Stand by Me (1986)

There are so many good adventure flicks of the 80’s and this is one of them.  Based on The Body, by Stephen King, Stand By Me is the tale of four boys on an adventure to find a dead body.  As most coming-of-ago movies do, it tells a story of growth and companionship.  The film is a snapshot of life where kids are both learning who they are and challenging themselves to be better.  The cast could not be better with Wil Wheaton as the shy, guarded kid, River Phoenix as the strong and understanding one (despite coming from a family of criminals), Corey Feldman as his usual loud mouth character (only this time with an abused background), and Jerry O’Connell as the chubby kid.  Each character is vividly different from one another and each actor is able to embody their role to a tee.  Rob Reiner, in his prime, created a fun and dramatic story that at first glance would not seem to appeal to an older audience.

Dark Days (2000)

Who knew that under the streets of New York, in abandoned subway tunnels, there were communities of vagabonds, drug addicts, and other transients slowly piecing together homes.  This intense and fascinating documentary shows what life is like for these people living in the most unusual manner and their struggle to make something of themselves. Marc Singer created an intimate experience that is enhanced by the fact it is in black and white.

By living in the community himself, for months, Singer was able to capture a ‘day in the life’ of this underground community that has fallen into complete complacency.  Each individual has their own story and path that brought them there.  However, the “safety” and consistency of the tunnels allows them to put their guard down.  The illusion of safety keeps them in the tunnel and exposed to disease, drugs, danger of getting hit by trains, and anything else the tunnel offers.  If this film shows us anything, it shows us how resilient the human race can be.  The scrappy hustlers living under New York city will be the ones to follow if there is ever an apocalypse.  This may have been dark days for this community, but the film brings an inspirational  and relentless message.

DJ Shadow’s soundtrack compliments the tone and vibe of the imagery perfectly.  DJ Shadow is able to amplify the energy throughout the film whether it be darkness or inspiration.  A soundtrack is such an important aspect of a great film and Dark Days is no exception.

L’Armee des ombres(Army of Shadows) (1969)

I saw the 2006 re-release of L’Armee des ombres and it was my introduction into Melville and French film.  The movie starts off slow and progressively picks up steam, always keeping the viewer on their toes and never knowing who to trust.  Melville’s L’Armee des ombres is a dreary and lonely look at resistance and revolution.  Also, Lino bears a distracting resemblance to Kevin Spacey, or is it just me?  This should be a must see if you are attracted to dark French films or are interested in finding out.

Cloverfield (2008)

The concept behind this movie is one that sounds good on paper, but to fully capture that idea leads to unforeseen problems.  The decision to take the “handy-cam” approach to fully immerse the viewer into the moment can be compelling and also disorienting to the point of exhaustion.  If you exclude the scenes where the camera is shaking so vigorously for such an extended period of time that I feel a seizure coming on and the cornball love story dialogue, then you are left with a suspenseful and engaging film.  Perhaps some find the handy-cam style appropriate, but I just cannot do it.   The positives to the handy-cam style are that we get to feel that we are there with the characters more intimately and the viewer can possibly buy that they are watching “found footage”, to add to the realism.  It is just at the risk of distracting the viewer from the actual substance of a film, or lack there of.

Secretary (2002)

ScreenThis movie touches on some, more than, risqué subject matter that just dives deeper and deeper as the movie progresses.  The cyclical format of the film persists from the start until just before the end.  This seems to play on the use of both classical and operant conditioning found in the film.  The ever present and in your face masochistic theme is not a new concept behind a film, but this one is also a comedy.  At the end of the day, if you like Maggie Gyllenhaal in kinky situations than this is your movie.