Film Lists

Auto Added by WPeMatico

The 10 Best Sci-fi Films About Artificial Intelligence

The concept of artificial intelligence is something that has long fascinated human beings. From the very first science fiction film in 1927 to the present day, artificial intelligence has been an idea explored time and time again in film. In fact, artificial intelligence films have become so common that they are now a sub-genre within their own right in the science fiction genre.

But what is it about artificial intelligence that makes it such a compelling sub-genre in film? As technology advances more and more every year, artificial intelligence seems more and more of a reality rather than a fictional concept and audiences are intrigued by what could be a window into the not so distant future.

There have been many great artificial intelligence films and narrowing them down into a select excellent few is a hard task. What can be said for certain though is that there will be many more artificial intelligence films released in the future, but whether they remain in the science fiction genre is another question all together.

 

10. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

artificial intelligence movie

Robotic child David is the first robot programmed to love. When he is adopted by a Cybertronics employee as a test case, he soon finds himself stuck in a life where he is not accepted by humans or machines. To discover his place and where he truly belongs, David embarks on a dangerous journey where he meets a number of other unique robots.

Receiving positive reviews upon release and grossing $235 million against its $100 million budget, A.I was nominated for Best Original Score and Best Visual Effects at the 74th Academy Awards. A.I won a number of other awards, including many for its young star Haley Joel Osment who plays David. In 2013, critic Mark Kermode called A.I, “Spielberg’s enduring masterpiece.”

A.I was originally developed by Stanley Kubrick who hired a series of different writers to adapt it. However, Kubrick felt that CGI was not advanced enough yet to create the character of David and that no child actor would ever be able to portray him accurately enough, and so the film languished in development for years. In 1995, Kubrick passed the film onto Spielberg. A.I is dedicated to Stanley Kubrick.

 

9. Upgrade (2018)

After being left paralysed by a brutal accident that left his wife dead, Grey Trace is offered a cure by an inventor that will implant artificial intelligence STEM into his body and allow him to walk again. At first, Grey is thrilled to be able to walk again but he soon realises that STEM has other powers too and he must decide whether to use those powers to get revenge on those who killed his wife.

Written and directed by Leigh Whannell, Upgrade opened to positive reviews from critics who especially praised the film’s action sequences. Upgrade was also praised as one of the best films of 2018, including by www.endseat.co.uk who named it as one of the top ten films of the year. The film was also a commercial success, grossing over $16 million against its $3 million budget.

Whannell came up with the idea for Upgrade after the image of a quadriplegic who had a computer chip controlling him popped into his head one day. He couldn’t stop thinking about the imagery so he decided to develop the idea into a screenplay.

 

8. Her (2013)

Heartbroken after his marriage ends, personal letter writer Theodore becomes fascinated with a new operating system called Samantha. As Theodore spends more and more time with Samantha, what begins as a friendship soon blossoms into love.

Her was written, directed and produced by Spike Jonze in his solo screenwriting debut. Her received critical acclaim and won numerous awards. At the 86th Academy Awards, Her was nominated for five awards and won for Best Original Screenplay. The film has since been cited as one of the best of the century.

Jonze was inspired to write Her after he read an online article about a website where an artificial intelligence would instant message with its users. He was also inspired by Charlie Kaufman’s writing approach to Synecdoche, New York and wanted to write a script which he could put all his feelings into.

During production of the film, Samantha Morton performed the role of Samantha on set acting in a four by four carpeted soundproof booth made of black painted plywood and soft, noise muffling fabric. Morton and Joaquin Phoenix avoided seeing each other on set to help evoke the relationship Phoenix’s character has with Samantha. However, in post-production it was decided that Scarlett Johansson would take over the role of Samantha and new scenes were shot for the film.

 

7. The Terminator (1984)

The Terminator

A cyborg assassin, known as a Terminator, is sent from the year 2029 back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor. The Terminator has been sent by artificial intelligence system Skynet because Sarah’s unborn son will be the one to lead the fight against them in the future. Sent to protect Sarah is Kyle Reese, who warns Sarah that Skynet will spark a nuclear holocaust and together they must prevent that from happening.

The Terminator is widely credited as the film that launched director James Cameron’s career and solidified Arnold Schwarzenegger’s. The Terminator received critical acclaim upon release and grossed over $78 million at the box office against its $6.4 million budget. The success of the film launched a franchise, with the latest instalment due out in late 2019.

The Terminator has been frequently recognised as one of the most popular science fiction films of all time and is also often cited as one of the best films of all time. The film has also been frequently referenced in popular culture.

 

6. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

The Day The Earth Stood Still

Soft spoken alien Klaatu lands on Earth bearing a message for all humanity after witnessing the increased spread of nuclear weapons and technology. With him is his bodyguard Gort, who presents a much more sinister threat. Greeted with suspiscion and fear, Klaatu must convince the world to listen to his message or risk being destroyed as a danger to the other planets.

The Day the Earth Stood Still was based on the 1940 short story Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates and adapted for the screen by Edmund H. North. Producer Julian Blaustein originally reviewed more than two hundred short science fiction stories and novels in search of the perfect story to adapt for a film before he settled on this one. The Day the Earth Stood Still was released to positive reviews from critics but was only a modest box office success, grossing $1.85 million against its budget of $995,000.

The Day the Earth Stood Still has frequently been recognised as one of the best films in its genre and is recognised as a classic American film. The film also has another legacy, as it is believed that the film inspired Ronald Reagan to instigate talks concerning other countries working together if there was ever an alien invasion. Reagan believed that if an alien invasion were to happen then it would unite the world.

In 2008, The Day the Earth Stood Still was remade and stars Keanu Reeves as Klaatu.

10 Great Movies That Defy The Rules of Genre

How were film genres created?

Through the more recent decades of cinema, it has become increasingly common for films to blend elements of different genres in order to tell unique, eye opening, and sometimes disturbing stories. Part of what makes a film “defy” its genre is the director’s innovative use of cinematography and musical score. However, another key aspect is the content matter in which it chooses to address. The more freedom a director has to be truthful through their lens, the more likely they are to use unconventional approaches in order to trigger a certain level of awareness in the viewers.

Film genres, like music, change and transform over time. They use recycled inspiration in order to create new forms of execution.

These 10 movies are amongst those that have evoked a certain level of rebellion through their mixed styles. As they searched beyond the structures of genre, the directors mentioned below have opened avenues of hybrid genres, and challenged the norms of what is allowed to be addressed on film. They changed the rules by breaking them.

 

1. Koyaanisqatsi (1982, Godfrey Reggio)

Koyaanisqatsi is the Hopi word for “life of moral corruption and turmoil” or “life out of balance.”

There is no experience like viewing the history and destruction of the Earth happen in front of your eyes. Through a compilation of videos sewn together by an epic and repetitive score, Koyaanisqatsi is terrifyingly indicative of the manufactured world that humans have created from the Earth’s resources. Although it takes patience and a deep concentration to watch, no one can come out of seeing Koyaanisqatsi the same.

Essentially, it has no genre. It is a series of images that navigates you through a plotless, characterless journey of nature’s progression through time. The film feels like a documentary at times, however only partially, because the lack of narrator or direction eliminates the rhythm of a documentary. It is difficult to describe the experience of Koyaanisqatsi as anything other than moving.

It is a film intended for complete surrender and immersion into the rhythmic forces of nature, with the conflict being humanity’s interruption of it. Koyaanisqatsi is not a symbol of protest. It takes viewers into the visual experience of human pollution much rather than the lesson. If we look deeper into what Reggio intended, it was to use technology to spy on nature, before and after the human conquest of it.

As a result of its rebellion in regards to its lack of clear structure, Reggio still managed to a create a rhythmic piece of art that is effective beyond the structure of film itself.

 

2. Gummo (1997, Harmony Korine)

Gummo

What makes Gummo particularly unconventional is how the film alternates from messy home videos to shots that seem like they are following several different characters in a documentary styled film. It’s important to note that it isn’t labelled a documentary, although it feels that way a lot of times. The film also turns cinematic at random points, where music and slow motion effects intensify the experience. Apart from its lack for a clear narrative or any main characters, the film is also unconventional in its brutal transparency.

Gummo is a set of stories and images that together create an experience like no other film. It follows children and adults throughout their daily activities around the tornado stricken, impoverished community of Xenia, Ohio. A few of their activities include abusing animals, sniffing glue, taking baths in green brown water, and the unfortunate occurrences of child prostitution and incestuous rape. Korine gives us a tour of the physical and psychological devastation of the town through their rituals of cyclical violence.

The home videos are particularly effective in enhancing the honesty of the film, as they often recount stories of abuse, suicide, or cross dressing. They give the film a brutal awareness as to why Xenia seems so damaged from an outside perspective. There is a necessary sense of confusion throughout the mixture of home videos and film shots that blends the people’s emotions.

The film tells the story of the town of Xenia as a product of the people, a character in and of itself that is affected by both natural disaster, and the emotionally destructive families inhabiting it. As a result, Gummo is a mirror to the provocative and horrifying realities of the citizens of Xenia.

Through his unstructured use of shots, stills, and sounds, Korine’s Gummo presents a vivid realness to the hopeless people of Xenia, trapped in cycles of poverty and psychological abuse.

 

3. Tangerine (2014, Sean Baker)

Tangerine

Tangerine is a film about two transgender women, Sin-Dee and Alexandra, on a mission to find the woman Sin-Dee’s man has been cheating with while she was in jail. Along this wildly dramatic mission, which Baker shot entirely on an iPhone, we are taken through the ups and downs of relationships in a Los Angeles neighborhood that is fueled by prostitution.

The film begins with Sin-Dee and Alexandra talking back and forth in what becomes a heated realization of her boyfriend’s infidelity. The first scene alone exudes the eccentric, moneymaking female energy of reality TV. Along with the unnecessary drama of the plot and characters, the film’s colour grading drenches the screen in a yellow saturation that is equally as extreme.

The music is another confusing element of the film, flipping from EDM, to classical music, to intergalactic hypnotic beats, to post-hard core dubstep, to alternative rock, and back to Armenian EDM music. That’s the genre bending nature of the transitions in Tangerine.

Through the familiar turmoil of love and friendship, the film presents two outcasts of society in a way that feels truthful, giving them a platform to be unapologetically themselves. There is an individuality and purity to their drama that seems a necessary tool to cope with their struggling lifestyle, which is regarded but never dramatized in a way to trigger pity. The film presents a world where they fit in, and are not looked at funny for who they are. However, it’s important to remember that they represent a subculture in the America they live in.

In that regard, Tangerine premiering at Sundance and getting international praise was a major step for transgender representation on film. It also carried with it the hope that anyone with a raw story to tell and a mobile phone can make a film.

Tangerine is a concoctive blend of drama, tragedy, and comedy, feeling unapologetic and outrageous in its choices of plot, characters, camera shots, and musical score.

 

4. Irréversible (2002, Gaspar Noé)

Irreversible

Irréversible is arguably one of the most difficult films to digest in cinema history. The story follows a man named Marcus who is looking to avenge his girlfriend Alex’s death. Alex was found severely beaten and raped in a metro station that same night. The film leaves no details to the imagination, and displays long, chilling scenes of uncut violence and abuse.

What makes the film even more unique is the chronology of events. Noé took the natural structure of storytelling within the thriller genre, and redefined it as his own by beginning the film with the end, going through the story backwards. As the title implies, Irréversible presents the irreversible damage of violence before we even know who and what happened for there to be any conflict at all. One clear intention that the director had when shooting these different events was to reverse the standard progression in which emotions peak and fall in a film.

Irreversible is a psychological thriller that in it encapsulates drama, romance, crime fiction, action and mystery. By displaying horrific acts of rape and violence on a film screen, using uncomfortable spinning camera shots, and executing the story on his own terms, Noé’s film redefines the thriller genre, and creates an entirely new panic fueled energy in cinema. The way the pieces of the story are put together is so unique and haunting, that it is surely going to keep shocking generations of viewers to come.

 

5. The Holy Mountain (1973, Alejandro Jodorowsky)

The Holy Mountain

Equipped with thousands of strange, surreal, and scarring images, The Holy Mountain can be considered a shock therapy film. With eye opening, philosophical intentions, of course.

At its root, it is a fundamental story of self-actualization in a highly manipulative environment of debauchery.

The film adapts into science fiction when we are introduced to the powerful politicians that rule the other planets. Amongst these planets are leaders performing tasks such as manufacturing faces, brainwashing children to destroy enemies of war, making sporadic decisions to murder innocent people in order to restore the balance of economics, mass producing decorative war weapons, or creating sexually interactive art.

The film regards themes of political power, moral corruption, religion, alchemy, and enlightenment through images of religious iconography, nudity, insects, animal abuse, and colour. At times, the extreme images presented are so absurd and violent that there is only a triggered reaction, and no rational explanation for what is being seen. It’s possible that Jodorowsky’s message is that there exists corruption that must be seen to be felt, but that none of it really has a meaning. One must have the patience to go through their own personal journey in order to define its meaning.

Aesthetically, it’s a surreal masterpiece. Some may refer to it as a horror fantasy, seeing as many of the images are difficult to watch. In terms of the plot, it is a tale of self-discovery following in some ways the structure of a science fiction film, where dystopic realities co-exist with the present day to feel eerie and dark.

The extent to which Jodorowsky experimented with the visuals of the film, is equal to the philosophical reach of the self-reflective end. When the fourth wall is broken, we realize that this newly boiled up blend of genres is simply part of an ambitious attempt to be profoundly moving.

