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.

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. 

Chef (2014)

Chef (2014) via IMDb.

Ah, Chef. Man, if this isn’t in my top 5 (there are a lot of movies out there) then it’s in my top 10 for sure. The music, the vibe, the characters, and the story kept my interest throughout the entire film. Like it was promising me an authentic cuban sandwich by the end of it. Every time  food was being stirred, boiled, or fried I just wanted to reach through the screen and snatch it. I could smell it.

Jon Favreau has a fun and deliciously enjoyable film. By far a favorite of mine that has been cooked up from his mind. It’s about friendship, love, family, and the changing world around us. The best way to display this was between the father and son. The father: lonely, out of touch with the world and self-centered. Then his son: who needs his father and helps him rekindle a lost flame and discover the power of social media. Their bond is the perfect link between the old and new. And the storytelling is so dynamic leading one place to the next. I honestly didn’t know what to expect first time round, but really enjoyed it. Second time i fell in love. It gave me warm happy feels with a smile that resisted giving in. Especially when the food was on screen, I’d say that was the star of the show.

Everyone bounced off each other so well. You’d believe you just walked into these people’s lives for a split second to see it turn for the better. I loved it. It was made with so much love and passion. Everyone involved seemed to have fun making this as well. The dynamic flow of the film and the character interactions left no dull moment, just one tasty pleasure after the next.

Someone once asked me if i were to have made a movie, what movie would it have been? I didn’t know how to answer at first, but now, now I have found it. Did you smell it? Or maybe you started tapping your foot to the music? It’s Chef everyone. A nicely blended fiesta for everyone to dig in. Make a meal, grab a friend, poor some wine, and enjoy, my friends.

BTW: This movie is similar the French film called Le Chef. Although that film follows more along the lines of Ratatuoille. Le Chef is worth checking out when given a chance.

House of the Devil (2009)

House of the Devil (2009) – IMDb

A movie hailed by few, hated by many, and stuck somewhere on the middle ground with a few more. Many critics praised this movie giving it a lot of hype. Even the trailers looked promising. So, does it deliver? Yes and a resounding No. Ti West has a great idea on his hands, much like the rest of his films, but somehow they fall flat, or rather in this case, too short. House of the Devil has a slow but suspenseful build up that ends abruptly enough before we the audience can be satisfied.

Normally, I choose a different cover photo for movies so they can ‘stand out’ from the norm. However, the original cover looked so good I had to use it. It’s really what hooked me in to the movie and looked like it guaranteed a spooky good time. Yes, House of the Devil is quite spooky, even creepy. But this doesn’t happen towards the end. The beginning is when we meet a nice girl, Samantha, who needs to find enough rent for her new apartment. Job searching isn’t easy, but when she finds a babysitting job that’s in need of her presence, it’s all too good to be true. It becomes increasingly suspicious and unsettling what this job may actually offer. The actual atmosphere doesn’t settle in until we reach the house. Even then, when we meet the Ulmans who seem to be kind but something doesn’t settle right. Mr. Ulman seems to keep forgetting he’s told Sam the pizza number is on the fridge, like she should be comfortable and not leave. Mrs. Ulman is also kind, starting up a light conversion asking her questions as if nothing is to worry. The confrontation of this couple has an ominous darkness about them that fit inside the genre really well.

Although the house is full of brood and mystery behind every door, we watch Samantha become bored. We become bored. The Ulman’s are gone and it’s time for her to do her job: sit and wait. She meanders about a bit but nothing really happens. Did I mention House of the Devil is shot and set in the 80s? The song she plays by The Fixx “One Thing Leads to Another” fits the movie perfectly. But still, we’re stuck watching a build up to a bloody, horrifying climax. To be honest, It’s this climax that if it lasted for another fifteen minutes and didn’t end so abruptly, I’d say we would have a destined classic. Because then we could forget about the hour we spent waiting. It leaves you unfinished questions that happens to our main character. Time was spent liking this character and rooting for her then BOOM, that’s all folks. I like this movie but can’t help feeling cheated and wanting more. With a great premise that should’ve gone a little further. I’ll list my spoiling questions at the bottom, they need to be heard.

I have strong hope Ti West will have his breakthrough film, one that will sure enough become classic. He’s got it in him, he just needs to find his right ritual to conjure a demon of a film. Ti’s shots are very well orchestrated with perfect natural lighting. My favorite shot is when Sam is walking down the unlit hallway holding a knife. His writing is exceptional, too. It was strong, supported the movie, and  even the actors delivered. i also appreciate a director who edits his own films. You’re truly seeing someone’s vision. The last half hour was just creepy. Starting with the lights going out to the unrelentless pulsating frames is it’s darkest half hour. Its hard for me to recommend House of the Devil, It cuts off too soon to fully appreciate what happens and the slowness doesn’t help either. If you decide to watch it, it must be in the dark, late at night, so you can still see flashing images of mother’s face.

***SPOILER***

Does Samantha ever heal? And if/when she does What does she do with the child? Kill it or herself? Do people believe her story? Does she still get the apartment? Is there an investigation? Do they find the bodies? What was in the basement?? Is Mr. Ulman found? Does he take revenge? Possible sequel? Why did it end so soon??

The Raid 2 (2014) – IMDb

via The Raid 2 (2014) – IMDb.

Like the rest of the audience who has seen The Raid: Redemption, I was excited to see the sequel The Raid 2: Berandal. When I first found out it was showing at a local theater in my territory for a limited time with few showings to offer, I just had to get a ticket. I walked in the dark, empty theater which the movie has just begun and grabbed my seat, looking at the screen the whole way. Once I sat, a voice to my left says: “out of the whole theater you had to sit next to me?” I didn’t even notice someone was there, the man moves and I say “my bad”. I just wanted to see this film with the best seat. This epic, bloody and complex film Gareth Evans, writer and director, originally conceived before The Raid 1.

