5 Films to Override Your Algorithm
If you are a beautiful mix of contradictory tastes and your streaming algorithms can't figure you out, here are 5 films to watch.
Whether it's a function of spending too much time with my streaming services (very likely), not enough time (highly unlikely), or just poorly engineered equations (no idea how likely), it seems I've tested the limits of every algorithm and broke them. Busted and trampled and burned them so badly that all they do is recommend crap now. Like a tech version of bad karma. So in an attempt to save you from a similar fate, I've concocted a new little formula, developed through countless hours of determined scrolling and committed viewing, that yields at least 5 great films. But first, let me explain the variables.
Variable 1: COMEDY
My sense of humor leans towards quirky and witty, but I love a good pratfall. Will Ferrell in Elf and Daddy's Home always ends in tears (the good kind) and I could watch Vanessa Bayer's scenes in Ibiza on a loop. Laughing big and often is a pretty consistent, essential component for any of my viewing formulas.
Variable 2: ESCAPE
I think we can all agree that life is a little strange right now, to say the least. Though we are working on putting out all those dumpster fires, they are still blazing pretty ferociously. When I park myself on the sofa, being easily able to relax into the surreal insanity on the screen and in the story is a key component of my formula. Palm Springs lets me get stuck in a time loop. Even the Pitch Perfect trilogy provides its own guilty-pleasure escape with the equally surreal possibiities of being in an acapella group in university and landing a job in a big recording studio immediately thereafter. Escaping into someone's very different, preferably absurd, world is one of my favorite considerations for viewing pleasure.
Variable 3: ACTION
The third and final variable in my little equation is Action. Part of this is my preference, but a large part of this is actually just trying to find a compromise with my partner. I would say this has been the trickiest variable to add into the equation but arguably the most important in the formula's success. My partner likes the Marvel, James Bond, and Die Hard franchises. I do not. But some form of high energy, adrenaline-fueled chase or mystery, with disposable bad guys, has proven to be an important part of any mutually enjoyable film.
So my formula of Comedy + Escape + Action leads us here. I propose that if, between you and your partner, you like Elf, Palm Springs, and Die Hard, here are 5 films I think you'll love:
1. KNIVES OUT (2019)
The basic premise of Knives Out is that a family's phenomenally wealthy and eccentric patriarch is murdered and it's up to the southern-drawling detective to figure out which of his not-so-wealthy but equally-eccentric relations did it. This whodunnit film is full of clever twists and turns, and some great one-liners. It was nominated for a boatload of awards in 2020, including an Oscar for best screenplay. Although it didn't win any of the big ones, it consistently makes a lot of top 10 lists with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 97%.
2. THOR: RAGNORAK (2017)
As someone who is only negligibly knowledgeable of, or even interested in, the various 'universes', I genuinely enjoy Thor: Ragnorak. The premise is as ridiculous as you'd expect: Thor is imprisoned on some planet and then must figure out how to return and save his planet from a ruthless villain. It's funny, but not just in an absurd way. And although the film itself didn't win any awards, it was directed by Taika Waititi, who both wrote and directed JoJo Rabbit, for which he won an Oscar, and his talents are evident in this film.
3. SPY (2015)
This one, Spy, is hard to find if you just google 'spy movie' but it's the one with Melissa McCarthy, a true comedy genius. When her field agent partner gets killed, this deskbound CIA agent is thrust into the field to intercept the 'nuke' before it's sold and destroys the world. This film is actually one of my all-time favorites and truly ticks all the boxes in a big way – comedy, escape, action. It's directed by Paul Feig and in his quest to create a truly funny spy movie, succeeds. Can't. Recommend. Enough.
4. NOW YOU SEE ME (2013)
Now You See Me follows four Robinhood-type illusionists as they're pursued by a tenacious FBI agent for stealing from a bank and giving the cash to those more deserving and who happen to be in their audience. While this movie did well enough to merit a sequel (the aptly named Now You See Me 2), it didn't get as many accolades as expected, especially with such an all-star cast that includes Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher and Woody Harrelson. It's one of those films that's worth watching, and even re-watching, to enjoy the easter eggs and jokes that are planted throughout.
5. MR. & MRS. SMITH (2005)
While I am disproportionately excited about the rumors that this action classic is being rebooted to star Daniel Glover and Phoebe Waller-Bridge, I'd encourage you to jump on the bandwagon for the original Mr. & Mrs. Smith before it's cliché. Though it may seem hard to imagine either Pitt or Jolie as assassins that go unnoticed in their everyday life, I'd highly recommend you suspend judgment and watch this classic again or for the first time. It offers up great comedy, all sorts of escape, and a Bond movie level of action. Don't overthink it.
Bonus Film: OCEAN'S 11 (2001)
Just for reading this far – here's a bonus recommendation for you.
It's hard to believe that Oceans 11 is 20 years old, but here's a bit of trivia for you: it's actually 60 years old because George Clooney's version was a reboot. Yes, that's right, the original Oceans 11 was released in 1960. This film about Danny Ocean (Clooney) and his 10 associates setting out to rob three casinos in retaliation, kicked off a very successful franchise and for good reason. It's clever, funny, exciting, and feels like an escape on every level. Enjoy.
So there you have it, a few new recommendations to throw into the mix. And if you're lucky, adding these great films to your list might even reset that algorithm, or at least tweak it just enough to get some fresh suggestions. Happy viewing!