10 Great Recent Romantic Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

Many of the great romance films of this decade, such as Phantom Thread, Call Me By Your Name, Brooklyn, or Cold War, enjoy passionate fan bases and have been ranked highly among the best films to come out in the last ten years. Not all films gain that reaction though, and some romance films still haven’t found the audience that they deserve. Even though some of these films are from celebrated auteurs and feature breakout performances, for whatever reason they remain underseen.

Here are ten excellent underrated romance films from this decade that are worth your time.

 

10. Mistress America

Mistress America

Although Noah Baumbach’s ability to confront family dysfunction on film is widely celebrated, Mistress America hasn’t generated the same amount of discussion that Frances Ha, The Meyerowitz Stories, or While We’re Young have received. Mistress America takes a different approach from Baumbach’s other films, as it follows a novice literature student (Lola Kirke) who becomes wrapped up in a plot by her new stepsister (Greta Gerwig) to win back her former fiance (Michael Chernus).

Gerwig is a comedic force of nature, but her character’s warped sense of reality is best suited as a supporting player in this film, which makes the choice to tell the story through Kirke’s point of view a smart decision. Kirke begins as an unassuming audience avatar who gives perspective to the eventual mishap that follows, and learns to adopt new philosophies on both love and writing. It’s a great way to see a character’s maturation as a foil to an absurd romance in crisis.

 

9. Rules Don’t Apply

Warren Beatty’s first film since 1998’s Bulworth wasn’t exactly the return to the spotlight he may have expected, but it remains an interestingly self-reflexive piece about aging out of stardom. Beatty stars as Howard Hughes in a much more playful way than Leonardo DiCaprio’s role in The Aviator, and follows an older and disillusioned version of the famous innovator as he disrupts an innocent romance between his driver (Alden Ehrenreich) and a dainty young actress (Lily Collins) that falls under his wing.

The old fashioned Hollywood romance is played with utmost sincerity, which makes Hughes’s insertion into their relationship a great source of manic comedy; through the role Beatty is able to make commentary on his own legacy as someone gifted with great talent, yet still destined to age out of his youthful energy. Ehrenreich and Collins do a great job at making the wide eyed innocence of a chance encounter in the City of Angels feel genuine, and are able to react to Beatty with both admiration and disdain.

 

8. Disobedience

A devastating take on the rekindled romance, Disobedience follows Rachel Weisz’s character as a family tragedy forces her to return to the traditional Orthodox Jewish community she was ousted from, causing her to reunite with her childhood flame (Rachel McAdams).

The details of their lost relationship become increasingly clear as Weisz is forced to travel back through uncomfortable memories, and as she reunites with her former lover the looming threat of repeating the past hands over them. Weisz and McAdams are both excellent in roles that require them to restrain their feelings and remain within the bounds of their strict community.

Disobedience does a great job at depicting a realistic Orthodox Jewish community that forces this romance to be buried, but not forgotten. It’s not as simple as running away for these characters, as they are forced to question the rules that have been installed in them since birth.

The film is also sympathetic to the husband of McAdams’s character, played excellently by Alessandro Nivola, who is stuck at an awkward crossroads of being a community leader and a husband with his wife’s best interests in mind. It’s a nuanced depiction of how tradition can break, and how societal roles can come into conflict with personal desires.

 

7. Tramps

Tramps

Netflix has a knack for purchasing independent films and burying them upon release, causing many great films to disappear after their festival debut. One such gem is 2016’s Tramps, an immensely charming riff on a Before Sunrise style conversation piece that’s done by means of a classic screwball caper.

Pairing a criminal’s luckless brother (Callum Turner) and a non-nonsense driver (Grace Van Patten) on a mission to recapture a briefcase full of cash, Tramps turns its classic setup into an atmospheric inner-city escapade that forced these two polar opposites to get to know each other.

Although the briefcase setup is a good way to set up the adventure, there’s no particular urgency to its retrieval that would distract from the spirited interaction between Turner and Patten; the crime subplot keeps them together despite their best intentions, but isn’t intense enough to detract from director Adam Leon’s impressionistic approach to Brooklyn and Queens. At a lean 82 minutes, it’s a brisk and nonconforming romp featuring breakout performances from both leads.

 

6. The Souvenir

the-souvenir-sundance-honor-swinton-byrne

Joanna Hogg’s tour de force period drama finds an interesting way to tackle inspiration and artistry by tracking the doomed relationship between an ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) and an enigmatic government employee (Tom Burke) suffering from addiction.

The film shows how both feed off of their roles; Swinton Byrne is enraptured by an older man who listens to her stories and legitimizes her independence, and Burke feeds off of this younger presence as someone to manipulate and dump his problems on. The motivations for Burke’s character are vapid and transparent, but his sly ability to deceive is transfixing for both Swinton Byrne and the audience.

Hogg is restrained in exploring the more destructive elements of the relationship, and builds on Burke’s transition from depicting himself as a charismatic stranger to a traumatized victim. He always treats Swinton Byrne as an object to cast his own desires upon, but he’s never explosive enough that her constant defense of him would feel unrealistic. Hogg treats this doomed affair as a slow moving car crash told with selective memories, building to an emotionally fraught climax. Filming has already begun on a sequel with the same creative crew, but it will be hard to top the nuanced intimacy of the first film.

10 Great Horror Movies That Audiences Booed or Walked Out On

Movies, particularly horror, have the potential to shock audiences through their content. For a few of these effective movies, audiences found something too difficult to handle and responded with boos or, at times, walking out altogether.

The following ten movies were subjected to such a response upon their premiere. Whether due to content or complexities, these ten great movies found themselves at the hands of audience outrage but are now recognized as excellent works of cinema.

 

10. Raw

Raw premiered at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where it immediately made headlines. The enthusiasm and the acclaim for the movie was complimented by a healthy dose of controversy with many viewers finding the imagery too hard to stomach. The story follows vegetarian Justine who discovers that she has an affinity for human flesh after being forced to participate in a hazing ritual during her first days at veterinary school.

The scenes of cannibalism sent audiences fleeing with some reports of people being carried out as a result of having fainted at the graphic imagery. As difficult as some scenes in Raw can be to watch, it serves as a fascinating feminist allegory that never ceases to unnerve and chill.

A modern, independent horror classic that isn’t one to be missed.
Scenes to look out for: A woman eats the dismembered finger of her sister; a man is revealed to having had his leg chewed to the bone.

 

9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

the texas chainsaw massacre

Now deemed one of the most influential and greatest horror movies of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre experienced walkouts upon release due to the style in which its explicit violence was portrayed. Such violence and nihilism had not been shown previously in such a sensory assaulting way. Framing itself as a true story, a number of teenagers go out for a nice vacation only to find themselves at the hands of a chainsaw wielding maniac named Leatherface.

Director Tobe Hooper’s innovative choice to shoot in a grainy, documentary style made the images seem real and thus more effective. Critics of the movie may argue that its violence and twisted nature border on exploitation as opposed to quality filmmaking but time suggests that audiences still find the grisly imagery effective and frightening.

Scenes to look out for: an elderly member of a family of cannibals trying to kill a victim with a hammer; a victim of Leatherface’s hanging by a meat hook.

 

8. The Neon Demon

After Nicolas Winding Refn’s arthouse action breakout Drive, audiences highly anticipated what he would do next. His follow-up, Only God Forgives, was met with mixed to negative reviews with many critics discarding it as pretentious and self-indulgent. However, fans stood by the director and found their loyalty rewarded with the release of The Neon Demon. The movie centers on Jesse, a new face to the modeling industry whose “natural beauty” inspires jealousy from her competitors.

Pedophilia, cannibalism, and necrophilia can all be found laced throughout its 2-hour run time with many audience members finding themselves ready to head out early. Hyper-stylized and surreal, The Neon Demon is a truly unique horror movie that will shock and thrill audiences daring enough to give it a look.

Scenes to look out for: A woman defiles a corpse; a woman vomits up an eyeball.

 

7. Funny Games

Funny Games (1997)

Michael Haneke is no stranger to controversy but his, perhaps, most divisive and morally reviled film is Funny Games. Funny Games made waves for a number of reasons but its merit was offset by the mixture of raucous applause and intense booing. Viewers found themselves jarred at the innovative narrative techniques, and the mixture of defeatist nihilism and unflinching immorality sparked outrage with many people hitting the exits.

Funny Games follows the story of a family at their vacation home who are interrupted by two psychopathic young men who hold them captive and force them to play sadistic games for them. Motives beyond pure evil don’t seem to exist for the two men and such a pessimistic prospect isn’t one that all audiences found enjoyable.

Scenes to look out for: A man shoots a child in front of his parents; a woman is repeatedly sexually humiliated in front of her husband and son.

 

6. Suspiria (2018)

Luca Guadagnino followed his critically acclaimed hit Call Me By Your Name with this Suspiria remake, news that came way out of left field for people enthusiastic about Gudagnino’s ability to create emotionally affecting drama. Suspiria immediately garnered attention when audience members at the premiere started to hit the exits early. Dakota Johnson plays Susie, an American dance student in Berlin who begins to learn that the school may be run by sinister forces.

Protruding bones, vomiting spinal fluid, and perhaps the bloodiest finale in cinema history, some critics initially called the movie too over-the-top to be taken seriously. Others recognized it for what it is, the product of a visionary mind given total creative control. Expanding on the lore and heightening the intensity to fever pitch, this is the rare remake that achieves a masterful status by taking on its own unique voice.

Scenes to look out for: A woman breaks her leg with the bone exposed then proceeds to dance on it; a demon figure enters a scene and causes various people’s heads to explode.

10 Great Thriller Movies That Will Blow Your Mind

A complex riddle that you can obsess over until you fit all the pieces together and finally see the big picture. Films that fall into that category can be some of the most frustrating yet rewarding filmic experiences you’ll ever have and on this list we will be taking a look at 10 films that will blow your mind.

 

10. Coherence

Coherence

Coherence begins like a pretty normal yet slightly mumblecore-y drama that you have seen a million times before, but then the film takes a turn into quantum physics that will leave you scratching your head and trying desperately to keep up as characters and events move between different timelines and/or realities and/or dimensions.

It’s an absolutely wild ride that will make varying degrees of sense based on your knowledge and understanding of Quantum Psychics, but even then you’ll be having a hard time keeping track of every little detail that the film throws at you.

The fact that the film was filmed in three days with next to no script is an astounding achievement, it must have been hell to get all of this to make as much sense as it does while having to literally improvise pretty much all of it and get the coverage needed to get a fully functioning film during the editing process.

 

9. The Element of Crime

The Element of Crime

The Element of Crime is the feature debut of the legendary yet highly controversial Danish director Lars Von Trier.

It’s an interesting case study because it’s so completely different from pretty much everything he would go on to do, both narratively and stylistically, yet pretty much lays the thematic groundwork for his entire filmography perfectly in a 100 minute surreal murder mystery that was highly inspired by the films of Andrei Tarkovsky.

Lars is no Tarkovsky but in this film he has come the closest anyone has to recapturing the atmosphere that made Tarkovsky’s work so special.

The film is a dreamlike odyssey of obsession, murder and madness that becomes increasingly harder to follow yet also becomes increasingly more addictive the longer it goes and by the end you will feel like you’ve just awoken from a dream that you didn’t understand but want to revisit as soon as possible.

 

8. In the Mouth of Madness

in-the-mouth-of-madness-1994

In the Mouth of Madness is John Carpenter’s masterpiece, it has the tension of Halloween, the cosmic horror of The Thing, the playfulness of Big Trouble in Little China, the awesomeness of Escape from New York and the creepiness of Prince of Darkness all rolled up into one absolutely insane package that goes batshit bananas in the third act as it spirals completely out of control in the best ways possible.

It tells the tale of Trent (the great Sam Neill), a cynical insurance investigator that is hired to track down a missing author and hopefully retrieve his newest manuscript, but the further Trent gets into this case the more things start to take a Lovecraftian turn and by the end it has turned into Carpenter’s most insane and complex film yet.

The film’s ending is something that you’ll just have to see to believe, it’s absolutely insane and might be the most playfully terrifying sequence Carpenter has ever directed.

 

7. Triangle

You might figure out Triangle’s game out early but that doesn’t really matter because the lengths that the film takes its concept to is so god damn insane and complex that it will blow your mind either way.

It’s truly a great experience to witness this film play out and not collapse under its own ridiculously convoluted weight.

The fact that it’s also a highly entertaining and engaging thriller that will keep you at the edge of your seat is just the icing on a cake.

 

6. Enemy

enemy

Enemy is a film that doesn’t make logical sense but at the same time it makes perfect emotional sense, in the end you may not understand anything that happened and you may not be able to explain all the symbolism but you will still understand the emotional underpinnings of the piece.

Enemy is also director Denis Villeneuve’s crowning achievement, every frame of this movie is directed to perfection and holds important details to help you through the maze that is the film’s story.

It tells the tale of a teacher that discovers his double when watching a low-budget film and tries to seek him out, but things go awry when they finally meet.

It’s the type of film where nothing is as it seems because everything is pretty much a metaphor for something else or only makes sense if you are familiar with certain psychological theories about the subconscious of the Freudian variety.

But even if you get the gist of it, then there is still more than enough left for you to unpack.

10 Great Recent Sci-fi Films That Explore Humanity

When it comes to science fiction, you can certainly explore infinite possibilities the genre has to offer. But certain films and filmmakers allow this exploration to the innermost core of ourselves, the human condition.

