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Movies You Should Be Watching

I fancy myself to be a bit of a movie expert. Alright, fine, maybe that’s taking it a bit far, but I do have a very large movie collection ranging from Amelie to Zoolander (see what I did there), and some of them I even bought legally. I like to think the only thing more impressive than how well-alphabetized my movie collection is my taste in movies. That said, and now that I have a blog, I feel it’s incumbent upon me to share my knowledge of all things movies. This isn’t a top ten movie list as much as it is a list of movies you might not have heard of or have perhaps forgotten about. If you take all the advice and watch all the movies I recommend here, it will change your life, ensure you always have something interesting to talk about at parties, and will make you a better person. OK, it might not do all that, but it will give you a few hours of entertainment that you might not otherwise have had.

True Romance – This film was written, but not directed, by Quentin Tarantino back in 1993 and is probably his least known film. While I’m a huge fan of all his films, even Jackie Brown, I like this one the most and that’s saying something given the guy has 10 other must-see films. I first heard about this film when I stayed with a guy who used to own a video rental store. He had 5,000 movies in his house, and when I asked him which one I should watch, he recommended it without hesitation. I mean just listen to the cast: Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson (‘cause what’s a Tarantino movie without Sam?); Brad Pitt, who plays one of the best stoners of all time; James Gandolfini, way before he did Sopranos; Val Kilmer, but you’ll have to look closely to figure out who he is in the film and Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken, who have one of the best scenes ever put to film.

Will Ferrell – If you have something bad to say about Ferrell or any of his movies, don’t say it around me because them fighting words in my book. He’s made several of the funniest movies ever, but the real brilliance of his films is how rewatchable they are. Step-Brothers, Anchorman, Talladega Nights and The Other Guys can all be watched again and again and all have an endless supply of quotable lines. If you’re not a funny person, just quote Ferrell. The important thing to know in regards to Ferrell is that the rumors are true and there is an alternate Anchorman movie called Wakeup, Ron Burgundy. It’s more than just outtakes pieced together to make another movie. It’s a whole different movie that’s 90% new scenes and has a different story line than the original. While not as funny as Anchorman, it still has more hysterically funny parts than most so-called comedies and is a must see for anyone who liked Anchorman. (For more on Will Ferrell, check out my article on his best lines from TV and movies

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight – Alright, these films can properly be categorized as chick flicks, but I love them, nonetheless. If you’ve ever traveled and met someone who left you wondering “what if,” these movies are for you. In the first film you see an American, played by Ethan Hawk, meeting a French girl, played by Julie Delphy. They spend a memorable night together in Europe and perhaps fall in love, but Ethan’s character must leave in the morning. The second film catches up with the two 9 years later as they reconnect after meeting in Paris. The second film takes place in real time, and has some of the most realistic dialogue ever written. Earlier this year the third installment, Before Midnight, was released which picks up with the couple 9 years after their reunion in Paris. It might very well be the heaviest and intense of the three films, as some of the romance wears off to show just how difficult any relationship can be, even one that starts off as magically as theirs.  Still, the incredible, intelligent and thought provoking dialog is there and the obvious chemistry between these two actors remains evident throughout.

Lost in Translation – Honestly, I didn’t like this movie the first time I saw it. However, after living in Korea for a while, I now think it’s one of the most intelligent and funny movies ever made. Along with now having a better understanding of how strange it can be to be a foreigner in Asia, I also found out that the character played by Anna Faris is supposed to be Cameron Diaz. Once you know that, every scene with Faris becomes hysterical. Besides all that, Scarlet Johansson is in it and looks great and the comedy great himself, Bill Murray, is in it, too, so this movie has that going for it. Speaking of Bill Murray, check out some of his older films like Groundhog Day, Scrooged and What About Bob, all of which are top notch comedies.

Gone Baby Gone – While I personally thought Argo wasn’t that good of a movie or that compelling of a story, I do respect Ben Affleck’s directing ability because of this movie and The Town. Gone Baby Gone isn’t widely known, but is a great film. Like most of Affleck’s good movies, this one is set in South Boston and involves a private investigator, played by Ben’s brother, Casey Affleck, investigating a kidnapping. Ed Harris and the great Morgan Freeman also deliver fantastic performances.

