July 3, 2015

2015: Best First Time Viewings of Non-New Release Movies

In addition to all the new movies I go to, I watch that many more at home. With so many Blu-rays, DVDs, Netflix, and theatrical screenings of older films, I have a lot of different avenues to go down to see movies. Some of these are great, some are terrible,but they all have one thing in common, me. Below is my list of favorite/best films I have seen for the first time this year that are not new releases. I am happy to say I have knocked a few off of my list of shame, which will likely always be a mile long. Anyway…..

10. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. This is a movie I have wanted to watch for a long time, and have even owned for a long time, but for some reason it wasn’t until now that I did. The reason I watched it was two of the leading ladies were appearing at a convention I was going to, and if I were to meet them, I should know the movie. It is a very entertaining film of a band going to LA for fame and finding sleaze. As a bonus, it was written by Roger Ebert.

9. Blue Ruin. This is a fascinating indie thriller. A tale of revenge told in such a quiet fashion that it almost defies the thriller label. It is a fascinating excursion into blame and revenge and the effect that trauma can have on a young mind. It came to my attention amid some hype, and it is worth the hype I experienced.

8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978). Can you believe I’ve seen this one before? I would swear that I had, yet none of it seemed familiar at all. In any case, I have seen it now and it is pretty phenomenal. It works as political commentary and a great science fiction film. This is likely the defining version of this story, and it blows the more recent Invasion out of the water.

7. Phase IV. This is a fascinating excursion into a surreal man vs nature battle as scientists must deal with an intelligent colony of ants. This is no Them!, it is a bit more cerebral and bizarre. It is the one and only feature directed by poster and credits designer Saul Bass. It is very much worth getting your eyes on. You will probably be more wary of ants afterwards.

6. Starry Eyes. How far are you willing to go for your dream? That is at the center of this indie horror. It is not a new or fresh subject, but it executes wonderfully and never feels constrained by the usual rules these movies play be. It is dark and holds the attention. How far will you go?

5. The Guest. The guy’s behind You’re Next follow up with another winner. It seems rather unassuming at first, but it quickly turns into this weird thriller/horror/science fiction mash up. It plays out like a budget conscious blend of Halloween, Terminator, and Universal Soldier. It really is good and I would not mind another trip down this road.

4. The Town that Dreaded Sundown (2014). Here is a movie that was initially believed to be a remake, but turns out to be something else altogether. This is actually a sequel to the 70’s film, one that works the original into its fabric and takes on a meta quality. It is a solid horror that is beautifully shot and has some nice kills.

3. The French Connection. Here is one of those list of shame movies. I felt it appropriate to watch this after I saw the new film The Connection, which shows the French side of the drug cartel that Gene Hackman wages war on. This is such a great film, I kind of regret putting it off this long.

2. Annie Hall. Here is another one of those list of shame titles. I have seen a bunch of Woody Allen movies, but precious few from what was likely his best era. This is the one I have been needing to see for a long time. I really like the nebbish comedy and odd characters. This is very entertaining and features some great writing.

1. Roar. Of all the non-new release movies I have seen this year, I think this one is going to be hard to top. Starring producer/director Noel Marshall, his wife Tippi Hedren, and her daughter Melanie Griffith, we get a crazy look at a family living with a large number of untrained big cats (you know, lions, tigers, and the like). It is one of the funniest and most terrifying movies I have ever seen. It is not exactly a great narrative, but it gets the job done. I still can’t believe what I saw, and I got to see it in a theater!

Granted, the order could change on a dime, but you get the idea of what some of the better new experiences I have had this year. I was going to follow this up with a bottom 5, like my theatrical list, but I watch a lot more bad movies outside of a theater, and some so bad I do not finish (and thus are not counted), but I figured why bother? Focus on the good ones I saw. If you want to see the full list, you can check out my Letterboxd account, link is in the right column.

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