Movies to Watch With Coco

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Coco.)

You probably noticed on store shelves this Autumn that Dia de los Muertos (or Dia de Muertos if you want to be exact) is having a cultural moment beyond Mexico, so it’s my sincere hope that Pixar’s Coco will help the uninitiated gain an appreciation of the holiday focused on dead family members and ancestors. The Day of the Dead is a vibrant celebration of remembrance and life.

The film, written by Adrian Molina & Matthew Aldrich and co-directed by Molina and Lee Unkrich, follows 12-year-old aspiring guitarist Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) on a quest through the afterlife.

/Film’s Josh Spiegel called it one of the most beautiful Pixar movies yet, so let’s see what other beautiful adventure films we can find to pair with it.

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Movies to Watch With Murder on the Orient Express

The 149th adaptation of Agatha Christie’s work hits theaters this Friday. Murder on the Orient Express is the fifth attempt to bring this particular novel to life on the screen (big or small), which means there’s a good chance you’re already well-acquainted with the classic tale from the unrivaled master of mystery.

For the uninitiated, the plot focuses on Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot (played this time by director Kenneth Branagh) who fatefully gets trapped on the Orient Express during an avalanche when a passenger ends up stabbed to death. With the train stacked full of interesting suspects, Poirot has to uncover an old family secret and solve the murder most foul before the snow melts.

Obviously there are hundreds of movies with connections to this one, so let’s whittle the list down to some of the best, most interesting, and most appropriate for Noir-vember.

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Movie Mixtape: 6 Movies to Watch With ‘Jigsaw’

Jigsaw clip

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Jigsaw.)

There’s almost nothing like the Saw movies in cinema. Launching 7 movies in 7 years without going the direct-to-video route was an amazing achievement launched by an innovative, thrilling piece of indie horror. It’s easy to forget that, considering how silly and cartoonish and convoluted the films have gotten. Peel away all those messy, pus-covered layers, and there’s something bone-sharp and angry beneath.

The franchise is an astonishing sprint, but squeezing blood from a stone gets tricky when you kill your killer off and then make a lot more movies.

Which brings us to Jigsaw. After a 7-year hiatus and the last film literally being called The Final Chapter, the Rube Goldberg of slashers returns to try to get a few more drops of O-positive out of the screen.

A list of movies to watch with it should just be the first 6 Saw movies and a Wikipedia recap of Saw: The Final Chapter, right? Let’s try to delve a little deeper.

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Movies to Watch With Happy Death Day

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: Happy Death Day.)

Happy Death Day is all set to shove tongues into cheeks on Friday with its twee name and bloody riff on Groundhog Day. The film stars Jessica Rothe as Tree Gelbman (yersh), a self-absorbed college girl who gets murdered at her birthday party, wakes up the next morning, and has to relive the day until she can solve the crime.

It looks to hit the sweet spot of self-aware horror that delivers gore with a slice of irony and a wink toward the ancient age of the slasher genre. It’s also far from the first film to mess around with time loops (not even the first horror film), which makes finding companion movies a fun trek through a sci-fi subgenre that’s got a surprising number of wins.

Let’s bargain with Dormammu and relive some movies that try to break the cycle.

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Battle of the Sexes Trailer

There is no quintessential tennis movie. Baseball has The Natural. Football has Friday Night Lights. Soccer has the Goal! trilogy. But tennis is woefully underrepresented on the big screen. Are there more golf movies than tennis movies? Maybe. Regardless, the landscape — whether clay or grass — isn’t pretty.

But now we’ve got a slew of them cropping up like fuzzy ball-based Armageddons and Deep Impacts. There’s Battle of the Sexes, which in wide release this weekend, Borg/McEnroe, and the documentary Love Means Zero. We’re about to be awash in tennis, and if Battle of the Sexes delivers the kind of Oscar hope it’s hyped to, it might kick off an even bigger trend.

So finding more tennis movies to play doubles with, let alone quality ones, was a challenge, but it’s exactly the kind of high stakes, do-or-die challenge I live for.

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superman all american

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, political, and opinionated about anything and everything. In this edition: how a recent Superman comic is bringing out the worst side of America…and revealing what this country is supposed to stand for.)

