You Have to See This! Pieces of April (2003)

Katie Holmes was always prone to playing more glamorous and squeaky clean roles back in 2003, but for “Pieces of April” she’s the center of what is a unique Thanksgiving set film. Peter Hedges film is all at once a funny, heartbreaking, and thought provoking film. It’s a film about redemption, and ultimately about forgiveness. Can we forgive someone who has hurt us over and over? Can we forgive someone who almost went out of our way to hurt us in the past? Can we forgive ourselves for the heinous things we’ve done in the past to our loved ones, if we work hard at redemption?

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You Have to See This! Beyond the Gates (2016)

The eighties are often credited as the time of the VHS and video stores, but the nineties is where the VHS truly hit its stride. Throughout the eighties, the VHS spent most of its time in a war with Betamax, trying to lure customers to their format. Although Betamax was technically superior, VHS eventually won out, and by 1990 while VHS was collecting and reaping its rewards, Betamax was still trying to convince us that it was the superior format. VHS was so powerful it even evaded being sideswiped by the technically superior, albeit more expensive, Laserdisc, which jumped out like a rocket in the early nineties and eventually faded away.

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You Have to See This! Perfect Blue (1997)

In Select U.S. Theaters September 6th & 10th via Fathom Events.

It’s amazing how prophetic Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” was back in 1997. Even though it was released at the beginning of the internet age, “Perfect Blue” is a very strong and still very relevant tale about rabid fandom, gate keeping, obsession, and the struggles to maintain one’s own sense of self and agency in a world where growing in one’s career means relinquishing our dignity and discretion. In a time where actresses are being chased and harassed off of social platforms, “Perfect Blue” conjures up so much interesting and familiar imagery and plot beats, and ultimately is about the cost of rabid fandom.

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You Have to See This! Cool World (1992)

“Sweetheart, I’m the biggest ripped-off cartoonist in the history of the world, and that’s all I’m going to say.” – Ralph Bakshi

Ralph Bakshi’s “Cool World” is a movie without a specific audience in mind, and doesn’t seem to know who it’s appealing to. It’s too dark and adult to be considered another “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and much too juvenile to be taken as an adult film. I vividly remember collecting comic books as a kid and seeing full page ads for “Cool World” in every single issue I bought, and yet the movie clearly was not intended for a nine year old, and was too underground for teenagers. In a decade where everyone was trying to be Disney, I doubt many audiences were in the market for a dark erotic animated neo-noir satire involving an animated seductress trying to have sex with her creator so she can become a human.

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You Have to See This! Rapid Fire (1992)

It’s hard to believe but it’s been twenty five years since Brandon Lee was accidentally killed while filming “The Crow.” Lee was such a rising talent who wanted to prove himself as an actor more than become the next big action star, and he was well on his way. Lee, like his dad, had to earn a lot of his clout. First: by starring in films in Asia, and then coming to America to try his hand. But unlike his dad, Brandon had the humongous shadow of his father looming over him and he would have had to work extra hard to come out from under it and make Brandon Lee a very different name from Bruce Lee.

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You Have to See This! Kicks (2016)

It’s not so much the journey of getting the shoes but what they ultimately represent to a lot of people. Eventually the mission of young Brandon to get his Jordans back from a vicious neighborhood psycho becomes a lot more than re-claiming a piece of goods. It becomes about re-claiming a part of himself, and perhaps taking a chance on something that could either mean his doom or prove that he’s capable of going very far in his life, and perhaps farther than anyone figured.

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You Have to See This! Mayhem (2017)

Samara Weaving is a young actress quickly on the rise to super stardom. She’s not just sexy but can manage to tuck away that sexiness in favor of portraying characters of depth and complexity. In “The Babysitter” she was this very hot Satanic beast, in “Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri,” she was an adorable pixy, and in “Mayhem” she’s a go getter officer drone forced in to a blood soaked battle.

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You Have to See This! Freaked (1993)

I would call “Freaked” a spoof, but a spoof of what?

All I know is that it is something of a cult film and simultaneous antidotal piece of good old fashioned schlock in a decade that took movies very seriously. Even horror was somewhat stern for a long time until Wes Craven injected some humor in to it. “Freaked” feels like something out of 1987 that crept in to 1993 and it still rings as truly one of the more fascinating cult films I’ve ever seen. My memory with “Freaked” goes back to 1994 when my dad rented a copy for me. Little did he know what the hell we were in for, as “Freaked” teeters between completely surreal black comedy and an acid dream splashed on to film.

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