Wondering what to do with your upcoming free time? Good thing we have some suggestions for what you should be watching, playing, reading, listening to, etc.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Drive Angry – I can’t in good conscience call Drive Angry a good movie, but it is an outlandishly entertaining one that’s completely aware of its status as simple, gory, trashy fun. The supernatural chase centers on John Milton (Nic Cage) who breaks out of Hell to find and kill the satanist who murdered his daughter and kidnapped her baby (Billy Burke). Along the way Milton gains an ally in a badass waitress, Piper (Amber Heard), and hot on their heels is “The Accountant” (William Fichtner), an agent of the Devil who seeks to drag Milton back to the underworld. The entire cast leans into the sheer ridiculousness of the film’s story, delivering some memorably cheesy performances, a bunch of awesome/dumb one-liners, and equally over the top action. Few movies are as confident in their own absurdity as Drive Angry, and that – along with the aforementioned cast – make it one of my most revisited guilty pleasure flicks.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Man on Fire – Four years before Liam Neeson used his particular set of skills to save his daughter and inspired a slew of “badass goes on a rampage to save his/her kidnapped child/spouse/etc.” movies in Taken, Tony Scott and Denzel Washington did an even better job of it with Man on Fire. The latter obviously wasn’t the first film to use this story structure either, but it’s the best. Man of Fire takes great care in fleshing out John Creasy (Washington), the girl he’s hired to protect, Pita (Dakota Fanning), and the bond between them, thus creating genuinely meaningful stakes when Pita is taken, instead of just an opportunity for the protagonist to start kicking ass in flashy ways. That’s not saying the movie isn’t violent though, as Creasy puts plenty of bad guys through the wringer, sometimes in a shockingly brutal manner. The rest of the cast (includes Radha Mitchell, Christopher Walken, and Marc Anthony) is great too, and gets you way more invested in the story and characters than most movies in the same subgenre. Seriously, I end up crying every time I watch it. Man on Fire is a more grounded, gritty, personal and emotional action thriller that doesn’t need explosive gunfights (although it has a couple) or bare-knuckle brawls to demonstrate that its vigilante protagonist is a force to be reckoned with.
Ben’s Movie Pick: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – No matter how many times I watch this Martin McDonagh masterpiece, it completely and utterly blows me away. Three Billboards is a portrait of grief, anger, and pain, demonstrating how they can feed into each other and how that toxicity can poison everything around you, but it also shows the immense value and power of forgiveness and compassion. It’s a deeply human film, and one that I just can’t help but be in total awe of. The entire cast is perfect, from the headliners to the smallest of roles, all of them ensuring that every single joke and emotional beat hits as hard as possible. It also has some of the most brilliant, darkly humorous, and moving dialogue in the history of cinema. My God, McDonagh’s writing is truly something else. Three Billboards stays with you long after it’s over, and is one of the finest films I’ve ever seen. In fact, it might even be my all-time favorite. I can honestly see this surpassing Gladiator with another viewing or two.
Lauren’s Video Game Pick: The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Unfortunately when Link awakens on a mysterious island post shipwreck, Zelda is nowhere to be found. She’s not even in the game (pfft!), nor is any hand holding really. It’s been a while since I’ve played too many Zelda games (just Breath of the Wild in recent years really), and boy was I reminded that there was a reason that I had the Prima Official Strategy Guides for Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask growing up, and not just because of my little kid brains. When I randomly discovered I could push certain blocks to get to other areas… Wow did I feel dumb, and quite frustrated that this game didn’t let me know what Link’s inherent range of capabilities was right away. Good thing is there are locations in-world among the random Mario crossover elements and wide ranging difficulty temples that provide hints at what your next steps may be, but I would be lying if I said I still didn’t have to google some things from time to time. Gamer shame aside, this Switch remake of Link’s Awakening (the 1993 original being one of the games in the series I’ve never played before) is still super fun, adorably designed and animated, and challenging enough to make me feel accomplished. Accomplished and dumb, but mostly accomplished.
So what do you think about these picks? What content did we miss over the past two weeks while we were spending time with these? Be sure to leave a comment below letting us know about everything (both current and simply new to you) you’ve been consuming lately!
And while you’re here, be sure to check some of the site’s other recent content:
- Middle of the Row: The Podcast episodes flashing back to 2004’s The Village and A Very Long Engagement.
- A Middle of the Dial episode with Jon and the members of Future Teens, along with a written review of their album Deliberately Alive from Jon.
- A written review of Marvel’s new show on Disney+ WandaVision from Ben.