Ten best movies to chill out with these holidays

Too hot to go outside? Film-buff and Meld contributor Richard Houlihan suggests ten of the best new and classic movies to chill out with as you hide from the heat these holidays.

2011 DVD release top pick: Bridesmaids, distributed by Universal Pictures.

2011 DVD release top pick: Bridesmaids, distributed by Universal Pictures.

The mercury is rising in Melbourne, and though it’s normally a good time of year to frolic in the great outdoors, this unusually sticky and stormy weather can bring on a yearning for the comfort of our airconditioned (or at least fan-equipped) homes. With no greasy sunscreen or wedgie-inducing swimsuits required, you need equip yourself with only two things for a successful lazy indoor summer day: a box of icy-poles, and a stack of quality DVDs.

There’s so much great stuff that came out on DVD in 2011, not to mention a lot of old movies which are even greater and totally still worth your time (a certain nine-hour epic trilogy, for example, will easily see you through the hottest part of the day).

In fact, most major studios release their best movies – like Moneyball and Warrior – from November to January in order to have a better chance at an Oscar, so a trip to the cinema might be in order if you’re keen to catch a quality film and bask in the power of an industrial-strength air conditioner.

So sit back, cool off, and check out these five picks for best DVD release of 2011, along with these five must-see classics.

Ratings from film review site Rotten Tomatoes.

Best of the new

Bridesmaids 90%

Who would’ve thought women farting, craping, vomiting and releasing F-bombs would make for such a highly-rated movie? I’m definitely taking the bride’s side of the aisle on this one. Saturday Night Live’s Kristen Wiig gives a bravo-begging, career-beginning performance as Annie, a down-on-her-luck lady who’s just been asked to be maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding. But Annie’s nails-in-fist temper is tested as she is repeatedly outshined by rich and spoiled fellow bridesmaid Helen (played by Australia’s Rose Byrne). Come and laugh out loud at the wedding of the year, where the guest list includes some of the funniest yet most underrated female comedians around, such as Mike and Molly’s Melissa McCarthy.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – 96%

After battling giant snakes, dementors, trolls, spiders, dragons and every defence against the dark arts teacher, everyone’s favourite boy wizard reaches his final life-and-death battle. Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts where Voldemort and his servants are coming to unleash an attack against each and every student and teacher. Will Harry defeat Voldemort? Will Ron and Hermione relieve ten years of sexual tension? Well, it’s likely you’ve read the book and know the answers, but that doesn’t make this final installment of the movie franchise any less worthwhile. The film succeeds at being the darkest and most emotional of the series, packed with more action and dazzling special effects. Sandwiched between battles are long moments of grief, sadness and intensity, made beleivable by the three outstanding lead performances (by Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson).  The film truly marks the end of an era, and will stay with its followers the way Star Wars and The Godfather stays with their parents.

Source Code – 91%

Imagine having to relive your death over and over again to save dozens of lives. That is Jake Gyllenhaal’s mission in Source Code. Gyllenhaal plays Captain Colter Stevens, a soldier who wakes up to find himself reliving the past under the control of a military system called “The Source Code”.  His mission is to board a train minutes before it is due to explode, find the bomb and track down the bomber – and do this as many times as it takes to get it right. Source Code is an fun action film thick with mystery. As the plot unfolds layer after layer, you’re left sitting there wondering how on earth Stevens ended up on this mission and who exactly he’s working for. Gyllenhaal gives a raw performance with a humourous element as his character improvises each time he relives the past.

Bad Teacher – 44%

Cameron Diaz gets back into rude and raunch mode in Bad Teacher, a comedy from the guys who wrote the American version of The Office. Elizabeth is the worst kind of bully a student could come across. The school teacher abuses one helpless kid after another with harsh personal digs, and would rather sit at her desk drinking booze and smoking joints than teach a lesson or two. That is until she spies a hunky substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake) roaming the hallways. In a plan get enough cash to woo him with a new pair of breasts, Elizabeth reluctantly takes on organisation of the student car wash. Although not as nasty as, say, Bad Santa, Bad Teacher benefits from Diaz’s fierce comedic sense, and a support cast whose previous credits include How I Met Your Mother, The Office and Modern Family.