Since you’re already operating in a genre that could include space travel, clones, dreams, or apocalyptic settings, you can strip everything down to exploring humanity itself. And what better way to do that than through fictional means out of our realm? Therefore, here are 10 science fiction films from the 21st century that best explore humanity.

 

1. Interstellar (2014) – Father & Daughter Relationship

matthew-mcconaughey-in-interstellar

At the heart of Christopher Nolan’s film, it is essentially about the meaning of love, specifically between father and daughter. From the ambitious narrative and scope of the film, it never detracts or takes away from what Matthew McConaughey does for his daughter, played by three different actresses, no matter how hard it is for him to the betterment of humanity.

We are introduced to the narrative and amid spoilers, we make sense of what occurred between these two through space, time, wormholes, and the universe in its entirety. Nolan managed to tell a story about a father and daughter while exploring where the planet could be heading without food, Kip Thorne’s theories on wormholes, and time in the infinity of space.

Nolan definitely continued his exploration of themes in this film as he continues to do. But essentially, it’s all about the relationship. Even Jessica Chastain stated it’s his own personal love letter to his daughter and even the secret title while filming was called “Flora’s Letter.” Regardless, Nolan made an ambitious sci-fi film that never lost sight of its humanity, but actually explored it further.

 

2. High Life (2018) – Meaning for Creating Life

What happens when you put Claire Denis in space? You get something only she can make and one that is certainly unlike any other science fiction film. With her elliptical storytelling in imagery and sound, we start to see what is actually going on in this prison-like space center.

With Robert Pattinson giving another amazing performance as Monty, we start to realize that all these inmates aren’t astronauts, and rather far from it. As the story unfolds and we see Juliette Binoche drugging and taking samples of semen for offspring experimentation, we start to see one of the purposes of this spacecraft.

Denis certainly doesn’t use this space as a plot point or metaphor but allows it to be used to gain an understanding of our humanity. What did some of these characters go through on Earth or in blackholes and alternative space crafts that could mirror their own? There are no definite answers in any of Denis’ films and when it comes to her first English language film and only science fiction film, don’t expect different results here. But by creating a film in the stars, she may have created one of her most stunning works that explores this meaning for life.

 

3. Under the Skin (2014) – What It Means To Be Human

A haunting, memorizing film that explores the human race from an alien’s perspective, of course, disguised as a human. Scarlett Johansson plays a woman who seduces men in Glasgow into a black hole of sorts.

The ‘what’ is important because from the Kubrickian opening due to director’s Jonathan Glazer’s framing in company with Mica Levi’s unearthly score, we don’t really know why this naked woman assumes the identity of others. Yet as the film progresses, we see Johansson as The Woman learn what sexuality means to ‘men’, the longing of people, and the mundane events of human life.

As she continues to lure men into her car, filmed with real people and hidden cameras, to eventually lead them to their demise, she slowly starts to see what the ‘male’ perspective of sexuality, longing, and sex comes to be. It’s only after she meets a man with deformities, a real person to mention as well, that she sees a sensitivity and fragility to the human male side, what she thought was a narrow-sighted mind. This leads to little moments in the film such as the subtle example of her eating actual food that she can’t keep down.

Whether she sees the entrapment of people in their situations due to longing to the female form, her ending, or beginning, in the woods shows an understanding of the human being. After a brutal attempted rape attack and a motif of mirror reflection, she begins to slightly understand the human being and the better part of herself. What those details are, in a film full of questions and hardly any answers, we are only left to come up with an explanation ourselves on what she discovered about the nature of humans.

 

4. Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – The Identity of a Human Being

Once Ridley Scott introduced this dream world of replicants and humans interacting, it clearly became a film that was all about humanity. With the long-anticipated sequel, Denis Villeneuve continued that search with more open arms.

With the knowledge of the events of the original “Blade Runner,” we already see that Ryan Gosling’s K is a replicant and struggles to find his place in society hunting down rogue replicants, being a blade runner himself. Through his interactions with replicants, humans, and other various creatures, we start to see what the identity of a human being needs to be in order to be considered an actual human being. This is what Phillip K. Dick first wanted to explore in his short story and this film takes it to new heights by eliminating some of the mystery left over from previous storylines.

With the inclusion of Harrison Ford’s Rick Dekard and the last act of the film, almost mirroring the mood and atmosphere of the original, we truly start to understand the termination of replicants, humans, and those in between. Despite being built or made from human flesh, the film is all about what the requirement or prerequisites are to being an actual human being. The answer is still up to us to decide.

 

5. Minority Report (2002) – Protecting Human Life

Minority Report (2002)

The earliest film on this list, and certainly leave it to Steven Spielberg to create a chase sci-fi film that explores how we protect the most fragile things in life – our own actual lives. After exploring humanity the year prior in “AI: Artificial Intelligence,” Spielberg shows a crime fighting division, PreCrime, that prevents future crimes from being committed. But when the head of that organization, Tom Cruise, becomes the hunted, we start to see what to actually means to protect ourselves.

The film, at its core, discusses the question of predestination versus free will. Therefore, if we humans can’t decide our own fates, then what’s the point of being human? Well, Cruise certainly gives us a chase of this question in this sci-fi noir mystery film.

As the film progresses and relationships are revealed and the crime becomes more connected to Cruise’s Chief John Anderton, we start to comprehend the meaning of PreCrime and their use of Precogs. Can humans really just use creatures to prevent situations instead of helping further our own needs instead? Or should our future mistakes guide us to becoming better human beings? And the list of questions go on until the film concludes.

In the end, the film explores the protection of human life at the cost of other human lives and those creatures in between. We must ask ourselves, are we willing to give up free will for the betterment of society instead of our own selves?

10 of The Bleakest Movie Endings of All Time

The world births without reason and dies without it. This existential fear has worried intellectuals and scholars through the ages and the final answer is still waiting. In an insane world where no answer is guaranteed, evil finds its way to evade justice.

The only way out is hedonism, to forget the chaos of the world and enjoy the exuberance while it lasts. Nietzsche, the poster boy for nihilism, thought of a positive response to this worldly condition, but his positive nihilism is more of an ideal than a reality. The reality is Marque De Sadist, where the world is reigned by primordial guilt and bleak violence. Without further ado, here are the 10 bleakest endings of all time:

 

1. Chinatown (1974)

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” If bleakness and negative nihilism are thought to have a cinematic representative, then there is no worthy contender than “Chinatown.” It is difficult to find people who haven’t seen Polanski’s excellent noir film “Chinatown” and more difficult to find them who haven’t even heard of the closing line of the film.

The ending of “Chinatown” represents everything that is wrong in our world in a single scene. In the wake of capitalism, the deep pockets are the almighty and law and justice are their pawns. Detective Jake Gittes, immortalized by the acting performance of Jack Nicholson, had a tragic past with Chinatown that is unrevealed in the film, and at the film’s end, once again Gittes understands that nothing has changed with Chinatown; it still is the den of corruption and injustice where the criminals are the most powerful and out of range for the criminal and justice department.

Worse is that his acquaintances at work convince Jack to sacrifice his conscience and accept this unchangeable truth about Chinatown. A powerless Jack watches from a distance as the police murder Evelyn Mulwray at the order of her father and molester, the wealthy businessman Noah Cross, while sexual predator Noah takes away his granddaughter cum daughter as his next victim after Evelyn.

 

2. Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver

The legacy of “Taxi Driver” is becoming more resolute with every passing day. With the latest comic book movie “Joker” throwing great shade at the former film in its treatment, the question of violence and insanity in an unjust world is prominent than ever.

The world is unfair, without a doubt, but how fair is the citizen who takes the law in his own hands? If a deranged Vietnam war veteran, adamant on purifying New York City all alone, who engages in a shootout with the pimp of a local brothel, is a hero to the justice system, then his previous failed plan to assassinate a senator has also to be regarded as high esteem. After all, both are the product of the same mind, only one is successful and the other is not.

But Scorsese deliberately shows New York City as society of scum and the viewers can sympathize with Travis’s emotion – “I think someone should just take this city and just… just flush it down the f***in’ toilet.” In most cases, these sentiments wouldn’t arise in a jolly, happy person’s mind and Travis’s loneliness is a big stimulant for this condition. Then the frailty to communicate with people has to be treated with great attention, especially when Travis shows the hint of his unchanged nature in the last scene.

 

3. The Birds (1963)

the birds

Alfred Hitchcock was never shy at portraying bleak scenarios in his films. They are always full of murder, jealousy, adultery, and the crimes are often unpunished. But “The Birds” was a nobility; in it, Hitchcock mixed environmental concerns with his trademark mainstream entertainment and thrill. When Melanie Daniels visits the home of defense attorney Mitch Brenner in Bodega Bay with a new pair of love birds to gift him, the city’s gulls become excessively violent.

Not only the gulls, but slowly the American crows and sparrows start to invade the household where Melanie is staying. Here Hitchcock is at his level best at black comedy with the thrill of a B-movie picture. The attack of the birds is nothing a physical allegory to the romantic and sexual spark between this budding couple and when Mitch and Melanie escape the area in Melanie’s car, the birds continue perching and screaming. The future is very bleak.

 

4. I Saw the Devil (2010)

The distance between good and evil is always very tiny and it fades away in special circumstances. Like “Taxi Driver,” “I Saw the Devil” brings out the question of amoral punishment – if a dangerous criminal gets an equally pernicious punishment, then where is the difference between them? Jang Kyung-chu is an academy bus driver by profession and a cannibalistic murderer by desire.

He uses his job to carefully select his victims, whose meat he feasts on, and no one can stop him. He also has a sadomasochistic pleasure in inflicting pain on his victims. But when he murders the wife of an NIS agent, a cat-and-mouse game begins between these two.

Jang is ruthless and evil personified. It is difficult to defeat this inhuman beast with physical powers, but Kim Soo-hyun is a worthy contender. Traumatized by the killing of his wife, he tracks down Jang but doesn’t kill him instantly. Rather, he chooses to instill fear in the psycho’s mind by incapacitating his organs one by one. It is not long before that the viewers will find it difficult to determine who the real psycho is. Jang is evil by nature, but Kim chooses it. The end is too gruesome to watch, but the bleaker truth that “I Saw the Devil” projects is that evil finds a way in people; it only changes its medium but stays in the world.

 

5. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

requiem_for_a_dream

It’s difficult to watch “Requiem for a Dream” for a second time. That’s not because of the quality of the film; the film is excellent, but the excellence of the film is connected to the bleakness of the cinematic reality that Darren Aronofsky has decided to portray. “Requiem for a Dream” shows the destructive results of addiction: no addiction is good addiction, everyone is vulnerable to it regardless of their age, and it grapples our life and threatens to shatter it.

Here we have four protagonists: three of them are addicted to heroin and a mother figure is addicted to excessive television consumption. Drug and television, or any addiction that affects the nervous system, is dangerous in distorting the psychological reality if overdosed, and that is what happens to them. Aronofsky uses multiple techniques to increase the restlessness of the viewers: split-screen, extreme close-up, fast editing, hip-hop montage, and brilliant use of low-frequency gyrating music.

The film is most effective because in the first quarter of the film, their perfect harmonized life is shown and in the last quarter, everything went south. In the end, everyone endures unimaginable pain, but all still think of a perfect happy life in their distorted mental state. Nothing can be more bleak than that.

10 Great A24 Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

Since emerging on the scene in 2013, A24 has quickly become a studio whose name is synonymous with groundbreaking, provocative independent cinema. Known as a studio that gives power back to the filmmakers, A24 has enlisted some of the best directors in the business and has inspired a new generation of independent filmmakers.

Some of A24’s films have gone on to become great successes, with films like Moonlight, Lady Bird, First Reformed, Good Time, Hereditary, and The Florida Project among others all becoming critical darlings and awards contenders. Some of the studio’s titles this fall, including The Lighthouse, Waves, and Uncut Gems rank among the year’s most anticipated films. However, A24 releases a great number of films each year, some of which don’t receive wide theatrical releases or go straight to VOD.

Outside of the well-known hits, A24 has amassed a very impressive library. Here are ten underrated A24 films.

 

10. It Comes At Night

While it was unfortunately marketed as a supernatural horror thriller, It Comes At Night is actually quite scary when it comes to its bleak depiction of humanity’s inherent nature towards violence. Using a post-apocalyptic setting as a backdrop for a paranoid chamber piece, the film follows two families that come into competition over resources.

The details as to what exactly sparked this doomsday event are never explicitly spelled out; its characters are adjusted to the reality they exist in, and the excellent performances from Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, and Kelvin Harrison Jr. explore what a tight family unit would do under these circumstances.

Regardless of what the apocalyptic inciting incident was, the characters are all on edge, calling into question what their ulterior motivations could be. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults sets the film primarily in one location, which increases the claustrophobic anxiety and draws attention to the bleak day-to-day living that these families go through. The film’s unsettling nature rises towards a devastating climax, and while it’s understandable that a film this thoroughly miserable would have a hard time drawing in crowds, It Comes At Night is a great character piece from a talented filmmaker.

 

9. Mid90s

Jonah Hill has certainly had an interesting career arc, having started as one of the most talented comedic actors in the industry who gradually ventured into dramatic territory. After working with some of the best directors in the business, Hill tried his hand in directing with Mid90s, a slice of life coming of age drama that follows a young boy Stevie (Sunny Suljic) who becomes part of a skater group.

While not following a traditional narrative, Mid90s feels like a collection of anecdotes from a filmmaker reflecting on their past, and the film’s provocative ending shows the emphasis Hill places on letting these kids see their own stories lived out on screen.

