Blimey, that time already!? I guess time just shoots past when you’re watching great movies, no? Well I hope you’re sitting comfortably because here comes this month’s second helping of movies from the “win” pile. Enjoy.
Pump Up the Volume (1990)
I love this movie because I can really relate to it. Pump Up the Volume follows Mark Hunter (Christian Slater), a newcomer to his town and high school who vents his frustrations through a pirate radio station under the alias; Happy Harry Hard-on or Hard Harry. Harry gains popularity quickly in a community where the kids aren’t alright and this, unexpectedly leads to tragedy. Overnight the police and the FCC are out to get Harry and he is against the clock to make a real change before he is silenced for good.
The more I think about it,the more I realise that if the Internet or blogging didn’t exist, I’d love to be doing something like that. It’s a truly great little story with some nice performances, a killer soundtrack and some unexpected appearances (look out for a waaaay young Seth Green) and I think it ranks up there with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in the rebellious kids genre.
Now for something truly dark. This movie is not for the easily disturbed and definitely not for kids. 8MM follows Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage), a private investigator hired to determine the authenticity of a film found in the private safe of a deceased wealthy business man. The film appears to be a genuine “snuff” film, a pornographic film culminating in the murder of the girl. Tom must journey deep into the sickening world of underground pornography to track down the people responsible for making the film and give answers to those who so gravely need them. Helping him on his way is Max California (sadly, the weakest part of this movie) played by Joaquin Phoenix.
There are movies that claim to tackle dark subject matter but most will coat it with a suffocating layer of Hollywood cheese. 8mm, on the other hand is violent, raw and unforgiving. It also shows Nicolas Cage in his finest performance since Leaving Las Vegas. Check it out if you have the stomach for it.
Very Bad Things (1998)
If the phrase “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” was actually true, this movie wouldn’t exist. Very Bad Things follows Kyle (Jon Faverau) a group of friends returning from Kyles stag party and dealing with a terrible secret; that they killed two people while in Las Vegas and buried them in the desert. As paranoia rises, so does the body count. Can Kyle make it to his wedding day, and who will be left alive to see it?
Darkly comical and very strange, Very Bad Things is a descent into paranoia and beyond that you won’t soon forget. Christian Slater, Jon Faverau and Leland Orser have great on-screen chemistry and as different as they all are they make a very believable group of friends. Friends ’til the bloody end.
Ghost Dog – The Way of the Samurai (1999)
Low-key and very understated, Ghost Dog is a dark horse indeed. It tells the story of a New York hit man (Forest Whitaker) who lives his life by the ancient code of the Samurai. When one of Ghost Dog’s hits is witnessed, he becomes the target and must carry out retribution on the deceitful mob while remaining true to his code. His only friends, a French speaking Haitian and young girl who shares his love of books are little help as Ghost Dog carries out his most important mission ever.
While clearly drawing inspiration from Leon, Ghost Dog is a different animal all together. Forest Whitaker gives a great performance as Ghost Dog and makes the movie draw you in. That said, it’s an unusual movie and maybe an acquired taste. It may not be for everyone but I certainly recommend it.
The Frighteners (1996)
This is what Peter Jackson does with horror-comedy when he’s given a budget higher than a few thousand dollars. Gone, but not forgotten, are the days of Bad Taste and Braindead. The Frighteners sees Frank Bannister (Michael J. Fox) given the ability to see and interact with ghosts following a car crash that claimed the life of his wife several years ago. While scratching out a living by conning people who claim to be experiencing hauntings, Frank encounters an old evil threatening to make its return. Frank has to use his unique ability to save the ones he loves, and the whole town from being consumed by this evil before it’s too late.
This movie keeps you on your toes. What starts out as a light hearted comedy soon becomes something much darker and while the comedy stays with us until the end, the movie is made much more satisfying by the change in tone and Peter Jackson’s distinctive style drives it home with style. The Frighteners; strangely, darkly entertaining.
Join me next time for more of my movie recommendations. As always, put your thoughts and suggestions in a the comments thread.