeymoon cabin mountain side next to a lake in a small community with almost no one present. They are a happy couple and we’re happy for them. The writing seems genuine and handles the events that unfold with care. It is slow but not boring. Something is going to happen and you almost don’t want it to, however, one night changes their lives forever. That’s when things become really interesting and creepy. The slow pace helps us ease in to the mood and the shock value is increased.  Honeymoon is a slow burn mystery that becomes increasingly unnerving and leaves you feeling anchored at the bottom of the lake’s bed.  Rare finds like this makes movie viewing worth while if you don’t want a film to attack your senses every five minutes. It’s a worthy find if you catch it before it catches you.

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014)

Hector and the Search for Happiness (2014) – IMDb

Are you happy? What is happiness to you? Hector, a psychologist, sets out on a grand adventure around the world searching for the meaning of true happiness, something his nice and tidy life seems to be missing. During his meetings with his patients, he just hears their stories and problems but not listening. He eventually comes to the conclusion, with help of a psychic who is a patient, that he must undergo a journey for himself and bring happiness to his bland life. But if you have the woman you love and your day follows the same routine, pattern by pattern, day in day out, and you are safe, what more would you want? Hector and the Search for Happiness isn’t just about us watching Hector on his spiritually awakening journey to the corners of the Earth, but perhaps it’s him who takes us and shows us there is more out there to understand and be happy about.This is a turn for comedic British actor Simon Pegg, making this rather more mature and thought provoking than his other features, although still consisting a fun and humorous trip.

Hector seems to be trapped under something heavy he doesn’t know and we don’t. Only we find out in the final crucial, unexpected scenes when everything comes to a point. Hector still has a sense of innocence like a child inside him, refraining him from living his life. The movie has little bits of cartoonist transitions that are playful and come as an unexpected joy. He starts off from China to Africa and finally the United States, taking notes on what is happiness. He asks a variety of people who are surrounded by money, sex, and poverty. This also allows it too become an emotional journey for our protagonist. Hector is swept with love in all sorts of colors, also experiences fear but only to overcome it, and making us laugh, even out loud, throughout the movie.

Hector and the Search for Happiness was a surprise for me, normally i know what I’m about to watch but I chose this on the whim. It’s a thought provoking and heart warming movie that can even change your life! (given to a certain degree.) There is a lot to love, learn, and be happy about. You just have to search for it and let it find you. The cameos were also fun to see and be interacted with. I enjoyed this movie, not a dull moment. If I were able to travel like Hector or even for FREE, no one would see me again. I’d backpack to the Himalayas all the way down to the sandy beaches of South America and around the world for another go. Until i came to my unexpected end to an expansive, chaotic life I learned to love.

Extra: Simon Pegg was a character in The Adventures of Tin Tin and he has posters and books of Tin Tin in Hector’s office which was cool to see.

Hell to Eternity (1960) – IMDb

via Hell to Eternity (1960) – IMDb.

Over at my grandfather’s  I’m scanning his book collection which consists of WWII stories and other knowledgeable information on the war. Now he is someone who watches a lot of History Channel or Military Channel and anything in between on WWII to the point my grandma comes in the room and asks him “did Hitler win the war yet?” Among his historical book collection, he pulls out a book titled Saipan by Guy Gabaldon. My grandfather showed me the book was signed by Guy and they even had a few pictures together. I became interested and so I edged my grandpop to tell me more. Certainly, this was an offer he couldn’t refuse, he began to tell me it was about a young man who fought in the pacific and persuaded hundreds of Japanese civilians and soldiers to surrender single handedly. Now that is a great wartime story. After I found out Saipan was made into a full feature length film, knowing me, I located it on Amazon and purchased a copy for my grandfather and I to watch.

To rewind a little, Guy Gabaldon was born in Los Angeles, CA. At an early age he was orphaned and then was raised by a Japanese family who took him in in the 1930s and he even began learning their language and customs. Once 18, he was sent to fight for the U.S. on Saipan in 1944, an island off of Japan. Hell To Eternity starts with build up then the rest is shipped to the islands for the war where marines were getting killed left and right, fortunately Guy knew Japanese and used it to his advantage by communicating with the enemy. This was most helpful when he surprised the Japanese leader and told him to call off the attack or else he, the leader, would be shot. He told Guy that the order was already given, so regardless if he was killed or not the orders would be carried out. Guy takes the general out to call his men off and turn themselves in. Now, if you know Japanese custom, this is dishonorable and you would take your life for your country. The general conveys the message to his troops who are battered and starving and explains to Guy it wasn’t a pretty sight seeing his troops surrender. After hearing their leader’s command they submit and the general takes his life overlooking his several hundred men. Guy Gabaldon courageously turned in 800 hundred Japanese. An amazing, unheard of story I found inspirational and eye opening.

The movie is shot in black and white but the movie moves at a decent pace. Actually, some real WWII footage was used for the landing on the beach. Hell to Eternity is not all that violent but there is blood and many gunshot wounds. Wonderfully shot, the explosions and fight scenes are a great depiction of what happened on Saipan, so no need to worry about boredom. The story, though, is truly the main feat. Everything from seeing Guy’s new found family being sent to an American-Asian camp (who my grandfather even remembers at a young age nice Japanese neighbors being forced to move away) to delivering the unarmed, Japanese soldiers. I found myself relating to this movie, but in a sense of trading and receiving culture. I’ve grown up all over the place and my grandfather is Mexican and I’m Caucasian, and yet we’re very alike. Also, see below picture, right is Guy Gabaldon and left is the actor who portrayed Guy, Jeffrey Hunter. This is like SO Hollywood, getting a white man in Hispanic shoes, no bash though, Jeffrey did a fine job. Culture is everywhere and if we can set everyone’s differences to the side the world would be a more happy place. Family knows no color. I enjoyed this movie and I am happy it’s in my collection already. Do yourself a favor, dig up this classic and give it a watch.