While the soundtrack definitely provokes nostalgia, it also feels authentic to the specific subculture that Hill is depicting. It’s clear that Hill is passionate about this material, as he nails the comradery and in jokes that would exist between a group of skater friends, and is able to explore an entire history between these boys through the perspective of an outsider that joins them.

As the film draws to a close, there’s a considerable amount of tension as to whether or not this friend group can sustain themselves, and Hill is able to reflect on these youthful experience with reverence whilst also being critical of how dangerous they are.

 

8. The Rover

One of the best post-apocalyptic westerns since the original Mad Max, The Rover features incredible performances from Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson. Pearce plays a former soldier who is reeling from the loss of his family, and channels his vengeful spirit into a violent campaign against all that stand in his way. This forces him to make an uneasy alliance with a petty criminal played by Pattinson.

This was Pattinson’s breakout role; before he showed his acting abilities with Good Time and The Lost City of Z, he proved in The Rover that he could take risks, as he plays a simple-minded criminal who finds an authoritative figure in Pearce.

The central relationship between these two actors is what brings humanity to this bleak story, and while the revenge story is straightforward, there are clues as to what Pearce’s life before was like before and how he evolved into a ruthless killer. Pattinson also has a lot of development, as his character is abandoned by his brothers after an attempt to rob Pearce goes wrong. Their relationship is fraught with disdain, but in the end they are both survivors who only have their life left to give, and The Rover is completely unflinching in its brutal depiction of a world without hope.

 

7. The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Often the best horror comes from confusion, and The Blackcoat’s Daughter does a great job at disorienting its audience. Following three different Catholic school girls who are all intertwined in a story of satanic panic over a holiday break, the film switches between the perspectives of the three leads and doesn’t reveal how they all connect until the end.

The lack of answers is unnerving in the best way, and debut filmmaker Oz Perkins is able to create a creepy atmosphere through an absence of authority figures; two of these girls (Kiernan Shipka and Lucy Boynton) are left waiting for their parents in their abandoned school, while the other (Emma Roberts) is unable to find a ride home.

Shipka and Boynton have an age difference that casts their dynamic in a different light, and the tension between the two and their different motivations for staying on campus manifests into an interesting depiction of two stages of adolescence; Boynton is initially rude and dismissive of her younger classmate, and Shipka has an appropriately unnerving dead eyed stare that fits the dreary setting.

With the storyline involving Roberts, which does not take place on campus, Perkins runs the risk of breaking the scope of his chamber piece, but even that story still feels contained and finite. A terrific slow burn with three breakout performances, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is a horror film so cleverly plotted that its worth rewatching to catch up on missed details.

 

6. American Honey

Sasha Lane in American Honey

At nearly 3 hours, American Honey is the longest film on this list and among the longest films A24 has ever produced. It’s a completely immersive experience in a film that’s all about immersion; Sasha Lane stars as the eldest daughter of an impoverished family who is taken by a group of free spirited young people that travel and sell magazines. The film never settles in one location, with sporadic adventures developing over the course of different cons being pulled.

There’s a manic energy to how Andrea Arnold directs the film, with much of the film focusing on the conversations between characters who are bound together like a family. This runs the risk of being over indulgent, but each character is so unique that the dialogue feels very natural, with Shia Labeouf in particular giving a great performance as a group leader.

While there’s a lot of comedy that comes from the scams these characters run and it’s fun to see them celebrate their independence, there’s also an imminent sense of danger as they encounter dangerous people along the way. Often heartbreaking but never dull, American Honey is a mesmerizing odyssey into the underrepresented side of America.

The 15 Best Movies At VIFF 2019

Now that the sun has set on the 38th annual Vancouver International Film Festival (which ran from September 26th to October 11th, 2019), Taste of Cinema offers up our favorites from what was another bustling, exciting, and very impressive festival. As with previous years at VIFF, it was a very crowded field with so many exceptional films vying for our attention (of course we didn’t see them all, and there’s many we’re so very sorry we missed), and charged with the task of picking our favorites was no easy affair.

The films on this list show a wide-ranging assortment including auteur-driven films, populist fare, arthouse gems, jaw-dropping animation, tantalizing genre fare, and many lofty female-led projects, too (a trend that we’re happy to say continues to flourish in a very male dominated industry).

And now the festival roundup and until next year VIFF, we’ll catch you in the queue!

 

15. Amanda

The opening scenes of the new Mikhaël Hers drama Amanda depict a sun-soaked Paris that thrums with vivid life. The characters we meet may be mundane, but that makes them all the more relatable. There’s David (Vincent Lacoste), a flighty twenty-something who gets along well with his older, wiser, more patient sister Sandrine (Ophélia Kolb)––a single mom with a seven-year-old daughter named Amanda (Isaure Multrier).

Amanda is a film that depicts a devastating tragedy in the City of Lights, one all too familiar in this mercilessly sad era of modern terrorism. Sandrine, in a tastefully off-screen, but no less crushing incident, is murdered along with dozens of innocent people in a vicious mass shooting that deliberately echoes the notorious co-ordinated attacks of November 2015.

David, who we first see as Amanda’s silly big brother and fun uncle figure is suddenly, sadly elbowed into adulthood and into becoming the responsible guardian his agonizing niece so sorely needs.

Attentive, and quietly elegant, Amanda is a moving and satisfying experience.

 

14. Babysplitters

Writer-director Sam Friedlander’s refreshingly upbeat comedy sets its sights on the ambiguity couples often have over whether or not to have kids. Presenting itself as something of a modernized screwball comedy with lots of awkward and uncomfortable gags, as well as shrewdly observed commentary on progressive parenting tactics, Babysplitters is undoubtedly one of the funniest, and most compassionate indie comedies of the year.

Sarah (Emily Chang) and Jeff Penaras (Danny Pudi) are a busy, newly-wedded Los Angelinos couple who, along with their best friends Taylor (Maiara Walsh) and Don Small (Eddie Alfano) have often entertained the idea of becoming parents, but can’t see the good without all the bad that would come with such a life-changing experience.

It gets a little sappy, as the genre often does, but Babysplitters is also sharp, satisfying, and funny as hell.

 

13. I Lost My Body

French animator Jérémy Clapin one-of-a-kind animated feature I Lost My Body, rightful recipient of the Critics’ Week Grand Prize at Cannes earlier this year, tells the tale of a hand traveling through the tough streets of Paris to be reunited with its body.

There are body horror elements to be sure, but also action and odd romance in this artfully surreal odyssey. You may surprise yourself at how much you’ll fistpump for a severed hand (the film is brilliantly adapted from Amélie scribe Guillame Laurant’s 2006 novel “Happy Hand”) while the stunning 2D drawings blow your mind with their subtle complexity. This is an underdog tale you’ll definitely write home about. Don’t miss it.

 

12. Greener Grass

A pair of ever-competing soccer moms chitchat on the bleachers as their kids chase and kick balls around the grassy sport’s field when Lisa (Dawn Luebbe) looks closer at her frenemy Jill (Jocelyn DeBoer) and exclaims through thinly veiled contempt: “Oh, my gosh, I didn’t even notice, you have a new baby!”

By the end of their creatively clipped and arish exchange, Jill, almost as if on a whim, has given her baby, Madison, to Lisa, for keeps. This is the strangely surreal suburban hellscape of Greener Grass, a world of pastel-colors, intensely manicured-lawns, accidental spouse-swapping, overly friendly barbecues, pool parties, gross kissing and the odd murder scene.

Written and directed by co-stars DeBoer and Luebbe, Greener Grass is their debut and demands a demented frame of mind to fully appreciate its strange glamor. It plays out like the Stepford Wives as reimagined by John Waters, with the odd episode here and there unraveling like an enjoyably elaborate and overlong Mr. Show sketch.

Is this a film for all tastes? Absolutely not. Is it a messed-up and gooey good time? You bet it is.

 

11. Bacurau

Directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles (who was Mendonça’s production designer on his two previous films), this genre-bending weird Western has a serious Sergio Leone vibe as it takes on numerous jet-black comic twists, an enormous body count, and a very lackadaisical pace.

Set in the eponymous village of Bacurau, a remote place in Brazil’s north east, where the residents find themselves up against aggressive aliens forces as this truly singular near-future quasi-Western with a surreal slant that the VIFF audience absolutely ate up. Starring Sônia Braga and Udo Kier, hopefully Bacura will enjoy a wider release in the very near future.

 

10. Deerskin

Georges has a real killer look in writer/director Quentin Dupieux’s latest film, a batshit-beyond-all-reason black comedy/character piece called Deerskin. Dupieux, the deranged genius behind such wonderfully weird films as the absurdist horror tale Rubber (2010), and the irreverent comic mystery Wrong (2012) is no stranger to bizarre backroads and crackpot detours into the ludicrously far-out and terminally fucked-up. And based on such curious criteria as this it’s possible that Deerskin is some kind of eccentric chef d’oeuvre.

Starring French luminaries Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Adèle Haenel (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), Deerskin takes what’s essentially one pretty good gag, and milks it for everything it’s worth and with deliriously rolling results.

Sure to annoy as many people as it enamors, Deerskin is a confidently stylish and thoroughly diverting achievement from one of the most curious contemporary filmmakers around.

 

9. The Painted Bird

It was a decade-long road for writer/director/producer Václav Marhoul to bring Jerzy Kosiński’s nightmarish (not to mention extremely controversial) memoir of a Jewish survivor/witness to the Holocaust to the big screen. The resulting black-and-white odyssey of human atrocities has aptly drawn comparisons to Elem Klimov’s shattering Come and See (1985).

The Painted Bird is an elegantly photographed horror show, and one that The Guardian’s Xanth Brooks enthusiastically recommends but with the caveat; “I can state without hesitation that this is a monumental piece of work and one I’m deeply glad to have seen. I can also say that I hope to never cross its path again.” So be warned, the nerve-jangling violence and mental torture will be too much for sensitive viewers, but it’s an experience well worth taking and being transformed by.

10 Popular Horror Movies That Aren’t Really Scary

We are living in the golden age of horror. The output of the genre was always proliferous, but the quality of the films was not always worth mentioning. Now, in the 21st century, the films have become better in creating and maintaining chills, scares, and atmosphere. These films are often psychological and also contain a lot of subtext, which is a delight for sophisticated viewers.

Recently a controversial genre label has been attached to signify these intelligent horror movies: elevated horror. Although this is mostly a transitive cultural trend and will fade with time, the old horror fans have been offended by this distinguishing tag. Needless to say, horror movies are only measured by the fear factor they induce in the viewer’s mind, not by the number of subtext or social allegories they secretly contain.

It doesn’t matter which trope is used: jump scare, gore, found footage – everything is welcomed as long as the film is effective. But sometimes the use of all of these film tropes together doesn’t work, the film suffers from lack of scare, and an unnecessary comedic effect is created. These films are the worst offenders in horror canon; their existence is undesired for the mediocrity they carry with them. Without further ado, here are 10 horror films that weren’t scary.

 

1. Truth or Dare

“Truth or Dare” packed all of the horror film cliches together to create a film that is equal parts fun and scary. But the result is only half fun and not a bit scary. There is a sadistic pleasure in watching people suffer and die from the comfort of theatre or home.

“Truth or Dare” only succeeds in that part, but the protagonists are so unremarkable and forgetful that it is difficult to invest even in their death. The acting is not even passable and the unleashed demon thing has been done to death. Sadly, the death scenes are hilarious and not frightening, and the jump scares don’t register. It is always difficult to edit a badly directed film and the editor couldn’t bring a good final assembly.

“Truth or Dare” couldn’t scare its audience as a horror film, but what it does best is use Snapchat as a product placement and create unintended laughs for the audiences on a date.

 

2. Unfriended

“Unfriended” is better suited as a dystopian cautionary tale of the digital world than a horror film. It is more like a “Black Mirror” episode in the form of a feature-length film. Would you call “Black Mirror” a horror series or a sci-fi anthology? The latter is always a better choice for an introduction to the uninitiated audience.

The techniques used in “Unfriended” are revolutionary for sure, but just like “Rope” was a failed experiment for Hitchcock which the man himself admitted, this film is more gimmicky than effective. It is also incredibly tiring to watch the computer screens over and over; it gives a bad headache like a Facebook addiction, and this boredom destroys any potential of scariness.

The motivation of the character’s suicide was half-baked and unconvincing, and the jump scare end is the result of lazy, uninspired writing and execution. “Unfriended” may go to history for many firsts, but its ineffectiveness as a horror film is very old and natural.

 

3. The Nun

Everything has a breaking point. The number of spin-offs, sequels, and prequels assured that the day is very near for “The Conjuring” universe and “The Nun” can be the historical case. The writing of “The Nun” was just plain bad, presenting the horror cliches that the fans have witnessed over and over. Initially, it succeeds in creating a chilling atmosphere, but it couldn’t hold the tension because of the cliched logic and inconsistent pace.

Characters in shadow appear frequently without any reason; the world building is majorly missing. The sound design of the film is worse; loud noises of doors cracking is omnipresent and it’s mixed with the pulsating violin noise, making the film experience an irritation. “The Conjuring” films are famous for the jump scares, but this alone can’t create a delightful theatre experience when the film is lacking in direction.

 

4. Freddy vs. Jason

One can easily imagine film producers and studio executives in a meeting delightfully discussing the economical prospect of bringing together two beloved horror film universes – “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Friday the 13th.” From the get-go, it was a very greedy decision that was bound for failure, as good films are created out of passion and heart, not avarice; the result is evident in the final film. The filmmakers invested little effort in the film, only to crowd-pull by the marketing gimmick and the movie suffers for that.