The first movie is much simpler than the second. It was straight forward with amazing fights and stunts. The sequel takes off just moments after, already introducing a major villain. We’re then brought to the attention our hero from the previous movie, Rama, that he’s being sent in to the underground world by a secret organization who seeks out corrupt cops. He is to help a dangerous gang member, Uco, who is in jail and earn his trust so he is accepted into their clan on the outside. Once he earns their respect and trust he is to cut the head off the snake so the gang wars will come to an end. But it becomes more than what Rama was expecting, he is caught into a web of distrust, betrayal, and an all out war. The beginning of The Raid 2 is a bit confusing at first, you’re introduced to a number of characters and backgrounds. It’s a little hard to keep up because of the pace it is presented but eventually you move on after the first half hour with a deadly brutal fight scene in the muddy courtyard inside the jail.

The movie doesn’t kid around when it comes to violence, neither is it shy. It is raw and can rival the darkest of horror. It’s an all in your face, no holds bared, adrenaline pumped two and half hour movie. I felt bruised and exhausted after the first movie which was an hour shorter; this one has more to offer as to do with the storyline, which is somewhat reminiscent of The Godfather series. The Raid 2 is relentless in depicting violence but the choreograph is superb. Most notably is the kitchen scene which is Gareth’s favorite, and mine, too. You can feel the momentum and impact in all the fight sequences, they have a way of feeling dynamic. No fight scene is used just to have a fight, everything has lead up to that point where there is reason to fight and makes it feel that more impactful. Much like Gareth’s directing which is also dynamic, it flows with the story and movement of the characters like a punch to the face or grinding a head to the wall. I do have one suggestion, or minor complaint, with all the brutality in the air I was looking for a different fight scene to change pace. There is a scene which leads outside from a club to the snowy streets. The tempo is slowed for a little and our character is faced with another villain, The Assassin. The snow is falling, you still have the dark atmosphere, but the brutality persists. I was hoping for this scene to have a beautifully crafted fight in the snow, without an overdose of blood shed and a ballet like fight. It may sound corny but wish Gareth switched the fighting style. A death like that should be beautiful not torn away meaninglessly. Although, the car chase sequence is awesome and increases the heart rate and is well shot.

Other than the Assassin, two icons have emerged here as if ripped from a comic book. You have a deaf mute, Hammer Girl, who wields two hammers and delivers heavy damage. And her brother Baseball Bat Man who carries a bat and his trusty baseball. The two together are the most interesting characters here who could have their own movie covering their background. Which Gareth Evans did discuss during the awkward Q&A in the special features. Either way, their child-like manners don’t get in the way of them hammering down or hitting their victim from afar with a baseball.

There is a lot that happens in The Raid 2 , although a little confusing first time round, it has a good storyline with unforgetful fight sequences. It’s either just as good as it’s predecessor or better, up to you, but I think it’s just as good. Gareth Evans has filmed a very dynamic and visually artistic action-gangster-epic. He has kept most of his crew from his past couple projects; you will notice stuntmen and characters reprised, and some even from his segment in V/H/S 2 (which was quite shocking and down right creepy). I like it when sequels are different from the first and can still entertain, keeping things fresh. I look forward to the next installment, hoping it will bring a little more to the table. The first two had a dash of subtle dark humor, but very little, perhaps the next Raid will provide more and add some emotional depth. What do you think?

Identity (2003) – IMDb

via Identity (2003) – IMDb.

It was around my 4th-5th grade year when Identity came out. Once it was released on home video my dad rented it and one night I really wanted to watch it. This was during the time when I was exploring all sorts of movies, expanding my knowledge on such great films. After watching Ghost Ship (not so great) and found it a little scary I thought I could watch anything. So late one night my father placed the movie in and before pressing play he says: “If you have any questions, save it for after the movie”. Unfortunately he fell asleep and I was left mesmerized, scared, and contemplating the whole story with questions raining in my head. I went to school the next day and heard a friend say she watched it the night before as well, I sprang into action and proclaimed “wasn’t it awesome?! What did you think?” She didn’t understand it and so she didn’t like it which baffled me. Never have I seen a movie or experienced one like this at that time in my life; this movie marked my love for psychological movies.

The story starts with one small act of an event that causes a chain reaction for several strangers to confront each other in a small, deserted motel in the middle of a storm out in the middle of nowhere. But the weird starts happening, people start dying, one by one. Tension rises with clues and twists that makes everyone a suspect making your head tumble like in the drier just to figure it out. Identity even points the finger for you, playing with your head. You will keep guessing until the very end and questioning what really is going on. Is it supernatural? A dream? Or just some trick? Some will probably figure it out beforehand but it’s fun ride none the less, since something is always going on.

John Cusack did an okay job as the limo driver, it isn’t his best work by far. Although, I’d enjoy to see him in a horror flick; he has a dark, curious presence that fits. Ray Liotta did a fine job as the cop, as well as John Hawkes as the manger of the motel from *southern accent* Mulberry.Gary Busey was convincing as the con-man and Amanda Peet’s acting felt a little forced but was good. The motel itself, though, is a dark, suspicious place. A place that you would dream about and wouldn’t want to get lost in, in it’s cold and wet, creepy atmosphere. The motel is shot beautifully by James Mangold who was enthusiastic about this moody, mystery project.

Identity is a great psychological thriller with elements of horror. It’s fun the second time round watching it, but after that the experience wears down, unless you watch it with someone with fresh eyes just to see how they take it in.