John Candy – A true comedy god, Candy died long before his time, but he did leave behind some really great movies that still hold up today. Start with Uncle Buck which features a young Macaulay Culkin, and then follow that up with Spaceballs, Cool Runnings, and two of my personal favorites, Planes, Trains and Automobiles which he made with Steve Martin and Brewster’s Millions which he did with Richard Pryor. If these movies don’t make you laugh out loud, I’ll buy you a coke.

500 Days of Summer – This was, hands down, the best movie of 2009 and one of the best sounds tracks of all time. While the narrator says over and over again that this film is NOT a love story, I have to disagree. It is perhaps the best told story of love, heartbreak and recovery I’ve ever seen. Anyone who has been in a relationship that ended before they wanted it to will see themselves in this movie. The split screen scene where they show reality vs expectations is tragically, if not horrifyingly, relatable. Oh, and like I said, that sound track is amazing, but check out the mixtape called 500 Days of Weezy. It’s this film’s sound track with lil Wayne mixed in over it. It’s sick.

The Game – As far as a thriller goes, they don’t get much better than this. It’s Michael Douglas and Sean Penn in a movie full of twists and turns. The thing I like most about this film is that as crazy as it is, it almost seems plausible. Another great movie Douglas is in is Ghost and the Darkness which is based on the true story of two man-eating lions stalking railroad construction workers in turn-of-the-century Kenya and the two hunters that have to stop them. Douglas’ co-star in that film is Val Kilmer, who has his own great dark-thriller, The Salton Sea.

Foreign – Alright guys, if you wanna impress the ladies you have to know a little something about foreign films. There are some great ones out there and not just from England. But since I did mention England, I, of course, have to acknowledge Trainspotting, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and Snatch. They’re all funny at times and all very entertaining. Another great foreign film is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Lots of people know this movie, but not many know that it’s about 10 times better if you suck it up and watch the subtitle version instead of the voice over one. They had to destroy the dialogues to make them work for voice overs, but if you read the subtitles, you’ll get a lot more out of it. There is also Amelie and A Very Long Engagement which are from the same director and are both quirky, cute, touching and have that whole sexy French thing going for them. But the king of all foreign films is City of God. Personally, I consider it a Tarantino film set in a poor neighborhood in Brazil. It’s storytelling at its best.

Sliding Doors – While I’ve never been a big Gwyneth Paltrow fan, I do love movies that try to deal with such weighty issues as fate and destiny, and no film I know of does it better than this one. The quick and dirty of the film is that it tells the story of a woman’s life from two perspectives: one where she runs and catches the subway and one where she just misses it and has to wait five minutes for the next train. It’s a good date movie and will certainly give you something to talk about after watching it. It’s set in England and follows that long tradition of English men dating American woman in films like Closer, Love Actually and any number of others. Seriously though, what’s the deal with that? Why are there never British woman going for American guys in the movies? Are our accents really that bad? Quick side note, a recent film that follows this formula is I Give It a Year. It is by far the funniest movie I’ve seen in a while even though it did have the usual rom-com, cheesy ending.

Brian M. Williams
Brian is the author of the recently published travel memoir "Stranger in a Stranger Land: My Six Years in Korea." (Click this profile for more information.) He's also a law school grad with Southern charm and Virginia roots. He recently returned to America after nearly seven years traveling and working abroad. He loves dive bars, international travel and foreign accents. He's particularly good at small talk and was the first person to notice there's no "I" in "team."

One thought on “Movies You Should Be Watching

  1. Alright, well, based on my facebook comments, my list’s main weakness is the foreign film section. I do have to admit to having a very limited knowledge in this area because, well, it’s foreign to me. But I do want to share some recommendations given to me by my friends. German Films: Das Boot, Run Lola Run and Wings of Desire. British film: Love, Honor and Obey, but this one does have Jude Law in it.

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