It is a film only for the die-hard fans; others will laugh at the histrionics of these two screen icons. Jason gets the most kills out of the Jason and Freddy deal and Freddy is angry about that. The kids in the films are just archetypes solely created for the fun of Freddy and Jason. Viewers will find “Freddy vs. Jason” as an action-comedy, not as a horror film.

 

5. V/H/S

vhs

Making use of frame narrative, the occasionally-called horror anthology film “V/H/S” presents a story that depends more on gore and body horror and less on the atmosphere. The V/H/S theme of the film creates a narrative necessity to join the independent segments together using found-footage clips and the result is a jumbled and forced effort. The individual segments are varied in quality: from decent to disastrous.

The structure of every story is very algorithmic and indistinct from each other. This feels like the same emotions and flavors are repeating again and again, and the film becomes a tedious watch, although the stories are slightly different. Even if the short portions are terrible, there was a chance for everything to come together when watched as a whole, but the sloppy writing ensures that it doesn’t actually happen. The appropriate emotion to describe the film is boring, not something scary or horrifying.

10 Great Movies That Were Initially Polarizing

Some films debut to universal acclaim and instantly gain classic status, but often it takes time to win over an audience. It’s hard to determine what a film’s legacy will look like based on the first reactions it gets, and some films initially deemed to be divisive gain a new critical appreciation after years of analysis.

Any extreme reactions that a film gets, be it positive or negative, is sure to initiate discussion as people debate whether it’s a catastrophe or a masterpiece. Regardless of what side opinions land on, it’s usually more interesting to see cinema that provokes spirited debate rather than a collective shrug.

Some films that are regarded by many to be brilliant are still bitterly debated to this day, and they were even more divisive when they were first released. Here are ten great films that were initially polarizing.

 

10. Across the Universe

across-the-universe

Debuting to both disdain and admiration, the 2007 Beatles-inspired musical Across the Universe was celebrated for its creative reimagining of the music of The Beatles into creative, often trippy musical numbers, yet criticized for the cliché central love story at its center.

While it’s true that the romance between English shipyard worker Jude (Jim Strugress) and U.S. student turned activist Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) isn’t a nuanced affair, it was never really the point of the film; Across the Universe uses the loose framework of a tragic romance to explore a variety of themes pertinent to the changing culture of the 1960s, using the most iconic songs ever written.

It’s a film that is all about the musical numbers, and director Julia Taymor includes 34 unique renditions of Beatles songs, each with a unique visual flare the provokes different emotions. These range from being hilarious escapades from drunk college students (“With A Little Help From My Friends”) to tragic funeral processions (“Let It Be”) to psychedelic reflections (“Because”) to celebratory counter-culturalism (“All You Need Is Love”), it’s a film about history unfolding and the defining moments of the 60s experience.

While it still has its critics, Across the Universe is more well regarded now than it was when first released, and has a group of admirers that include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Yoko Ono.

 

9. Only God Forgives

only-god-forgives-ryan-gosling

Nicholas Winding Refn’s hyper violent Bangkok crime opera received a notoriously cool reception upon its debut at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, with significant controversy surrounding its depiction of torture.

Beyond the brutality of the film’s story, which revolves around a grim criminal (Ryan Gosling) who searches for vengeance after his brother (Tom Burke) is killed for murdering a teenage prostitute, Only God Forgives is also a slowly paced stunner that puts more emphasis on its neon visuals than characterization. The dialogue is minimal, and when it does come it’s often abstract and confounding, save for the occasional graphic tirades from Gosling’s mother (Kristin Scott Thomas).

Refn’s masterpiece was never the template for a mainstream hit, but it’s transfixing in how removed it is from convention; this is a film in which characters, locations, and even action are all vessels for exploring the seedy cycle of violence. Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic score and Larry Smith’s expansive cinematography give the underground Bangkok a depth and radiance that simply couldn’t be appreciated in a traditional narrative. By the time the film’s strangely gorgeous final musical number kicks in, it’s hard to not be wowed by the audacity of Refn’s vision.

 

8. Prometheus

Prometheus

Expectations were high for Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction, but those expecting a direct prequel to Alien were sorely disappointed in Scott’s ambitious and ambiguous film. Although Prometheus has a lot of the visceral body horror that made the original Alien a classic, it was more interested in exploring the search for a creator than it was explaining the Xenomorph mythology. The horror in Prometheus is more psychological; the anxiety over answers drives the exploratory crew to madness as the Engineer’s designs begin to disrupt the framework of their ship from the inside and out.

By far the most interesting character within the film is Michael Fassbender as the android David; while androids are not new to the Alien films, David’s fascination with his own creators is a perfect mirror to the search by the Prometheus crew to find the origin of humanity.

David’s quirky attempts to be more human-like can sometimes be humorous, but they also initiate complicated questions about how a creation can rebel against its parent. Unfortunately, the provocative and interesting direction setup by Prometheus was ruined with its 2017 follow up Alien: Covenant, which saw Scott reverting to more familiar iconography and less ambitious themes, perhaps as a reaction to the divisive reaction that Prometheus had.

 

7. Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Star Trek (2009)

Ten years after the iconic television series left the air, Star Trek fans expected the first film based on the show to be an action packed science fiction adventure. The recent successes of Star Wars, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, and Alien had fueled the need for sci-fi crowd pleasers, but 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture took a much more introspective approach to the series, exploring the concept of what defines free will and whether or not humanity really wants to know the answer about what happens after death.

Director Robert Wise was no stranger to provocative sci-fi, having previously helmed The Body Snatcher and The Day The Earth Stood Still among other classics, and used the Voyager program as a catalyst for a story about the search for answers.

Despite the heady themes, the film also sets up interesting character arcs for each of the core Star Trek crew members, with Kirk returning to a version of the Enterprise that is unfamiliar to him and Spock wrestling with his human half after he attempts to purge his emotions. While it remains in the shadow of its vastly superior follow up, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a riveting experimental film that remains an integral part of the franchise.

 

6. Under the Skin

Another ambitious sci-fi thriller with clear reverence for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Under the Skin instantly drew admirers based on its hypnotic visuals and haunting performance from Scarlett Johansson, but also subsequently bombed at the box office and gained detractors who viewed the film as aimless and pretentious.

The strange combination of horror and beauty in Under the Skin clearly isn’t meant to be inviting, as it is a film that explores the very nature of human existence from the perspective of an alien creature attempting to destroy it. The creature preys on primal desires, and as she finds answers the audience is left with more questions.

The brilliance is that through stalking and killing men, the alien creature played by Johansson learns about what defines individuals, and as she grows to share their qualities she’s also exposed to the banal cruelty that exists in the world. While the structure may have proven repetitive for some, each individual interaction that Johansson has with a man reveals a different aspect of her complicated learning process. Between blunt violence, stark visuals, and an all-time great score from Mica Levi, Under the Skin is unquestionably a modern classic that has succeeded past its initial divisive reaction.

10 Great Movies That Perfectly Blend Arthouse With Grindhouse

Ingmar Bergman and Herschell Gordon Lewis walk into a bar, a magical pub populated only with filmmakers. Seated in a smoky corner lit via neon beer sign, Ed Wood and Andrei Tarkovsky gab about science fiction over a couple of bourbons. Elsewhere Lynne Ramsay chalks her pool cue while she debates Roger Corman on the importance of realism when portraying violence on screen.

This fantasy scenario unites celebrated art film auteurs with infamous exploitation directors. And every cineaste who adores both halves of the cinematic yin-yang wishes such a harmonious place existed, though we take comfort in the fact that some films create a perfect synthesis of arthouse motifs and grindhouse silliness.

The following list chronicles ten of those motion pictures, showcasing pieces of cinema that prove how placing mismatched notes beside one another makes the loveliest music.

 

1. You Were Never Really Here

Grindhouse connoisseurs define their genre of choice through its depiction of violence. This characteristic transcends all other elements on the rubric, and You Were Never Really Here clears the brutality hurtle with ease. After all, the story follows a PTSD-riddled veteran turned vigilante who uses a ball-peen hammer to cave in the faces of child predators.

If arthouse aims to explore the intricacies of human motivation and grindhouse shows us the aftermath of psychotic breakdowns, then Lynne Ramsay’s fourth film pulls off a brilliant balancing act. The film oscillates between moments of brutality and tenderness, human decay and human decency. In one regard, Joe, our protagonist, speaks in a soft, almost nurturing tone, especially when communicating with the aging mother he cares for at home. At the same time, we understand why he chooses to hunt down and bludgeon those who harm young girls.

Flashbacks of his history show us how and why the brain’s wiring short circuits in the instant. Once you receive the wrong kind of push, from the wrong kind of person, you go quite berserk. In fact, Joaquin Phoenix, the film’s principal actor, listened to a recorded loop of fireworks exploding, a technique that allowed him a small preview of the soundtrack playing on repeat for war veterans and crime victims forced to live with post-traumatic stress. In the end, the director refuses to fetishize violence, though she shows no mercy in revealing the reality of it, culminating in a flawless blend of two cinematic categories.

 

2. Lady Snowblood

Lady Snowblood

Arthouse and grindhouse both involve a sense of self-awareness, a nod and a wink for the cardigan-clad grad students who use these films as fodder for cocktail party conversations. In this regard, Lady Snowblood provides the most mileage of any motion picture appearing on this list. From the metal-swishing sound effects that accent kitana swipes to the candy-apple red blood that spews like a carbonated stream from limbs those blades lop off, Lady Snowblood gathers everything we love about revenge flicks and unspools those tropes with vaudevillian colorfulness.

It revels in its own postmodern artifice, creating a rich spectacle that director Toshiya Fujita ensures the audience remains cognizant of from start to finish. The hyperbolic dialogue alone provides evidence of this, e.g. “People say you can’t wash away the mud of this world with pure white snow. You need asura snow – stained fiery red.”

Almost every piece of writing on Lady Snowblood mentions how the film provided the chief inspiration behind Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill duology. Look at the blood that gurgles from opened necks and the cold nonchalance our revenge-obsessed protagonist shows as she slices off arms and heads, and the influence becomes clear. But where the latter picture functions as a love letter to chanbara cinema, the former focuses on presenting grotesque subject matter under the most elegant light.

 

3. Body Double

body-double

Every single night, a woman performs a ritualistic striptease number. The audience knows this, because the protagonist figures it out first. In fact, he uses a telescope to gain a more intimate/intrusive look, making us voyeurs by proxy. Now add this to the equation: our hero, the peeping tom Jake, works as an actor, one who lost a job as an eyeshadow-clad b-movie vampire. The dismissal came in light of Jake’s claustrophobia, a debilitating fear that renders him unable to complete scenes that place him inside a coffin, a plot point that comes into play later.

The plot grows becomes evermore absurd and complex. From there, we see theatrical violence on par with Slumber Party Massacre 2 (read: unorthodox murder weapons enter into the fray). And, to culminate with a perfect crescendo, Jake uses his thespianic chops to audition for a speaking role in an adult film—an elaborate ruse executed in the interest of revealing the film’s central mystery, of course.

The description sounds as if director Brian De Palma went bananas, throwing his every idea into a tonally incoherent script. Yet, Body Double remains a delightful, multilayered picture that employs silliness to deconstruct the fickle nature of glamour-obsessed Hollywood. To complete its mission, the film required a designation as trash cinema. It dabbles in poor taste, sure, but its low-brow sensibilities perform a public service.

 

4. The Love Witch

the-love-witch

A black widow narrative about a woman who kills men with whom she mates, Anna Biller’s The Love Witch mixes together the elements that remind us why we love both highbrow and exploitation art. In this way, it strikes that delicate balance. To get specific, the film marries the dreamy technicolor that mirrors Dario Argento’s most harlequin giallo films with glib dialogue reminiscent of Beyond the Valley of the Doll’s dramatic rhetorical choices.

Yes, the influences remain clear, but rest assured that Biller made a wholly original, delightfully imaginative motion picture. The egg-shaped jewel medallions, the long shiny wigs, and the various sets of lingerie bring to light the hammy pageantry that makes b-movies so watchable. But at the same time, the farcical humor of a circle of nude witches sharing a goblet and chanting embodies the quintessential absurdity inherent with postmodern art.

Though The Love Witch relies on its over-the-top nature, its flashiness never detracts from Anna Biller’s genius as a filmmaker. In a scene where a wife finds her husband lying amid a trail of blood spatter, the camera captures the power of her scream through dollying closer, zooming in until the audience nearly sees her uvula dangling. These examples, among many others, provide a testament to the way this film shows how the siloes of art and trash play together beautifully.

 

5. Possession

Possession

Upon its release, Possession gave audiences, critics, and censors very specific reactions, though these groups never settled on a label for the movie. Its win at the Cannes Film Festival lends an arthouse credence; however, its banning in England designates the film as “low art.” Film festival awards aside, Possession reached the censorship accolade, which marks a high honor in the grindhouse tradition.
So which category does the film fall under?

Both.

In Possession, director Andrzej Zulawski executes a perfect tightrope walk. On the one hand, marvelous beauty remains his chief cinematographic mission. On the other hand, the film stays rife with gross-out features, including sex with a squid and a gluey milk substance that pours from eye sockets. The mise-en-scene epitomizes every tenet of aesthetic judgement, the principle that dictates elegance and sophistication remain possible even when the subject matter focuses on grotesqueries.

10 Great Recent Arthouse Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

The common denominator of the following brilliant ten art house films is quite simple: every one of them has been an official selection in the last decade at one of the top three European Film Festivals (Cannes, Berlin, or Venice).