In Action Comics #987, Superman faces a simultaneous barrage of small and large-scale calamities that see him harried, flying faster than a speeding bullet from crisis to crisis. One of them is an AR-15-wielding white guy sporting an American flag bandanna who opens fire on a group of Spanish-speaking factory workers. At the very last microsecond, Supes flies in front of the workers, shielding them from the bullets. He then berates the gunman for attempted murder (can you imagine!) and when the would-be killer bleats out that the workers stole his job and ruined him, Superman spits back that he should take responsibility for his own life.

With an ungodly to-do list, Superman then jets off to stop a spiteful activist from burning down a mansion to give the 1% what for, leaving the gunman and the workers in the hands of the local police. Yes, Superman is both against the mass murder of innocent people and against the destruction of private property. Yet his sense of fairness doesn’t work for Fox contributor Todd Starnes, who has twisted the issue to make it seem like Superman protecting innocent people is a new, liberal conspiracy meant to give pro-immigration forces a powerful ally. In Starnes’ take, Superman should have flown all the of the Spanish-speaking workers back across the border to Mexico. Since he didn’t, Starnes’ rhetorically asks, “Remember when Superman stood for truth, justice, and the American way?”

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movies to watch with mother

I’ll be honest, I have no idea what mother! is about. I watched a trailer, I’ve read reviews, and it all looks like Darren Aronofsky will dose every audience member with ayahuasca before conducting Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem in a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Esperanto.

This response seems to be standard:

So, let’s figure out some movies to watch this wild animal.

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Movies to Watch With Close Encounters of the Third Kind

(Welcome to Movie Mixtape, where we find cinematic relatives and seek out interesting connections between new releases and older movies that allow us to rethink and enjoy what’s in our theaters as well as the favorites on our shelf. In this edition: the re-release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.)

Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, so it’s being re-released into select theaters this weekend. If you’re near one of the theaters, it offers a fantastic opportunity to see a movie worthy of the big screen as it was intended. If you’re not, you can still load it up on your own personal medium screen and fill your living room with blinking lights and familial angst.

That’s the brilliance of it, right? Like many Spielberg movies, Close Encounters delivers spectacle without relying on it. We get the big-think intrigue of the science fiction, and the thrill of making contact with aliens, but the heart of the story is the obsession that drives a wedge between Richard Dreyfuss’s Roy and his family.

Above all else, there’s a human cost to reaching for the stars.

So what should we watch with it?

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beasts of no nation

The dirty secret of culture writers on movie websites is that most of us don’t write lists to irritate people itching for the comments section. We do it to celebrate a big batch of films. I swear. We want to grab our pom poms for these things, especially the underrated work, and “The Underseen Gem” might as well be Bleecker Street‘s motto.

Cheerleading is exactly what this list is meant to do. Maybe it’s in the right qualitative order. Who knows. I simply want to draw attention to a quality distributor that nonetheless doesn’t get the same religiously whispered street cred as A24 or Annapurna. Led by former Focus Features exec Andrew Karpen, Bleecker Street isn’t as experimental as those outfits, but it still releases compelling, rich features for adult audiences. Whenever someone complains that the mid-budget movie is dead, that the ’90s-style era of solid drama is over, I always want to write “Bleecker Street” on a napkin and slap it on their forehead.

So, no clever introduction (most would skip over it to get to the numbers anyway) hyping their dense output in only 3 years. No hiding my purpose here. Everyone reads lists, so maybe this one will get more people watching their movies.

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the villainess review

This review originally ran during our coverage of the Fantasia Film Festival. The Villainess is in select North American theaters today.

The opening of The Villainess is dangerous. An exhilarating, first-person POV hallway fight scene that leaves a lot of unnamed henchmen in bloodied heaps is thankfully smart enough to (cleverly) shift away from the first-person angle just when you start wondering if the next two hours of your life are going to be a video game you aren’t in control of. The move expands our view of the stunningly choreographed action and announces a hint of the innovation yet to come. Yes, it’s dangerous, and like a lot of dangerous things – a mile-high tightrope walk, hanging to the outside of a C130 in flight, killing Keanu Reeves’ dog – it’s also thrilling when done right.

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