*Week 9 – Movie Recommendations from #ADAF

Payback: Straight Up (Brian Helgeland, 2006)

A small time bandit (Mel Gibson) is double crossed by his wife (Maria Bello) and his best friend and leave him for dead. Unbeknownst to them, he recuperates, vows revenge, and plots to retrieve the money that they stole from him.

One very important thing to note: “Payback: Straight Up” is the director’s cut of the original theatrical cut, “Payback.” I’ve seen numerous so-called “director’s cuts” of movies (most recently, the Rogue Cut of “X-Men: Days of Future Past”) and the consensus is, the differences between the two versions tend to be very minimal. That’s definitely not the case with “Payback” and “Payback: Straight Up.” In fact, the difference between them is so substantial, they have separate IMDB pages with a clear difference: 1999’s “Payback” has a rating of 7.1 while the 2006 director’s cut jumps to a 7.7 rating. I’ve seen both, and let me tell you, not only is “Straight Up” vastly superior to the original, but it’s also the best example of how a new cut can make a so-so movie to a great one. The key differences include: the main character’s voice overs were dropped, 98% of the musical score has changed, there are over 20 scenes that have been either re-cut, added, or simply deleted. And most importantly, the new ending just makes a world of difference to the overall tone of the story… all for the better! “Payback” was already a half-way decent anti-hero crime movie to begin with, but “Payback: Straight Up” proves what it could have been all along. So yeah, “watch the new version,” is the message here.

Other “anti-hero” movies with flawed protagonists you’ll root for: “Taxi Driver” (Martin Scorsese, 1976) … “John Wick” (Chad Stahelski, 2014) … “Falling Down” (Joel Schumacher, 1993)

@anotherdayanotherfilm Recommended by Jeremy Yonzon

Two Days, One Night (Dardenne Brothers, 2014)

“Sandra is a factory worker who discovers that her workmates have opted for a 1,000 euro bonus in exchange for her dismissal. She has only a weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses in order to keep her job.”

This film is incredibly simple and realistic. Marion Cotillard’s acting was just AMAZING!  It is a terrific study of human nature and human behavior.

Definitely worth a shot, don’t miss it!

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@anotherdayanotherfilm Recommended by Merve Tekin

Promised Land (Gus Van Sant, 2012)

A representative of a natural gas company (Matt Damon) is forced to re-examine his professional position after arriving in a small town where his company seeks to extract its resources.

The title makes it sound like a religious movie, but everything this movie deals with is right here on Earth. Or rather, IN the earth. Gus Van Sant’s well-written and we’ll-directed “Promised Land” delves into the hotly debated subject of natural gas fracking. It touches on the pros and cons, the purveyors and detractors. I’m not an expert on hydraulic fracturing and its effects on the environment, but it seems to me that the story tries its best to paint an unbiased picture of the industry. However, by the end, it will more or less take a side. Whether or not you agree with its message, “Promised Land” is both an informative lesson and an entertaining drama that lasers in on a modern topic of contention.

See also: the documentary “GasLand” (Josh Fox, 2010)

@anotherdayanotherfilm Recommended by Jeremy Yonzon

Caramel (Nadine Labaki, 2007)

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You can call it an oriental “Sex and the City” with realism, “Caramel” is about 5 different women living in Beirut. I was taken into a world of spices, taxi drivers, aunties, grandmothers, uncles, husbands, sisters and brothers living, dancing, laughing and mainly eating together. “Caramel” is a movie to enjoy! Nadine Labaki, who is also the lead actress, did a very good job of directing and the cinematography of Yves Sehnaoui was poetic. But above all, the music of Khaled Mouzanar made this movie unforgettable for me. I strongly recommend it!

@anotherdayanotherfilm Recommended by Merve Tekin

The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson, 2014)

After years of estrangement, fraternal twins Maggie (Kristen Wiig) and Milo (Bill Hader) coincidentally cheat death on the same day, prompting them to reunite and reflect on how their lives went so wrong.

Will Ferrell did it in 2006’s “Stranger than Fiction.” That is, he proved that he’s more than a funny comic with a big mouth; he can also be a dramatic actor with a big heart. Two other Saturday Night Live alumni, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, go down the same road in “The Skeleton Twins,” where they flaunt their acting range to prove their naysayers wrong. This movie is less SNL and more MASH, in that it’s a comedy that undoubtedly has a strong dramatic atmosphere that involves the most dramatic concept of all time: death. Don’t get me wrong, Wiig and Hader show their signature comedic skills, just don’t be surprised when the laughs die down and things get heavy. Because I’m writing this on Christmas Eve, let me assure you that “The Skeleton Twins” isn’t a downer of a movie. If anything, it illustrates how your bonds to your family are both brittle and resilient. It’s just something to keep in mind when you spend time with them tonight, tomorrow, and thereafter.

Other movies with comedians doing drama: Stranger than Fiction (Marc Forster, 2006) … Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)

@anotherdayanotherfilm Recommended by Jeremy Yonzon

After the Wedding (Susanne Bier, 2006)

Another Mads Mikkelsen movie that I love so much. Jacob (Mads Mikkelsen) lives in India as a manager of an orphanage. He travels to Denmark hoping to find funds for the orphanage, but he, instead, stumbles into a life altering family secret. Terrific acting, amazing director! However, what really stuck with me is the story. It is a very human centered story that is also very unconventional. As the story goes, so do the surprises. Check it out!

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@anotherdayanotherfilm Recommended by Merve Tekin

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (David Zellner, 2014)

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A jaded Japanese woman (Rinko Kikuchi) is convinced that the satchel of money buried in Minnesota, as depicted in the movie “Fargo,” is, in fact, real. She decides to abandon her structured life in Tokyo and sets off on a quest in search of the fortune that awaits her.

The Coen brothers explicitly informed their viewers that “Fargo” is a true story… even though it isn’t. It was a clever marketing ploy that made “Fargo” one of the most talked about movies in the 90s and it has sustained its mystique to this very day. “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” ups the ante by proposing: what if there’s someone out there who still thinks the story is true? So in effect, “Kumiko” is a fictional movie about someone basing her actions on the events of a real world movie, which asserts itself to be real… but actually isn’t. Got all that? “Kumiko” is an incredible little story with a little protagonist, but she’s got a big plan and the determination to match it. It doesn’t have that unmistakable Coen brothers “feel” to it, but I don’t think that was Zellner’s goal. “Kumiko” takes the madness and humanity of “Fargo” and uses it as a launch pad for a strange new tale that possesses a familiar spirit.

@anotherdayanotherfilm Recommended by Jeremy Yonzon

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