It’s the 1st of July already and apparently we’re in the midst of summer. Since it feels more like autumn rather than summer at the moment, I’d thought you would appreciate some film tips to hide from the rain over the next weeks. As always I’ve done some research for you and selected my personal Top 5 Must See Films and Top 5 Must Avoid Films. Regular readers will notice immediately that my film list for this quarter is much shorter than normal, but that’s because I’ve been seriously binge-watching loads of TV series. I usually combine my film and TV tips, but due to the many good quality TV series I’ve watched recently, I’ll be publishing a separate blog post with my TV tips later this week!
Top 5 Must See Films
1. Midnight Special (2016, dir: Jeff Nichols. Cast: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst. Genre: Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi)
Gripping, powerful, mysterious and mesmerising. For the first part of the film the viewer will be mostly trying to figure out what’s happening and what the film is actually about. I don’t want to give anything way so I’m keeping the description very short. You can get an idea of what it’s about from watching the trailer below. The film is almost 2 hours long but it’s so intense that time will seem to fly by. A bit of The Sixth Sense, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and TV series The Leftovers, but for 100% one of the best films I’ve seen this year so far!
2. Wild Tales (Original title: Relatos salvajes) (2014, dir: Damián Szifrón. Cast: Darío Grandinetti, María Marull, Mónica Villa. Genre: Comedy, Drama, Thriller)
This Spanish-language film actually consists of six short films that all deal with the most basic human emotions of love, hurt, anger, fear and happiness. While each film is slightly different and has its own tone and subject matter, they are all very clever and kept me on the edge of my seat for 2 hours. While you might connect more to some stories than others, all six films are entertaining and make you stop and think about human behaviour for a moment. If it weren’t for Midnight Special, this film would have been this quarter’s number 1! Wild Tales has been nominated 53 times for film awards, including for the Oscar’s in 2015 in the category ‘Best Foreign Language Film of the Year’ and has won 44 times, including a BAFTA for ‘Best Film not in the English Language’ in 2016.
3. Take Shelter (2011, dir: Jeff Nichols. Cast: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham. Genre: Drama/Thriller)
This is the second film by director Jeff Nichols, the same director as Midnight Special. Like in Midnight Special, Michael Shannon is one of the main characters in the film and he’s absolutely brilliant in it. I first saw him in the TV series Broadwalk Empire a couple of years ago and since then I’ve always found him fascinating yet a bit creepy. I can never determine from his stern look if he’s just broody or if he’s somewhat evil underneath the surface. I do like this trait as it makes the characters he plays more interesting and less predictable. In Take Shelter he plays a husband and father who suffers from horrible nightmares about terrible storms. He believes them be a warning and he becomes obsessed with building an underground shelter in his back garden so he can protect his family.
4. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, dir: Dan Trachtenberg. Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. Genre: Drama, Horror, Mystery)
Having read nothing about this film before I watched it, I believed it to be a sequel to the surprise hit Cloverfield (2008). That was very confusing whilst watching the film, because 10 Cloverfield Lane is more like an intense thriller than a science-fiction film. After a car accident, a young woman is kept in a shelter. According to the owner (played by a very intimidating John Goodman), he’s keeping her locked up for her own safety as the outside world has been infected by a deadly chemical virus.
5. Triple 9 (2016, dir: John Hillcoat. Cast: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie. Genre: Action, Crime, Drama)
I thought long and hard about my last addition to the top 5 Must Watch films. Would I go for Joy, The Iceman (again with Michael Shannon playing a complex character) or Hail, Caesar!? Although these three other films were very good as well, I decided to go for the less likely contender. Triple 9 might not be one of the greatest films of all times, but it does deserve a special mention in this post. I have a soft spot for Casey Affleck (who speaks slightly louder in this film than usual) and a re-found appreciation for Woody Harrelson ever since his appearance in the grim TV series True Detective. In Triple 9 we see how a gang of criminals and corrupt cops are ordered to pull off just one more big heist (where have we heard this before?) by Kate Winslet, who by the way has an awful Russian accent in this film. In order to succeed they need to kill a cop.
Top 5 Must Avoid Films
1. Welcome To Me (2014, dir: Shira Piven. Cast: Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Linda Cardellini. Genre: Comedy, Drama)
I already said it in the Film & TV Tips January-March post that having a famous actor in a film, doesn’t guarantee that it’s a box office hit. Coincidentally I’m repeating it now again about a film starring Kristen Wiig. Welcome To Me must be one of the worst films I’ve ever seen and I can’t believe I’ve actually watched it till the very end. Kristen Wiig’s character suffers from borderline personality disorder, but quits her medication after she wins the lottery and becomes a millionaire. She decides to buy her own talkshow in which she introduces her real self to the world. Like the film, the talkshow isn’t a success.
