The beginning of the semester is always brutal for the college student’s wallet. The combination of stupidly expensive textbooks, typically abrasive Texas weather and slim pickings at the multiplex are more than enough reasons to take shelter and turn your sights to Netflix. The Daily Texan has sifted through the thousands of films available and came up with a few recent releases that are worth adding to your queue.
Haywire (2012, 93 minutes) — Between last fall’s squirmy “Contagion” and this summer’s abs-centric “Magic Mike,” Steven Soderbergh cranked out this fun little number. “Haywire” came and went from theaters this January, lost amid higher-profile Oscar bait. It’s a shame, too, because “Haywire” is a bullet-paced, massively-entertaining spy movie, directed with Soderbergh’s characteristically stylish touch and featuring an uneven but compelling turn by mixed martial arts star Gina Carano. The film deserves to find an audience on home video, and its slick, retro pleasures and star-studded cast make it an easy, fun watch.
The Grey (2012, 117 minutes) – Way on the other end of the spectrum, “The Grey” is a film that was completely bungled by its marketing campaign, which promised Liam Neeson fighting wolves. Instead, audiences got a somber, heavy story of men struggling to survive in a hostile climate, bolstered by intimate directing from Joe Carnahan and a devastating performance from Liam Neeson. “The Grey” is easily one of the best films of 2012 to date, and one that absolutely warrants a second look.
Battle Royale (2000, 114 minutes) – Did you wish “The Hunger Games” was a little more ... splatter-y? Then you’ll love “Battle Royale,” a Japanese take on a similar premise. A few dozen schoolchildren are tossed on an island, given weapons and told they have three days to kill each other. Predictably, chaos ensues. The film is a notorious cult classic that didn’t receive a U.S. release until this year, and it’s full of distinct characters, shocking gallows humor and memorable moments of adolescent angst and bloodshed.
Goon (2012, 92 minutes) – Anyone with a weak spot for underdog films will find plenty to like in “Goon,” a bloody, hilarious look at hockey players whose sole purpose is to beat the stuffing out of each other. Seann William Scott stars as a dim-witted but sweet bouncer who’s recruited to the local hockey team after a mid-game brawl with a player in the stands. Scott gives an unexpectedly touching, human performance here, and even better is Liev Schreiber’s grizzled, quiet role as an older goon who sees Scott as a threat to his legacy.
Bronson (2009, 92 minutes) – With “Lawless” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Tom Hardy has been having a hell of a year, but the role that alerted audiences to Hardy’s talents was “Bronson.” “Drive” director Nicolas Winding Refn helms this biopic of notorious criminal Charles Bronson. Hardy tears into the role, displaying great range with a performance that is equally charismatic and terrifying. The film is also an excellent showcase for Refn, who gets a chance to try out the delicate pacing punctuated with bursts of brutality that makes “Drive” so entertaining.