Watching a good movie in an empty theater is a surreal experience. Our knee-jerk reaction is to justify the absence of an audience: the weather is nice, there might be a popular artist in town, or who knows, maybe there was a Kanye West pop up store just a few blocks away from the cinema. However, after driving home and checking the box office results, it becomes obvious most theaters showing that movie were empty.
It usually is the case with a movie which, although not worthy of an academy award, deserves to be experienced. The fact that it won’t gain any further attention is depressing because it will quickly be forgotten by the average viewer. Some of today’s most beloved movies where once regarded as financial disappointments.
An example of this trend is Rocky Horror Picture Show, a box office flop which found a devoted following and is regarded as one of the best musicals put to film. These movies are cult movies to be and have the potential of ending up in a cinephile’s shelves. Here is a list of some movies you should seek out if you feel bummed out by the current state of the movie industry.
15. Sing Street (2016)
Sing Street conveys a tale often told but rarely done well: a young boy falls in love with a girl. The story is old as time but script writer and director John Carney manages to give the overused cliché a breath of fresh air.
The action is set in Dublin during the harsh economic landscape of the 80s. As a true teenager, Connor does not have his parents taste in music and aspires to be as knowledgeable of the current musical scene as his brother. He starts a band trying to get the attention of a mysterious looking girl.
What follows is a great throwback to the cultural atmosphere of the 80s and an honest telling of what it feels like to fall in love for the first time. It is a nostalgia ride fuelled by Duran Duran, The Cure, and The Jam. The soundtrack even incorporates original songs better than today’s top 40 radio.
14. Dredd (2012)
Remember how everybody and their mother was completely ecstatic when Deadpool was going to hit theaters? All the critics praising the first r-rated comic book movie. If you were annoyed by the overexposure of the movie at the time, I completely understand you as I was not only bothered but kind of angry at the complete lack of research people seem to do on daily basis.
Let this make it clear for once and for all: Deadpool is not the first R-rated comic book movie as it came after Watchmen, Sin City, Kickass, and especially Dredd. Dredd came out in 2012, the same year as The Avengers, and the so-called comic geeks seemed to have avoided this movie like the plague as it made less than $10 million dollars in its opening weekend.
This is widely upsetting as Dredd is the most accessible movie on this list as it is just plain fun. Borrowing from The Raid Redemption, Dredd is an utter thrill ride. The movie depicts an alternative universe where people known as “judges” who have the capacity of accomplishing the role of judge, jury, and instant executioner and the viewer follows one of them named Dredd. You should watch it with friends who share your love of senseless violence.
13. Legend (2015)
Tom Hardy has become quite a popular actor since his introduction to American audiences with The Dark Knight Rises. He was in several critical and commercials successes last being The Revenant.
However, despite having Hardy as the lead, Legend did not make back its $30 million budget and had an overly disappointing opening weekend. I am not sure why this movie failed to meet an audience as its premise is widely interesting and was written and directed by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential).
Tom Hardy plays the crime brothers Kray and does so incredibly well as the twin brothers are polar opposites: one is a straight man and the other is a paranoid schizophrenic. The technical gimmick is great as one is mesmerized by how the film editors managed to make you believe Hardy actually has a clone working on the set with him. It is a by the numbers crime movie but its humor is its strength. A particular moment which made me chuckle is the wedding scene were Hardy forces the mothers of his twin brother’s wife to clap during the ceremony. If you are a fan of crime movies and have a particular interest in editing, this movie was made for you.
12. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
People seem to have forgotten independent animation studios as Kubo and the Two Strings has become the latest victim of the tendency for audiences to snob animated movies without a Disney logo in front of them. Kids were unaware of this movie’s existence, therefore they did not drag their parents to the theater with them. It is such a shame as Kubo and the Two Strings is a moving flick which had me holding back tears.
The story is so good and I am going to try to keep my description as vague as possible. Kubo has the ability to make objects move by playing a musical instrument. He lives with his mother and knows nothing about his past. He finds himself in a position where he has to take on a quest to discover his father’s armor. On the way, he encounters a monkey and a beetle who help him with his journey.
The writing is comedic and does feel condescending to its audience as the tale has complex themes such as religious beliefs and grief. This movie is a technical achievement from Laika (Coraline, Paranorman) and Kubo is their magnum opus. Show this movie to your kids and they will instantly fall in love with it.
11. The Neon Demon (2016)
I rarely watch a movie without having seen the trailer or researching my favorite critics’ opinion. I am so glad I didn’t seek it out as the visual aspect of the film is mind blowingly beautiful and no computer screen can make it justice.
The color scheme, the sets, the lighting, the editing, even the furniture is breathtaking. Not only that but Nicolas Winding Refn manages to keep the viewer captivated while using very little dialogue. This type of storytelling is effective in the film medium and no one knows how to set a frame like Refn.
He is inspired by Kubrick’s use of hallways and disturbing imagery which makes his work worthy of watching in a movie theater. Moreover, every single second of the film is interesting in some manner.
Jessie (Elle Fanning)is a sixteen-year-old girl whose dream is to become a model. She goes to LA and books a room in a crappy motel on the strip. Jessie is too pretty for her own good and quickly becomes noticed by the industry.
