3 Best Movies to Watch by Ethan Embry

Staff & contributors
It’s hard to pin point exactly what makes this movie so good. It’s an all-around “movie” movie. I think it can be called a buddy comedy because it is about two best friends who are also movers. It’s about their day-to-day, their families and their relationships. They’re both from the underclass of Oakland, and one of them is black, the other is white. And that’s where it stops being a comedy and becomes a more hard-hitting film. It illustrates gentrification better than any other movie I’ve ever seen. It has relevant and striking commentary on the main characters’ race, upbringing, and identity. But at the end of the day, it has a great plot, and for the most part it’s an easy-flowing movie. It’s half entertainment, half social commentary, and both parts are equally well-done. It’s like movie unicorn, and it’s perfection. One of the two friends is played by Daveed Diggs, who you might know from Hamilton.

Written and directed by the film’s star, Albert Brooks, Defending Your Life imagines an afterlife in which purgatory is a courtroom, and whether you’ll be saved or damned is judged based on the life you led on Earth.

Did you live courageously, or did you live fearfully? Were you ashamed, meek, afraid of being vulnerable? Or did you risk some tender part of yourself in order to connect with others, to meaningfully impact another life?

Daniel Miller (Brooks) discovers he may not have lived as boldly as he assumed. In the afterlife and awaiting his day in afterlife court, he meets Julia (Meryl Streep, in what is possibly one of her most captivating roles), who is kind and thoughtful and a capital-G Good person. Of course, it’s only after dying that Daniel tunes in to the great possibility of a life not lived on autopilot. But is he too late to atone for his unexamined life—or is there time yet for a second chance?

This is a fun genre mashup B-movie, in the vein of old John Carpenter films or those movies you used to run across on late-night cable in the 80s and early 90s. Dan Stevens (that handsome chap from Downton Abbey) gives a knock-out performance as the titular guest (David), who in the movie’s beginning has just shown up on the doorstep of the Peterson family. He says he’s there to pay his respects to the family -- he served with their son, who died in action -- but there is something just a little bit off about him. Everyone in the family is charmed by David except for daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), who approaches him with extreme caution even though she’s clearly impressed by his six-pack abs. The films starts at a slow burn before devolving into nutty, violent chaos, but maintains a dark cheeky sense of humor throughout. The goth pop soundtrack is also killer.