2. Approaching the Unknown (2016, dir: Mark Elijah Rosenberg. Cast: Mark Elijah Rosenberg. Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller)
If I hadn’t written down this film in my notes, I would have completely forgotten I had watched it (only last week!). This film is so forgettable – thankfully – and totally pointless. Mark Strong plays an astronaut who is on a one-way mission to Mars in order to colonise the planet. It tries to be a bit of The Martian and Interstellar, but it’s sadly lightyears away from either of them.
3. Grimsby (2016, dir: Louis Leterrier. Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Rebel Wilson. Genre: Action, Comedy)
Sorry Mark Strong, but also your film Grimsby ended up in my Top 5 Must Avoid Films for this quarter. After insulting the people of Kazakhstan, Sacha Baron Cohen satirises the English town Grimsby (a poor fishing town) and its inhabitants. Cohen plays a simple football hooligan who’s finally reunited with his brother (played by Mark Strong) after being separated from each other for 28 years. He surprises his brother at ‘work’ (Strong plays a MI6 agent) and things go downhill from there.
4. High-Rise (2015, dir: Ben Wheatley. Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller. Genre: Drama)
I really wanted to like this film, but I lost interest halfway through. It wasn’t as excruciatingly painful as Ben Wheatley’s previous film A Field in England, but it’s not far off. This film has received so many rave reviews and the cynical me wonders if critics praised the film because it’s based on a J.G. Ballard novel rather than judging it on its own merits. I found the film very superficial and I couldn’t bond with the story or the unsympathetic characters at all. The film is set in a tower block (or ‘high-rise’) and is centred around its extravagant inhabitants.
5. Cell (2016, dir: Tod Williams. Cast: John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, Isabelle Fuhrmann. Genre: Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller)
This film once again proves to me that Stephen King novels too often make bad films. The plot is simple and in principle sounds interesting: cellphone signals change mobile phone users into bloodthirsty zombies. The main protagonist, played by John Cusack, risks his life to travel across America to find his son.
More film tips
Here is the complete list of all the other films I watched between April and June. Films are listed in alphabetical order and recommendations are marked with an asterisks in front of the title.
Broadway Danny Rose (1984, comedy. Dir: Woody Allen. Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Nick Apollo Forte)
*Dark Knight, The (2008, action/adventure/crime. Dir: Christopher Nolan. Cast: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart)
Demolition (2015, drama. Dir: Jean-Marc Vallée. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper)
*Godfather, The (1972, crime/drama. Dir: Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan)
*Godfather, The: Part II (1974, crime/drama. Dir: Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall)
*Godfather, The: Part III (1974, crime/drama. Dir: Francis Ford Coppola. Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall)
Green Room (2015, crime/horror/music. Dir: Jeremy Saulnier. Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart)
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997, action/comedy/crime. Dir: George Armitage. Cast: John Cusack, Minnie Driver, Dan Akroyd)
*Hail, Caesar! (2016, comedy/mystery. Dir: Ethan Coen & Joel Coen. Cast: Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich)
High Anxiety (1977, comedy. Dir: Mel Brooks. Cast: Mel Brooks, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman)
Hunger Games, The: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014, adventure/sci-fi/thriller. Dir: Francis Lawrence. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth)
Hunger Games, The: Mockingjay – Part 2 (2015, adventure/sci-fi/thriller. Dir: Francis Lawrence. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth)
*Iceman, The (2012, biography/crime/drama. Dir: Ariel Vromen. Cast: Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, James Franco)
Independence Day (1996, action/adventure/sci-fi. Dir: Roland Emmerich. Cast: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum)
*Joy (2015, biography/comedy/drama. Dir: David O. Russell. Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper)
London Has Fallen (2016, action/crime/drama. Dir: Babak Najafi. Cast: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman)
Sparrows Can’t Sing (1963, comedy/drama. Dir: Joan Littlewood. Cast: James Booth, Barbara Windsor, Roy Kinnear)
Special Correspondents (2016, comedy. Dir: Ricky Gervais. Cast: Rickey Gervais, Eric Bana, Vera Farming)
Do you have any film recommendations for me? Please share them with me in a comment below!