Looking for an alternative movie to watch in 2014? Here are a few of our favorite under-the-radar films from the last couple years. All are available for free or low rental fees on either Amazon Prime and Netflix.
After a NASA deep space probe returns from a mission and crash lands in Mexico, strange (and giant) life forms start propagating all over the country, causing the borders to be closed and its inhabitants to be quarantined from the rest of the world. The only way in and out of Mexico are by exorbitantly priced, infrequent water ferries that only run for six months out of the year. Enter two individuals, Samantha and Andrew, who (through a series of unfortunate incidents) miss their boat and are forced to hitchhike up the middle of the Mexican countryside to the Texas border (sound familiar), trying all the way to avoid the giant alien creatures blocking their path. This movie is great viewing for several reasons, including a haunting soundtrack by electronic artist Jon Hopkins, as well as the decision to use local residents in key roles. The plot is refreshing in that the monsters are more implied than in your face and some surprising twists will leave you guessing all the way to the end.
2. Spring Breakers
A somewhat risky pick, as you will most likely be left scratching your head trying to decide whether you loved or hated it by end of this sun drenched, every-parent’s-nightmare oddity, punctuated by James Franco’s weirdly fascinating gangsa-rapper Alien (a role that deserves an Oscar nomination). Most critics were split on whether to call “Spring Breakers” the best or worst film of the year. Four female college students head to Florida for some hedonistic boozing, sex, and general naughtiness; but, oh, did I mention they’re former Disney starlets Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, and Rachel Korine and that they spend the entire movie in tiny bikinis? That they rob a local diner to fund their trip? That they hook up with Alien and go on a crime spree worthy of Bonnie and Clyde? Love it or hate it, you won’t forget it.
3. Casa de Mi Padre
Sure, we loved Will Ferrell as Ricky Bobby, Ron Burgundy, and Frank “The Tank” Richards, but it’s this journey into Mexican film parody that shows his true genius. The entire movie is in Spanish (with subtitles) and follows Ferrell’s downtrodden rancher Armando Alvarez, blamed for his mother’s accidental death, as he falls in love, battles drug gangs within his own family, and tangles with the INS on his way to redemption and ultimate absolution. Shot in the grainy style of 60’s and 70’s Spanish exploitation films (complete with a talking stuffed tiger), this gem will leave you appreciating Will Ferrell in a whole new light.
“Iron Man” and “Spiderman” this movie definitely isn’t. “Chronicle” dares to answer the question, what would individuals suddenly endowed with superpowers really do? In the case of this trio of Seattle high school students, the answer far, far away from saving the world and righting its wrongs. In fact, the three protagonists, after suddenly being endowed with extremely powerful telekinesis after an encounter with a mysterious, undergrown glowing object, concern themselves (at first) with simple pranks and harmless fun. Until, that is, their own human natures take over and things take a dark turn. “Chronicle” is sometimes distracting due to its use of Blair Witch “found footage” style, but at its core, the movie is a disturbing look at teenage pecking order, abuse, and deep seeded dearth of self confidence. And I won’t be spoiling the film by revealing “Chronicle” has by far the most invigorating human flying sequence since 1978’s “Superman.”
5. Electric Daisy Carnival Experience
“Do you feel the loooooooove?!!!” So begins this documentary of 2007’s Electric Daisy Carnival, held in Los Angeles’ Memorial Coliseum, and made famous by a hostile police response to a crowd at its premier in 2011. Aside from that distraction, the colorful cinematography and great soundtrack make this an astonishing viewing for anyone either fascinated by or involved in festival culture. Bringing elements of Burning Man, Woodstock, and Ringling Bros. circus has never been so much fun.
Honorable Mentions: Mud and Prisoners.
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