Nine out of the ten films have won awards.

The single exception is the Chad-France production, “GriGris”, which belongs to a highly celebrated if largely unknown director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun who was born in Chad but who has lived in France since 1982.

For his feature, “A Screaming Man”, Haroun won the Cannes Jury Prize. For his feature “Daratt’, Haroun won the Special Jury Prize at Venice.

 

1. The Summit (Santiago Mitre, 2017, Argentina)

A complex and hauntingly atmospheric tale of power machinations at the very top of South American politics.

Despite being a powerful creative force, Argentinian director Santiago Mitre delivers something much closer to a brilliant and mesmerising (yet somewhat flawed) hybrid genre piece rather than an auteur film. Hernan Blanco is the charismatic and versatile new president of Argentina. This is an extremely thoughtful choice for the protagonist’s name since “blanco” means not only “white” in Spanish, but “target” as well.

The initial purity of “El President” evaporates with accusations of fraud during the electoral campaign. He’s also the target of both byzantine and ruthless advisers and “deep state” machinations. There are even more sinister accusations from his son-in-law, concerning a possible crime that was possibly witnessed by his daughter when she was a little girl.

The wintry and desolate location is a hotel in Chile,  at around 3.300 meters in the Andes. The location of the hotel is suggestive of the inaccessible, wind-swept, antiseptic arena of the elite. What intrigues us the most is the depiction of the inner circles of power. The new President resists the influences of manipulative and domineering advisers. It’s the usual inspired performance of Ricardo Darin, and it makes for a great cinematic experience.

The film could have been a genuine masterpiece if it were not for the overlapping of several genres (political thriller, neo-noir thriller and family psychological drama). And the central question remains: was the President’s daughter mistreated and abused to make her look mentally unstable and therefore discredit any scandalous revelations coming from her?

Santiago Mitre is unsure about how to end his stories. (The same issue is present in his brilliant second feature film “Pauline”).  Having said this, the material is phenomenal, there are strong performances and there is a fascinating incursion into the underground negotiations of the elite. What flaws the film, perhaps irredeemably, is the over-the-top performance of Dolores Fonzi, playing President Blanco’s traumatized daughter.

 

2. An Elephant Sitting Still (Hu Bo, 2017, China)

A superb four-hour epic elegy of economic disintegration in the grim industrial Chinese province of Hubei. The common denominator is the lives of the four characters.  Their lives intersect in the film with profound sadness, captured aesthetically through the perpetual fog, and the industrial background. The camera follows them in behind-the-shoulder shots with long lenses, causing the background to become almost lyrically blurred.

The four characters share a fascination with a mythical elephant in the town of Manzhouli, who is completely oblivious and indifferent to its surroundings. Unlike, say, the existential doom in Antonioni’s films, in Hu Bo’s film,the sense of damnation is not exactly “existential” or the human condition, per se, but springs from economic doom and the lack of any hope for improvement. (Antonioni also captures something similar to Hu Bo’s film in the spiritual lethargy of “Red Desert”, which is set against the backdrop of the decrepit industrial landscape of Ravenna).

In “An Elephant Sitting Still” we are introduced to an old guy sleeping on the balcony will soon be forced to move by younger members of his family into the world’s grimmest retirement home. We also meet Wu Bei,a teenager growing in a hostile environment at home and dealing with a toxic milieu in school. One of his classmates is a girl who is alienated from her mother and who is seduced by a school administrator.

And then there is another enraged and self-destructive teenager who resorts to petty crime and racketeering as a possible alternative to financial doom and abandonment of dreams and aspiration. All these characters’ painful lives form the film’s omnipresent theme: a mosaic of crushed lives and terminal hopelessness.

Stylistically the film is beautiful, despite the grim and utterly colorless world depicted. But there is a certain abuse of the audience in the first thirty minutes, where the camera constantly rests behind the characters. The somber world of Hu Bo is reminiscent of the somber world of the Hungarian director Bela Tarr. Both directors transmit a sense of unease and the lack of any emotional connection with the foggy streets and the dilapidated buildings of their surroundings. But in Hu Bo’s case, his depiction of life comes across as more aesthetically dogmatic than compelling. And yet, despite this lapse, Hu Bo has crafted an otherwise superb and one of the most important films of the last five years.

 

3. Directions (Stephan Komandarev, 2017, Bulgaria)

Director Stephan Komandarev’s vision seems to be a Dante-esque inferno of terminal corruption, suicidal tendencies, nervous breakdowns, prostitution and petty crime. In the country’s economic meltdown driving a cab seems to be an almost providential part-time job, even for educated middle-class individuals, which somehow provides the cash to make it from month to month.

The killing of a greedy banker, which doubles at the very last moment the amount of the bribe requested for arranging a bank loan, sparks not only a lively debate across the country, but triggers a kind of dangerous subversion among the populace.

Narratively disconnected nocturnal encounters (yet thematically connected) occur during taxi rides. Jim Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth”and “Mystery Train” come immediately to mind. However, in Stephan Komandarev’s film, unlike the more lyrical and idiosyncratic Jarmusch films, all the stories add up to a potent, explosive and mosaic of indignation, social despair and black humor.

 

4. On Body and Soul (Ildiko Enyedi, 2017, Hungary)

When Hungarian Filmmaker, Ildiko Enyedi, made “On Body and Soul”, his first film in 18 years, she won the Golden Bear at Berlinale in 2017 and the film became the Hungarian Entry for the Oscars. The film is a lyrical love story between an older and slightly physically impaired man and a younger introverted woman who suffers from some sort of condition on the autistic spectrum.

The initial setting of the story is not only odd, it’s downright macabre: a slaughter house. The two co-workers, Endre and Maria, discover during a psychological evaluation that they share the same dream: a stag and a doe that stare at each other in a forest.The almost deliriously lyrical recurrent scenes in the all-white frozen forest are pure poetry and intoxicating. These contrast with the scenes at the slaughter house, which are extremely realistic.

 Ildiko Enyedi displays an amazing flair for catapulting the strong emotions of these two fragile protagonists on screen through highly suggestive compositions and emblematic framing. A POV shot of the male protagonist shows a group of three gregarious female workers smoking and probably gossiping, while Maria stands separated by the effusive group by a massive pillar of stone renders the whole dynamics of characters relations visible unequivocally in one single shot.

Although Maria is extremely shy and clearly not streetwise, her inner world is full of longing and vibrant emotions that are exhibited with full force in screen through haunting winter scenes in the forest.

 

5. The Clan (Pablo Trapero, 2015, Argentina)

“Life beats fiction” might sound like some mindless cliché unless uttered by Carlos the Jackal or by the Danish former Al-Qaeda jihadist turned precious MI-6 precious “asset”. The aphorism couldn’t be truer in Pablo Trapero’s film, “The Clan”, which features a suddenly unemployed former Argentinian Secret Services higher echelon member, Aristides Puccio. Puccio is the patriarch of a large family.

During the “National Reorganization” Government Program of the mid 80s return to democracy, Puccio resorts to kidnapping affluent people for money. (He also does this to avoid being ”de-professionalized”, one might argue). Guillermo Francesca manages a quite extraordinary performance as the Don of the Puccio clan, managing to be both frightening and implacable. And yet he’s also supportive and almost affectionate with his wife, patient with the children and even pedagogically adept with his daughter as he helps her with her school homework.

The “banality of evil” seems to be deliberately or subconsciously for Pablo Trapero the great underground axiom or premise of the film. Credence Clearwater Revival’s music and “Sunny Afternoon” of the Kinks seems to offer an ironic and blatant counterpoint with the clandestine business of Don Puccio, as the kidnapped people and torture victims lie in the dark.

There is a slight excess in the last part of the film, but overall the film pulses with an amazing energy, has a very catchy mise-en-scene and offers a sobering — if still very entertaining — look at one of stories that really shocked Argentinian society in the mid 80s.

The 10 Best Dystopian Sci-Fi Movies of The 21st Century

The term “Utopia” was introduced by Thomas More in 1516, describing a fictional island society that’s conceived to be nearly perfect, in almost every aspect. “Dystopia” is the exact opposite, depicting often futuristic societies or states where life is rather terrible and things keep getting worse for everyone, instead of improving.

In time, Dystopia has become an umbrella term, covering a wide range of topics and ramifying into a variety of sub-genres of Sci-Fi and speculative fiction. Some of the most notable cinematic works of the previous century deal with authoritarian or totalitarian regimes and governments, and the subsequent loss of individual freedom (THX 1138, A Clockwork Orange, Nineteen Eighty-Four), as well as the dehumanization, degradation and decline of society (Brazil, Escape from New York, Blade Runner, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Other films tell stories of civilization collapse due to environmental disasters, overpopulation or viral outbreak (Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, La Jetée & 12 Monkeys).

Some create technological dystopias (The Matrix, RoboCop, Terminator & T2), where accelerating progress and disruptive innovation backfire terribly. Sometimes, the line between Utopia and Dystopia can be very thin, at least in the beginning, before the dark truth reveals itself (Metropolis, Logan’s Run), while other works describe extreme, post-apocalyptic scenarios, where there’s almost nothing left (Mad Max).

By putting human nature in extreme situations, the genre gets a chance to ask some profound questions about the very foundations of our existence, our place in this world, the meaning of it all, or the lack thereof. Moreover, being essentially the opposite of a nearly perfect society, dystopias usually feature some form of control, be it socio-political or technological, reflecting upon the importance of freedom (of choice) and the fear of losing it.

Our long history of violence reached new levels during the 20th century, a long chain of tragic events and atrocities turning some of our darkest nightmares into reality, bringing global wars and conflicts, authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, tens of millions of deaths, a constant fear of a nuclear annihilation and a sense of impending doom.

 

10. The Road (Dir. John Hillcoat, 2009)

This survival story follows a man and his son travelling the vast nothingness of a post-apocalyptic world, where a global cataclysm had triggered an extinction event, followed by the total collapse of our civilization. This is probably the worst kind of dystopia, one where there is no society left. When facing starvation, the few people still alive resort to ‘less-civilized’ survival methods.

And yet, the two find the resources within to “carry the fire”, to keep the flame of humanity alive through courage, resilience, unconditional love and care, and ultimately (faint) optimism and hope until the very last breath, at the edge of the world. The father-son relationship represents the heart of the story, as they must overcome terrible threats while attempting to reach the coast, looking for warmer temperatures and maybe other people.

The desaturated color grading makes the world even bleaker; a thin waterfall rainbow and the canned food labels bring the only few bright colors into this landscape, fading memories of a dying world. Except for Ely (the old man), the characters have no names, which dehumanizes them even more. After all, what’s the point of names when there’s no society? Every now and then we hear the deep roaring and rumbling of earthquakes, as if the world is a giant broken ship sinking into the abyss, taking everything with it.

Viggo Mortensen delivers a deeply moving performance and the beautiful, bitter-sweet soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis only makes things worse.

 

9. Hard to be a God (Dir. Aleksei German, 2013)

Hard to Be A God

Based on the novel of the same name by the Strugatsky brothers (known for “Roadside Picnic”/Stalker), this surreal and grotesque ride is one of the most ‘non-sci-fi’ sci-fi films out there, and one of the filthiest and most disgusting films, probably, ever made.

A group of scientists travels from Earth to another world, very similar to ours, on a mission to stimulate progress in the kingdom of Arkanar, without interfering with its political affairs. The early signs of a Renaissance are crushed by the tyrannical prime-minister and his militia, many intellectuals (scientists, writers, scholars) being killed in the process, the society thus being stuck in the middle ages.

This very atypical dystopia sometimes feels like a Russian version of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, only bleaker, darker and filthier, while the few sci-fi elements occasionally make it look like a medieval spin of Mad Max.

Taking the artistic exaggerations aside, if human society ever looked like this (and it did for centuries, during the Dark Ages), it would be almost impossible to believe that it ever had any chance of crawling out of the mud and coagulate into the society we have today.

“Hard to be a God” can be a difficult and uncomfortable ride. However, the dizzying camera work, the high level of detail of each frame and set, as well as the sheer insanity of all characters turn it into a unique experience for the patient viewer. Still, you might want to take a shower after the film ends.

 

8. Snowpiercer (Dir. Bong Joon-Ho, 2013)

This post-apocalyptic action epic is one of the most original Sci-Fi films of the decade, delivering a very different experience from the regular Hollywood blockbuster. Following a failed attempt to tackle global warming through climate engineering, the world turns into an uninhabitable frozen hell.

All surviving humans live on a constantly moving train, created by magnate and inventor Wilfred, now a living legend, residing at the very front of the train. In this pre-ordained world, powered by the Great Engine, the social structure follows the train structure, each cart being dedicated to a particular type of activity and inhabited by a certain social category (some belong to the tail, other belong to the front, and everyone must know their place).

The oppression of the front fuels the rising tension between the two ends of the train and a revolution ensues, aiming at taking over the Engine and establishing a new order. The Great Engine is almost like a deity, ensuring the motion and survival of this society. It is said that “The engine is eternal. The engine is forever.” And therefore, whoever controls the engine, controls the world.

Eventually, everyone must face the fact that the system is corrupt beyond repair, that extinction is around the corner and that the only thing that reigns eternal is Mother Nature. Excellent performances all-around and great cinematography turn the viewer into another prisoner in that ‘hunk of metal’. Among other philosophical themes, the film questions whether society can change without a hard reset.