Griff the Invisible – 61%

Are you a wimp with a crappy job and no friends at all? Well then, you should be a superhero. True Blood heartthrob Ryan Kwanten returns to Australia as Griff, a social outcast who spends his days being bullied at the office. He moonlights as a crime-fighting masked crusader – which isn’t all that different. Citizens are too intimidated by the outfit to reward him in any way. But his world is turned upside down when he meets beautiful Melody (Maeve Dermody), who shares his fascination with the impossible. There are no grand, heroic action scenes or spectacular villains, but Griff the Invisible is quite remarkable for an Aussie film. It’s like a social statement about being a misfit – Griff fights crime not because he has powers, but to create a world that’s more exciting than the daily reality in which he fits so badly. It’s also a love story about two social outcasts, and while Kwanten plays the shy and sympathetic Griff with skill, Dermody brings a down-to-earth, oddball quality to Melody.

Best of the old

Pulp Fiction (1994) 95%

When video store clerk Quentin Tarantino’s films exploded on screen in the ’90s, he turned violent cinema into a rock ‘n’ roll art form. Pulp Fiction rocks you with its opening credit sequence – which plays to surf classic Misirlou – and seduces you with its wickedly cool characters. Like its soundtrack, the film features a diverse range of catchy, refreshing poetry, which springs forth from the characters’ mouths. Hit men bicker over the meaning of foot massages while on their way to a hit, and outwardly ponder divine intervention before interfering in a robbery. Shuffling between sub-plots with a combination of humour and terror, Pulp Fiction employs a mode of storytelling that can never be copied. And no one makes a Biblical passage sound cool like Samuel L. Jackson.

Fargo (1996)94%

Back in the 90s, way before they made Intolerable Cruelty and remade True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen were at the top of the list of cinema’s most “un-Hollywood” storytellers. Widely acclaimed at film festivals, Fargo was the movie that put them on the map. They soon became two of cinema’s most influential directors, weirding us out yet amusing us with their unconventional comedies. Inspired by a real crime, this funny thriller charts the out-of-control madness of a car salesman’s desperate attempt to arrange his innocent wife’s phoney kidnapping. Fargo is an unusual crime film – despite the graphic violence it’s a story told in a neat and charming package, mainly thanks to Frances McDormand in her Oscar-winning role as the quirky and heavily pregnant Margie. Sheriff of the bleak, wintery town of Brainerd, Minnesota, Margie has brains and guts, in her own simple, happy-go-lucky way. With witty dialogue and a top-notch cast, Fargo will easily have you smiling.

Annie Hall (1977)98%

If you loved 500 Days of Summer, see why everyone compares it to this classic. The favourite Woody Allen movie of many, this exuberant and zany film charts neurotic, egocentric comedian Alvy Singer’s attempt to maintain his relationship with ditzy title character Annie (Diane Keaton). A major turning point in cinema, both technically and thematically, Annie Hall scored four Oscars – including Best Film and Best Actress for Keaton – and displays Allen’s talent for raw, honest narration of both real life and the surreal. One great moment (probably one of the best in cinema) is when Singer is stuck in line at a movie theatre while the man behind him delivers a loud and misinformed interpretation of the work of communication theorist Marshall McLuhan. Allen turns directly to the camera to vent his annoyance, and then resolves his dispute with the man by miraculously pulling McLuhan himself from behind a free-standing poster to insult the man’s intelligence. “Boy, if only real life were like this,” Allen says with a sigh as he turns to the camera afterwards.

Sideways (2004) – 97%

When people say Sideways is really, really funny, there is zero exaggeration there. This laugh-out-loud story about two friends on holiday contains all the ingredients of a classic road trip movie – gratuitous alcohol consumption and graphic sex scenes – yet is told in an intelligent way. Miles and Jack are two 40-year-olds who embark on a trip to California’s wine country for Jack’s last week as a bachelor. Miles’ cautious actions collide with Jack’s hound dog looseness, as his wish to have a peaceful week of golf and wine-tasting come up against Jack’s desperate attempts to get the two of them laid. With a hilarious Seinfeld or Frasier-esque screenplay and heart warming characters burnt by the faded potential of their lives, Sideways is a smart comedy about relationships surviving midlife crises.

Magnolia (1999) – 83%

Like Tom Cruise? Like Tom Cruise playing a bad guy? Then witness him his best performance ever. Magnolia is set during a rainy day in Los Angeles and follows nine different stories which are all somehow connected or bound to collide. A sensitive cop falls for a drug addict, a child prodigy is pushed by his father into show business, a game show host suffers from cancer, and a nurse caring for a dying millionaire tries to contact the man’s long lost son. All are characters traumatised by guilt or childhood neglect. Among the ensemble – which also features Julianne Moore and Phillip Seymour Hoffman – Tom Cruise stands out as a megalomaniac sex guru whose conscience cannot be penetrated, until a saucy interview digs up his past and causes him to have a meltdown. Although it runs far too long, Magnolia is a drama dense with technical beauty, from a filmmaker with great compassion for his troubled characters.



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