Halloween came and went, and hopefully you got your fill of horror flicks and candy. This weekend, we’re lightening things up a little bit from the avert-your-eyes terrors and gore. OK, we’ve still got some heavy, thrilling, suspenseful, and dramatic movies in the mix, but there’s comedy too, and far less chance you’ll have a heart attack or soil yourself. After another long week of political scandal and other disgusting abuses of power, you need a break. So, get together with your best buds and get away from everything with some Netflix streaming movies. MERRY JANE has the perfect recommendations for you.
The Invitation (2015)
Starring: Logan Marshall-Green, Tammy Blanchard, John Carroll Lynch
Director: Karyn Kusama
Genre: Drama, Suspense
Summary: A party in the Hollywood Hills only seems to get stranger as the night progresses.
Going to a dinner soirée at your ex’s is bound to have a few uncomfortable moments, especially when it’s at a home you used to live in. But there’s something that feels unusually sinister cooking at the party that guests Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his date Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are having second thoughts about attending.
Typically described as a “slow burn,” The Invitation is the kind of film that might leave some viewers complaining about a lack of action, which is the wrong way to look at it. There’s plenty going on—you just have to read between the lines and submerge yourself in the tension. Under Karyn Kusama’s direction, the ominous vibe that builds throughout is never forced, and you’re left with the feeling that things are heading to a terrifying conclusion.
Starring: Laia Costa, Frederick Lau, Franz Rogowski
Director: Sebastian Schipper
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Summary: A Spanish woman staying in Germany meets a group of men one fateful night that will quickly have long-lasting repercussions for all.
Shot in a single, continuous take, Victoria is a mighty technical achievement, no doubt. All kudos for German director Sebastian Schipper (Run Lola Run) and Danish cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen, as well as the cast, were earned, as it reportedly took three attempts to nail the version that was released. Yet there are some jaded moviegoers who remain unimpressed by the feat and label the single-shot technique merely a gimmick. And while there might be some truth to that, that doesn’t mean one should dismiss all the hard work put into this captivating film that turns into a nerve-racking thrill ride in its second half. And, frankly, the argument could be made that the one continuous shot does serve a purpose, for much of what happens to adventure-seeking Victoria (Laia Costa) is mainly due to not stopping to think things through.
For those who have traveled abroad, the movie captures that tentative feeling of being in a strange land mixed with a desire to let go and have fun. Also, if you don’t like a lot of subtitles, don’t worry. Even though the story takes place in Berlin, the characters spend most of the film communicating in English.
Cold in July (2014)
Starring: Michael C. Hall, Sam Shepard, Don Johnson, Nick Damici
Director: Jim Mickle
Genre: Crime Drama
Summary: A family man gets pulled into a dangerous mystery involving the police, an ex-con, and a private detective.
Texas, 1989: Michael C. Hall, of Dexter fame, is an ordinary Joe who is awakened one night, and in a flash, his whole life is upended. Suddenly thrust into a predicament in which he must protect his family, he’s pushed to take action in ways he’s not sure he can handle. But as he goes further down a path he knows can be fatal, he’ll have to wrestle with something he was not expecting—a nagging curiosity to get answers to questions that are probably better left unanswered.
Hall does a good job of making you forget his signature role. He plays a guy way in over his head, who, fortunately for the movie’s sake, doesn’t turn into some kind of superman when the characters enter darker and more unsettling territory.
Starring: Gbenga Akinnagbe, Tawny Cypress, Joe Morton, Danny Hoch
Director: Jono Oliver
Summary: A mentally ill man struggles to put his life back together in unforgiving NYC.
Home is a small, overlooked film held together by the acting of a strong ensemble cast. Jack (Gbenga Akinnagbe, who is perhaps best known as enforcer Chris on The Wire) is trying his best to leave the group home he resides in and reconnect with his young son, but it’s not easy on a meager salary and an even bigger obstacle in his way: He must prove that he’s fit to fully re-enter society on his own after recovering from high-risk health issues.
Mental illness is probably one of the more misunderstood problems in the eyes of the general public, and here we see how it affects not only the individual but also families. Life rarely goes as planned, but Jack’s everyday problems, from paying rent to relationships, are only exacerbated by the pressure he puts on himself to succeed despite his condition, realizing along the way that any misstep can have lingering effects.
Kid Cannabis (2014)
Starring: Jonathan Daniel Brown, John C. McGinley, Ron Perlman
Director: John Stockwell
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Summary: Young friends hop the Canadian border in order to start a thriving marijuana business.
Based on a true story, Kid Cannabis is about 18-year-old dropout Nate Norman (Jonathan Daniel Brown), who likes weed but likes the idea of making money off it even more, so he devises a plot to sneak pot into Idaho via clandestine runs through the woods. Once he strikes it rich, the old adage “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems” doesn’t take long to come into play: The crew he’s assembled starts grumbling about pay and a rival dealer is keen on taking him out.
Yes, these are the familiar trappings of running an illegal business, but for the most part, Kid Cannabis avoids being a total cliché fest by being more about the people than the weed jokes. By trying not to lose focus on the character’s traits—Nate lets himself get seduced by his upgraded social status and his vapid enemy, Brendan Butler (scene-stealing Aaron Yoo), is caught up in maintaining appearances of being a big bad drug dealer—the movie, which also delivers some understated humor, is far better than you’d expect.