 

7. War for the Planet of the Apes (Dir. Matt Reeves, 2017)

The epic conclusion of the new “Planet of the Apes” trilogy represents a very rare situation where the last film in the series is the best. This post-apocalyptic Sci-Fi dystopia is spiced up by an incredible mix of revenge, survival and war.

Roughly 12 years after the Simian Flu decimated the world population, the tribe of intelligent apes is now in conflict with a rogue military faction, led by The Colonel (Woody Harrelson). A hardened leader now, Caesar must face his dark side and thirst for revenge, while doing what he must in order to save his tribe and take them to a new home, more suitable for their kind and far from the raging humans.

After a strike at the heart of the apes’ tribe, Caesar not only has to fight a war he didn’t start, but, together with the apes, he finds himself at the intersection of two battles, when the military comes after the rogue faction.

As both humans and apes face extinction, the emotionally and intellectually complex plot deals with various questions about morality, humanity, as well as the role of language (and speech) as humanizing factors.

Andy Serkis delivers an outstanding performance through one of the best MoCap works so far. Due to top-notch CGI and MoCap technology, the story feels real, the high stakes are believable, while the fantastic soundtrack by Michael Giacchino boosts the adventure to biblical proportions.

This blockbuster has an unconventional structure and it places focus on characters’ emotions and internal conflicts. So many things could’ve gone wrong, but they didn’t. “Apes together strong” indeed.

 

6. Minority Report (Dir. Steven Spielberg, 2002)

Minority Report (2002)

Based on the novel of the same name, by P.K. Dick, this cyberpunk action thriller depicts a more relatable futuristic society where advanced technology is enabling the prevention of crime.

In this case, the line between utopia and dystopia seems rather thin. Goes without saying that a world free of crime would be ideal, but at what cost? Can people alter their destinies? Is the future predetermined? Does intention automatically turn someone into a murderer?

PreCrime Division uses 3 special individuals with psychic abilities (Precogs) in order to foresee and stop future crimes from happening. When Precogs do not agree on the premonition, they issue a Minority Report, a vision that depicts alternative futures. These reports are usually buried in order to preserve the reputation of the system that helped eradicate criminality.

Things take a wrong turn and the team lead (Tom Cruise) becomes a fugitive, pre-accused of a crime he is somehow destined to commit. At the heart of it all is the moral dilemma of choosing between possible futures, as the film explores determinism, free will, and personal choice, as well as authoritarianism enabled by invasive modern technology. Kaminski’s dirty, grimy and bleached cinematography is enhanced by the dark, mysterious and often nostalgic soundtrack by John Williams.

Roughly 17 years later, self-driving cars, AR, eye-scanning recognition, mass surveillance and personalized advertising, and even crime prediction & prevention software, are just some of the film’s projections that already came true.

10 Great Movies That Should Have Started Franchises

It seems that every weekend movie theaters are cluttered with unnecessary sequels, with some franchises continuing to rehash the same story for multiple installments that no one asked for. Unfortunately, while there are seemingly countless sequels playing at any given moment, it’s often that the films most deserving of a franchise never get past the first installment.

There are many great films that seemed perfectly designed for future installments, but never got the chance to continue their story. Here are ten films that should have started franchises.

 

10. World War Z

After one of the most legendarily tumultuous shoots in recent cinema history, World War Z became an unexpected smash hit, earning over $540 million worldwide and gaining critical acclaim. While the film did a great job at capturing the scope of what the global reaction would be to a zombie pandemic as seen through the eyes of a former United Nations operative played by Brad Pitt, the novel that the film was based on features countless more story possibilities for a world overrun by zombies.

Unfortunately, production of a sequel has been just as challenging as it was to make the first film, with World War Z 2 officially cancelled by Paramount, despite months of pre-production and the involvement of the great David Fincher. A world in which Fincher helms a major action blockbuster would truly be incredible, especially considering how successful his past collaboration with Brad Pitt have been.

Even if Fincher wasn’t involved, there are countless other directors that could make a great zombie film in this universe. Considering that the first film introduces its world by spanning many locations and characters, it’s possible that a sequel could be done on a more intimate scale for a smaller budget. The mystery of how the zombie crisis was initiated was left open at the end of the first film, and it’s unfortunate that there will be no sequels to address it.

 

9. Dune (1984)

After Star Wars started a wave of science fiction blockbusters in the late 1970s and 1980s, many expected the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune to be the next big sci-fi saga. The high profile status of the adaptation was increased when Universal hired the genius David Lynch to write and direct. Lynch was coming off of the success of his cult midnight movie Eraserhead and the Oscar-nominated The Elephant Man, and despite a huge budget and aggressive marketing, Dune wasn’t the film many were expecting and didn’t end up spawning any sequels.

While behind the scenes drama diluted much of Lynch’s vision for the film, it remains a visually distinct film with an epic scale, great cast, and terrific score by Brian Eno and Toto. Sequels to Dune that adapted later novels in Herbert’s series could have allowed Lynch to have more freedom in making the films he wanted to see. Even the original cut, which Lynch himself has issues with, does a great job at showing the depth and culture of Herbert’s mythic civilizations. It’s also the film that began Lynch’s collaboration with actor Kyle MacLachlan, which would go on to be one of the best partnerships in cinematic history.

Lynch was denied the chance to continue the Dune franchise, despite plans to make a second and third film. However, unlike the other films on this list, the Dune franchise does have somewhat of a happy ending, as a reboot of the series will begin next year with the brilliant Denis Villenueve directing and Timothee Chalamet starring as Paul Atreides. It’s exciting that another talented duo will work on this franchise’s future, but at the same time there was a missed opportunity to use the 1984 film as a blueprint for the Dune universe.

 

8. Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises

David Cronenberg’s mafia thriller Eastern Promises instantly established itself as one of the greatest crime movies ever made, with Viggo Mortensen earning waves of critical acclaim for his performance, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. With its shocking plot twist, brutal violence, and layered character dynamics, Eastern Promises looked like it could be the beginning of a brilliant franchise, as the ending left room for Mortensen’s character to continue operating in London. Although Cronenberg reportedly had plans for a sequel, it still hasn’t happened.

The story of Easter Promises is self contained, and much of the film relies on the shocking revelations of the secret sex trafficking ring in London and that Mortensen’s mob hitman is actually an undercover British agent determined to dismantle the organization from the inside. However, the ending teases a future, as Mortensen’s character Nikolai is now running the crime family along with Vincent Cassel’s character Kirill. How will an undercover British agent run a mafia family, and how long can he go undetected before the family realizes they’re being sold out by one of their own?

These are the questions that Cronenberg was planning on addressing in a follow up that would begin at the same point that the previous film ended, but plans for a sequel have dragged on and it doesn’t appear that Eastern Promises 2 will happen anytime soon. Audiences have been waiting since 2007 to see what would happen if Kirill discovered Nikolai’s secret, and considering that Mortensen is coming off a number of acclaimed performances, he could certainly convince Cronenberg to continue this story.

 

7. Flash Gordon (1980)

flash-gordon-1980

Like Dune, 1980’s Flash Gordon was fast tracked into production after Star Wars made studios realize there was a market for sci-fi space operas, with Flash Gordon hitting theaters only six months after The Empire Strikes Back. Unlike those films, Flash Gordon was extremely goofy and satirical, and was purposefully campy in a way that reflected the original serial and comic strip series. While it has gained a cult following, plans for a sequel never materialized, and there hasn’t been a Flash Gordon film of any kind made since then.

Especially compared to the sci-fi of its time, Flash Gordon stands out by embracing its camp elements through sets and costumes that are large, lavish, and colorful. There is absolutely no moral grayness to the story, with Sam J. Jones playing the titular character as an almost comically perfect hero, and Max von Sydoux chewing scenery with wonderfully over the top menace as the evil Ming the Merciless. More than anything, the film stands out due to its iconic soundtrack by Queen, who created an incredibly energetic rock anthem that elevates every scene.

The time has passed on a possibility of a Flash Gordon sequel, as the retirement of director Mike Hodges and the passing of Freddie Mercury making it impossible to recreate the film’s magic. While there are many that now cite the film as a major breakthrough in appreciating self aware sci-fi, it’s unfortunate that this audacious world was never extended into multiple movies.

 

6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Peter Weir’s Napoleonic naval adventure film seemed to be a modest hit, earning $210 million worldwide and gaining 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. The film was distinguished for its realistic depiction of naval travel and warfare, as well as the excellent performance from Russell Crowe. It also has one of the easiest setups for a franchise, as it is based on the Aubrey-Maturin series from author Patrick O’Brian, which contains 21 books.

Crowe has publicly lobbied for a sequel to be made, and when looking at the rich source material, it’s a shame that sixteen years have passed without any word on a Master and Commander follow up. The film has such a rich cast, including Paul Bettany in a pivotal role as the crew’s surgeon, and stands out as one of the last great cinematic epics. Few films have been able to capture the chaos and terror found in a naval battle, and the film ends with an obvious hook as Aubrey’s crew pursues an enemy ship.

Director Peter Weir has not made a film since 2010’s The Way Back, and could certainly have a major comeback vehicle if the franchise was to continue. Crowe has seemingly taken a backseat to starring roles, and it would be great to see him return to one of his most iconic characters. Either way, it’s a shame that this great film wasn’t the first of many Aubrey adventures.

10 Great Sci-fi Horror Films You’ve Probably Never Seen

Sci-fi and horror share some of the same genre roots and there have been several excellent mixes of those two genres in the past. Obviously, David Cronenberg is a particular expert here; from “The Fly” to “eXistenZ,” he kept on giving thought-provoking and at the same time, scary films to cinema.

Then there were, of course, Scott’s “Alien,” Carpenter’s “The Thing” and many more classics. While the genre doesn’t always deliver good stuff and we often get cheap rip-offs of better and more popular films, some really entertaining movies end up being overlooked. Here are 10 of them that you may like if somehow you missed them.

 

10. Spring (2014)

spring movie

A romantic body horror film, how does it sound? Sounds good in “Spring.” After his mother dies, he loses his job, and is wanted by the police for a bar fight, Evan decides to travel to Italy to get his mind clear. There he meets a cosmopolitan, charming student named Louise, with whom he soon falls in love. It basically starts similarly to “Before Sunrise.” Then Evan decides to stay in Italy for the time being, and accepts a job on Angelo’s farm for accommodation. It quickly becomes clear that the highly intelligent Italian may have a dark secret.

The movie takes a very Lovecraftian (and is very good at it) turn from here. Some may find it surprising and would maybe prefer the film to stay as a romance drama but that’s the strength of the film. Few filmmakers nowadays spend so much time introducing a character. And this preliminary work does not negate twists; on the contrary, even though one of the lovers is a monster, the tragic-beautiful romance itself makes this shocking revelation an even more human and honest portrayal than the vast majority of pure romance dramas. That’s how the film works on every level – it’s effective as a romance drama and is a very creatively made body horror.

 

9. The Cell (2000)

Exploring a person’s mind by literally wandering around in it. This is the new method experimented by therapist Catherine Dean who has to go into the serial killer’s mind to find the hiding place of the girl he kidnapped last.

Tarsem Singh is certainly a director with a strong visual sense, which gets heavily featured in “The Cell.” Jennifer Lopez may have an inconsistent filmography, but she has some interesting features in her resume. Movies like “Maid in Manhattan” and “The Wedding Planner” can make her filmography easy to dismiss, but then again, she was also in “Out of Sight” and more bold stuff like “U Turn.”

As for “The Cell,” it was actually a box office success, but it rarely gets talked about and even the critical reception was rather focused on its aesthetics. But the film was more than that. It had interesting characters that made us care about them, and while most of the cast was there more for their presence rather than acting talent, one member of the cast – Vincent D’Onofrio – is a great standout with a delicious performance. The film has everything – it sometimes plays like a children’s fairy tale, sometimes a brutal thriller like “Se7en,” and is often a surreal, visually satisfying, overall interesting cinematic experience.

 

8. Dreamscape (1984)

Dreamscape (1984)

Before there was “Vanilla Sky,” “Inception” and all the rest, there was “Dreamscape.” An impressive and very cool mix of several genres like horror, science fiction, fantasy,  adventure, action and more – “Dreamscape” is not without its flaws, but then again, it’s also wildly entertaining.

The film is about an attempt to help people who experience recurring nightmares; a research program is using psychics to enter patients’ dreams. Everything works fine until the president becomes one of the patients, and an assassin attempts to kill him in his sleep. The cast of Dennis Quaid (such a compelling leading man performance here), Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow is more than you could wish for, and another reason why the movie works so well.

Another plus side is that it never loses its sense of humour, which is very important when you make a film like this.  It also may look like a B-movie thanks to its budget and the crazy directions the story takes, but the movie actually has more depth than you expect it to have, and some critics even argued that it has something to say about the political climate of its time.

 

7. Screamers (1995)

Screamers (1995)

Screams may not be the next “The Thing” to give you that strong sense of paranoia, but still it’s a very entertaining picture that critics were way too harsh on. At least Roger Ebert, though mostly disappointed with the film, admitted that the movie was “made with a certain imagination and intelligence.” Despite being made with a low budget and the fact that it was a complete box office failure, it has a grim premise that works, even if it is not too scary.

It adapted ”Second Variety” by Philip K. Dick pretty faithfully and the atmosphere was cool as well. Considering its budget at the time, all of these things comes off as even more impressive. The ending feels slightly underwhelming, but before that, the seasoned genre specialist Duguay largely relies on creating suspense with the paranoia of his protagonists and he largely succeeds at that.

