Three high concept genre gems waiting to be discovered

MAY 25 ― I've always had a soft spot for high concept low budget movies, especially genre ones.

When done right, they can be downright brilliant like both movies by Shane Carruth, Primer and Upstream Color.

Even goofy genre ones with silly hooks like The FP, Wolfcop or Turbo Kid can be irrationally entertaining and leave an indelible mark on your psyche, never to be forgotten once you've seen them.

Trawling through the world of streaming and VOD, I've managed to discover quite a few of them recently, even high concept horror ones (which I'll save for another, more horror-centric column in the near future).

But since I can clearly see a sci-fi angle connecting three of them, I'll give these three a spin first and hopefully you'll find them intriguing enough to give them a look.

Iron Sky: The Coming Race

In 2012, the world was gifted with a Nazis-in-space movie called Iron Sky that nobody asked for, courtesy of a successful crowdfunding campaign that birthed a viral trailer which then led to a feature film that was nowhere near as fun or funny as the trailer promised.

So when a sequel finally arrives in 2019, I'm sure not many are particularly excited about it, including yours truly.

But I have to admit, I enjoyed quite the heck out of this one as returning director Timo Vuorensola has finally got the crucial balance of tone right, somewhere between a spoof and a self aware cult film.

Set after the first film, when the Moon Nazis attacked Earth, causing a nuclear war that more or less destroyed Earth, forcing the very few humans left to seek refuge at the Nazis' abandoned moon base, the movie centres around its lead character Obi, daughter of the humans' leader Renate.

An encounter with a hiding Nazi, Fuhrer Kortzfleisch (the always reliable Udo Kier) reveals the existence of a magical healing energy source and this is where things get crazier and crazier (and impressively more inventive).

You get things like a hollow Earth, Nazis riding dinosaurs, a hilariously awesome take on the theory of evolution, and all sorts of other fun silly stuff.

For a crowdfunded budget of US$21 million (RM88 million), you just need to see the CGI and VFX work on display here to see how impressively done most of the visuals are, which may even put some major Hollywood productions to shame.

But most of all, Iron Sky: The Coming Race is just a supremely fun movie especially if B movies are your thing.

Mega Time Squad

A low budget time travel flick from New Zealand that plays a bit like Taika Waititi directing Looper, Mega Time Squad is a hugely funny and remarkably inventive comedy centering around a lead character named John, a small time crook who's a bit of a dimwit, who gets into trouble with his boss but not before coming into possession of an old Chinese bracelet that allows him to go back in time.

But unlike most other time travel movies, where the biggest rule is to avoid any contact with your past or future selves so as not to disturb the time-space continuum, Mega Time Squad dispenses with that rule wholeheartedly, resulting in a whole squad of dimwit Johns running around wreaking havoc in their sleepy little Kiwi town to mostly hilarious effect.

The time loops get dizzier and dizzier with each new press of the bracelet, and writer-director Tim Van Dammen does a damn fine job of keeping it all afloat with clarity, brevity and much appreciated hilarity.

Bold and a lot of fun, you need to discover this low budget gem pronto!

See You Yesterday

Another time travel movie, this time from Netflix, presenting the feature film debut of Spike Lee protege, director Stefon Bristol (expanding his short film of the same name), See You Yesterday at first gives the impression that it's a giddy and goofy adventure movie in the spirit of The Goonies and Back To The Future, because the main characters CJ and her best friend Sebastian look and act like dorky kids excited to be creating a time machine, initially wanting to jump just one day back in time without wanting to change anything.

But these two kids are African-Americans living in present day America, so of course reality is going to step in and ruin their innocence, and that comes in the form of CJ’s older brother Calvin getting fatally shot by the police, who were chasing another pair of African-American robbers.

So what Bristol has really given us here is a blend of Back To The Future and Do The Right Thing (or last year’s The Hate U Give).

So off they go to try and change Calvin’s fate, jumping back to that fateful day over and over again to try and change anything they can so that Calvin does not end up getting shot by the police.

The pace and action is breezy, which suits its adventure elements very well, but there’s an undercurrent of anger and sadness as well in the frustrating realisation that even after creating such an important device like a time machine, the tragic weakness of humanity means that one still can’t change violence and racism, no matter how hard one tries. See this movie now.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.