The theme is what happens if humanity’s technological development goes too far. The whole thing is actually similar to the Terminator series, even. You’ll likely complain about one or two things here, but still “Screamers” is a film that should be seen by everyone who loves themselves some ‘90s sci-fi horror.

 

6. Carriers (2009)

A virus has mutated and invaded humans and there is no cure in sight. The epidemic has wiped out almost all humanity in our film. And four young friends make their way to a secluded beach to await the end of the epidemic. Then they encounter a man named Frank and his infected daughter, whose vehicle has run out of fuel. They escape from him when he attacks them, but their car breaks down.

Put into extremely limited release by Paramount in 2009 after spending years in studio lockdown, “Carriers” unfortunately didn’t get enough attention when it was initially released and years after Chris Pine got famous, the movie still didn’t get any renewed attention. The film is admirable for trying to take a realistic approach with the ultimate fear of disease/death and how humans react in such a situation.

Not only is it an effective horror/science fiction, but it also has a surprisingly good dramatic depth behind its story and it also has a very fine cast to pull everything off, especially Pine. Unlike some other films on the list like “The Hidden,” this film has no “fun” side to it. It’s a very bleak film and the pacing can turn off some people. But “Carriers” is worth watching if you like post-apocalyptic and viral outbreak kinds of movies.

The 10 Most Underrated Movies Made By Legendary Directors

spider movie

More often than not, the only way to really get a complete understanding of the way that a director works is to watch everything of theirs that is available. Interviews, movies, behind the scenes documentaries… all of it! However, sometimes even this isn’t enough, and this can come as a great disappointment for some film fans who are really looking to have a strong understanding on how the most cinematic minds work.

There’s always one bonus to exploring the back catalogue of a director though – you usually find a brilliant film, deserving of the acclaim of their biggest and most popular works, that has been forgotten about and left behind.

The majority of the best directors have at least one, some have many, and some have none, but usually there is at least one that makes all of the digging worth it. This list is… hopefully… a handy aid to save you some time in exploring the back catalogues of some of the following directors, or at least to try to convince you to look at some of their films that usually get skimmed over.

Every director featured is terrific, some having a couple of duds but still being completely worth exploring heartily! So, without further ado, here are ten sadly underrated films from either very well known or very acclaimed directors!

 

1. Who’s That Knocking At My Door? (Martin Scorsese, 1967)

Starting off with one of the most well known directors of all time, the legendary Martin Scorsese’s debut feature Who’s That Knocking At My Door? Starring Harvey Keitel as a western movie buff and a religious young man in a very early performance, and following his character as he navigates a blossoming relationship until striking a brick wall when he finds out that his partner was once raped, the film intricately glares at the kind of Catholic guilt that got in the way of relationships during much of the first half of the 20th century.

Keitel brings the film his all, and though the direction is a little amateurish at times (understandable, as this is a first feature after all), it continues to boast the energy of Scorsese’s later work in the most endearing ways. With incredible editing, a stunning lead performance and so much intelligent imagery throughout, the film is a totally unexpected treat, as well as something very different compared to the majority of Scorsese’s work.

It’s sadly very overlooked, with many of those who do see it having very low expectations to later be blown out of the water and the rest simply skipping over, but just as with almost all of Scorsese’s work in general, it’s a show-stopper.

 

2. The Testament of Doctor Cordelier (Jean Renoir, 1959)

The horror genre seems like the last one that Jean Renoir would attempt to meddle with, never mind be successful with, but somehow in 1959 he hit yet another home run. Whilst typically passing with flying colours in comedies, satires and romances, Renoir switched up his game here and decided to go for a TV-made horror inspired by the story of Jekyll and Hyde.

With one hell of a leading performance from the excellent Jean-Louis Barrault, consistently stunning chiaroscuro lighting reminiscent of the very best that film noir has to offer and playing out Renoir’s taut, masterful direction (as always), it’s kind of a wonder that this one didn’t seem to stick the landing, the blame more than likely deserving to be placed on poor distribution at the time of release and the rarity of the film even now. It’s a shame, as Renoir clearly has the eye for creating terrific horror (as he did for most any genre), but it was not to be!

 

3. The Long Gray Line (John Ford, 1955)

It’s a well known fact that John Ford is one of the most important directors to ever grace the screen with their directorial presence, however, one thing that many fail to consider is that maybe his most well known films – The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach, etc. – aren’t all that Ford has to offer. In doing so, they miss out on a lump of the greatest films of all time, and whilst Liberty Valance still stands out as Ford’s crowning moment – truly a masterpiece, a film so incredible that it is genuinely quite hard to believe – The Long Gray Line (alongside A Quiet Man, They Were Expendable, The Sun Shines Bright… the list goes on) is just remarkable.

Following the majority of the life of the loveable Irish Immigrant Marty Maher as he works in the United States Military Academy, this based-on-a-true-story drama not only glistens in technicolour in a way that would make Stanley Donen blind with envy, but it also manages to capture a ridiculous number of points throughout, intent on exploring a great deal of opposing ideas and viewpoints whilst somehow never becoming confused in what it is actually interested in.

The entire cast is just brilliant, the cinematography is as dreamy as any Hollywood melodrama or musical of the 1950s and 1960s and the emotion involved is breathtaking. If ever you need a film to clean your palette, this is it, a film so perfect that it makes most others look a little bit pathetic in comparison. It towers above most.

 

4. The Trial (Orson Welles, 1962)

The Trial

Orson Welles and Citizen Kane are almost synonymous at this point, with almost all of his success often being attributed to his 1941 masterpiece, however, many people seem to believe that he only ever made a couple of truly great films when the reality is quite different – Welles has one of the most consistently astonishing film careers of any directors, to the point that it was genuinely difficult to choose between three of his masterful works (Othello, The Trial and The Immortal Story) for the one to be featured on this list, and that is coming from someone who hasn’t even finished Welles’ body of work yet.

Adapted from the famous Kafka novel of the same name, Welles’ film fixates on the story of a man, played by Anthony Perkins in what would certainly be his finest performance if it weren’t for his mesmerising turn in Hitchcock’s Psycho just two years before, who is placed under trial without ever being told what he has actually done, or supposed to have done, that is the cause of the trial in the first place.

Using black and white to an astonishing effect and playing up the surrealist shadowy settings of Welles’ production, The Trial is a bamboozling and disorienting film if ever there was, using trippy set design, narrative and cinematography to almost force the audience into seeing this bizarre world from the perspective of our alienated leading man, and yet the film receives a surprisingly small amount of acclaim nowadays, especially considering that it is a story adapted from no less than one of literature’s most adored writers. The reasoning for this not being so well known is quite unknown, but for your own sake, see it.

 

5. Ludwig (Luchino Visconti, 1973)

Ludwig (1972)

Luchino Visconti isn’t the most well known director, but he sure is acclaimed, and it’s no surprise considering the fact that this man is the cinematic mastermind behind the likes of The Leopard and Death In Venice, but he is also yet another director for whom most of their deserved acclaim is only assigned to their two most recognised films, whilst the rest are left to fend for themselves in the background.

This is especially surprising considering the consistency in his quality of output, and the fact that he has adapted some of the most acclaimed books of all time (such as Camus’ The Stranger – the film even starred Marcello Manstroianni!), but for now we will just look into Ludwig, his unforgettably gorgeous four hour period drama epic abut the titular King of Bavaria, going from his crowning onwards.

If ever there was a visual treat of a film, this is it – a film in which the colours seem to drip over the screen, looking much more like a painting than anything attributive to cinema – and yet, still, it received little attention and continues to be skipped over. Fortunately, it is slowly gaining a following, mainly due to MUBI showing the film at the start of this year and it being giving a treatment by Arrow Academy.

10 Great Recent Thriller Movies You’ve Probably Never Seen

Thriller is a versatile genre. Through this medium, you can investigate the psychological aspect of humankind or maybe the deepest emotions of humans. You can describe what society looks like or perhaps focus on a specific episode.

At the same time, the almost endless ways you can use thrillers must adhere to specific rules: suspense, murders, murder weapon, mystery. We could say that the imagination of the director is always mediated by an imminent code.

Here, you can find different interpretations of the thriller genre that perhaps you’ve never seen before.

 

1. Almost Blue (2000)

Based on the novel of the same name written by Carlo Lucarelli, “Almost Blue” is a dark and morbid Italian thriller with strong touches of horror.

A strange and bloodthirsty serial killer murders and takes on the appearance of his victims. A special police unit – whose first aim is to analyze brutal crimes – is investigating these horrible crimes, looking for the identity of the killer and to understand his psychological traits. Helping the police unit, we find Simone (Claudio Santamaria), a bling young man who has the great ability to recognize all the voices and link them to a color in his head. However, time is running out: the killer is always looking for his next victim.

Despite the low budget, director Alex Infascelli – who co-wrote the screenplay with Luca Infascelli and Sergio Donati – is able to reflect on the screen all of the little nuances of Lucarelli’s thriller. The directing style is solid and powerful, undoubtedly helped by the great soundtrack; “Almost Blue” – written by Elvis Costello – is obsessively present during the development of the story, while all of the other music parts are composed by Italian indie rock band Massimo Volume. If you’re looking for a ruthless underground thriller, look no further.

 

2. 13 Tzameti (2005)

Directed by Georgian director Géla Babluani, “13 Tzameti” is a suspense thriller with a sharp noir feeling. A young Georgian immigrant living in France named Sébastien (George Babluani) is working in a house of a drug addict, as a construction worker.

When the owner of the house dies, Sébastien is unable to receive his payment; however, he manages to steal an envelope containing information for a one-night lucrative job. Following all the steps, he arrives at an isolated house in a forest, where he discovers the nature of the job: multiple rounds of Russian roulette, with 13 participants. Moreover, all of the spectators are placing bets on who will win the competition. The stakes are high, but the price the participants are willing to pay is higher. Will Sébastien survive the deadly game?

Shot in a beautiful black and white that perfectly resembles many French movies of the 1950s and 1960s, especially Truffaut, with pure mastery, “13 Tzameti” is original in the screenplay and in the mise en place. The movie could be seen as a metaphor for today’s world: life doesn’t mean anything anymore.

Furthermore, the story is drenched in cynicism and nihilism, mostly represented by the unscrupulous organization of the game and by the total indifference of the meaning of life of the gamblers. “13 Tzameti” – which was also awarded at the Sundance Film Festival and at the Venice Film Festival – is a punch in the stomach of optimists and positive people. Be careful!

 

3. The Dead Girl (2006)

A dead girl is found on her property by a woman (Toni Collette). The dead girl could be the victim of a serial killer who murders women in that area. Multiple stories are linked to the body found – some true and some false – but only one will lead to the person who committed the crime.

Director Karen Moncrieff decided to divide the movie into five parts, each showing a different angle of the tragic story; at the same time, twists and unexpected events keep the audience tight in their seats, just like a good old thriller should do. Many famous actors are present in the movie, but the breathtaking performance by the late Brittany Murphy stands out in a vibrant way.

There’s nothing more to say: a brilliant movie, with an original storytelling and great performances.

 

4. Fifty Dead Men Walking (2008)

Based on a true story, “Fifty Dead Men Walking” is a gritty and powerful thriller about the unresolved conflict in the northern part of Ireland between Republicans who want to reunite all of Ireland under the same flag, and loyalists who wants to keep Northern Ireland a part of the United Kingdom.

Set in the late 1980s, the film tells the story of Martin McGartland (Jim Sturgess), a young Catholic hustler living in a predominantly Protestant neighborhood; both the IRA and the British police want him to join them because of his street cleverness. Driven by the acquisition of a new car and some money, as well as his dislike for the IRA, he decides to become an informer for the British police and a spy in the IRA. Helping him in this difficult and dangerous task is a contact from the police, code name Fergus (Ben Kingsley).

Martin will have to use all the resources he has in order to not be discovered and suffer the ultimate punishment: death.

“Fifty Dead Men Walking” deals with a complex and difficult topic; the great aspect of the movie is the clear and courageous impartiality in the description of the historical problems in Ireland. We witness the violence of the IRA, but also the violence of the police and the sectarian and discriminatory abuse toward the Catholic community by the riot squads. Director Kari Skogland wants you to be the judge and decides which side are you on, without delivering a pre-packaged moralist truth. An underestimated movie, full of realism and suspense.

 

5. Amer (2009)

“Amer” is definitely one of the most unique and peculiar movies on the list; a film that is able to mix thriller and horror, suggestions from the past, and originality all in one.

The movie tells the story of a girl called Ana in three different moments of her life: when she’s a child, a teenager, and a woman. In the first part, Ana is living in her house with her parents, while something obscure is happening in the basement of the building. In the second part, we see her walking around the small town she lives in with her mother; while away from her mother, she comes across a gang of bikers. In the last part, Ana has grown up and she has decided to live again in her parent’s old house. Something horrific will happen.

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: “Amer” is a clear and explicit homage to Italian thrillers and horrors from the 1970s, and especially an ode to the impressive work of Dario Argento. All of the trademarks of Argento are present in the movie: the expressionist use of colors that is evident in the psychedelic sequences; themes and visuals, like black gloves and knives and camera works in particular scenes; the style of the soundtrack, inspired by the 1970s cult Italian band Goblin, who made some of the most famous soundtrack for Argento’s movies. Lastly, the movie could be seen as an atmospheric resemblance to “Suspiria” (1977).

Even though the influences are widely visible, directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani were able to fuse them with their own taste and perspective. This is not an Argento rip-off or a clumsy attempt to revitalize the 1970s, but a strong and impressive work that combines homage and originality. A modern vintage movie that you’ll remember for a long time.