10. Where to Invade Next (2015)
Documentaries are often overlooked by moviegoers. As a wise man once said: nobody goes to the movies to learn s**t. Michael Moore has developed a loyal fan base during the years but even they seemed to omit to watch his latest documentary. It is sacrilege as his latest documentary Where to Invade Next should be watched by every American voter as it depicts the shortcomings of the U.S. economic system.
Michael Moore sets out to discover how people in other countries live and unsurprisingly, they seem to have a better lifestyle than the average American. Moreover, the tone of the documentary is anything but dry as Moore manages to keep the viewer interested in political affairs and civil rights. I personally adore Moore’s comedic timing in his narration and his editing style. He manages to convey several facts in an efficient and effective manner without ever seeming patronizing.
The best part is you can catch the documentary on Netflix and send it to all your friends who seem to think the United States is the single greatest country on Earth as it clearly seems to not be. After watching this documentary, you will be disgusted by how ignorant you were merely two hours ago.
9. Blue Valentine (2010)
When Blue Valentine‘s credits started rolling, I had difficulty looking at the screen through my tears. I can’t remember the last time a movie had destroyed me so completely. Blue Valentine is a story of love gone terribly wrong.
A young couple sees their relationship being put in jeopardy when a pregnancy test comes back positive. They rush into marriage and they try their best to make it work. The viewer experiences this story in two parts: the couple before and after the marriage. I usually dislike flashbacks as they are often overdone but this movie uses them in an effective manner.
Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a charming underachiever who is emotionally intelligent. He demonstrates his empathy in a particularly moving scene where he helps an elderly man decorate his room. His girlfriend, Cindy (Michelle Williams), confuses love with sexual attention and this disposition might be due to the exposure of her parents’ toxic marriage.
Blue Valentine is a romantic movie which should never be classified as a chick flick or a romantic comedy because it is neither. It is a realistic depiction of how fleeting love is. Watch it alone and spare yourself the embarrassment of becoming a complete wreck in front of your friends and relatives.
8. Anomalisa (2015)
It is a statement of our culture when the most realistic sex scene put to film does not involve any human being. Anomalisa was crowd-funded by fans of Charlie Kaufman who is the creator of hipster’s favorite movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The question remains: where were his undying fans when Anomalisa hit theaters?
Whatever the case may be, it is a damn shame Anomalisa did not get the exposure Sausage Party got as it was also an R-rated animated movie. That’s where the resemblance of both movies starts and ends as writer Kaufman does not rely on any puerile humor.
Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a business consultant whose life has become a complete snooze fest. He is surrounded by people who all share the same voice and his everyday life is fuelled by monotony until the day he meets Lisa who is an anomaly in his life.
The animation is so realistic it reaches an uncanny valley level. Moreover, the theme of the movie is interesting as it explores the redundancy of our modern lifestyle. Watch it if you appreciate being taken into imaginative places and creative writing.
7. It Follows (2014)
I became aware of this movie’s existence when I started working in a movie theater. My first week had two horror movies showing: It Follows and Unfriended. As my work was situated in a suburban area, the crowds flooded the lesser of these two movies as they were interested in the gimmick of watching a computer screen for two hours.
I tend to not watch horror movies often as they freak me out more than I will ever admit. However, when an original piece of work like It Follows is created, I tend to disregard my anxiety and try to watch the film in its entirety.
The premise is a metaphor for sexually transmitted diseases: a ghost follows you walking on a straight line and the only way to get rid of this curse is by having sex with someone. The person you had intercourse with then gets chased by the ghost. Once the ghost catches you, it assaults you to death.
The visual direction is reminiscent of 80s horror flicks and moreover, is not set in any particular area which makes the movie timeless. Give it a try if you don’t mind getting perturb by the bizarre and uneasy.
6. War Dogs (2016)
War Dogs is the most recent addition to this list and is one I thought would no need to be included in. Especially considering the fact it stars Miles Teller and Jonah Hill at the peak of his career. It seems the heavier Jonah Hill gets, the funnier he becomes. He completely steals the show in War Dogs portraying a complete douchebag who wears Gucci and manipulates every single person he meets.
War Dogs tells the story of two 20-some-year-olds who managed to fool the government into giving them a deal to sell the US military weapons and artillery. War Dogs is worth seeing if you are a business nerd like me or simply enjoy learning about a seemingly crazy story which actually happened. This movie is accessible unlike The Big Short which requires the viewer to have an understanding of the technicalities of Wall Street.
War Dogs is a fun ride and makes the best out of the depressing setting of the Iraq war and the corruption of the U.S. political system. Look for this movie if you were a fan of The Wolf of Wall Street.
5. Demolition (2016)
Demolition is the type of movie which hits the ground running. The first scene depicts a horrifying and unexpected death scene.
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a financial analysts who is too busy with his work to realize how he has become an empty shell of a person. Through the curse of his movie, he comes to the conclusion he never loved his wife. This epiphany comes to him after her death and his lack of emotional reaction to it. He seems to have married someone because it was expected of him and his wife just happened to be there.
The movie has several interesting scenes, one of my favorites being one where Jake Gyllenhaal’s character writes an angry letter to a vending machine distributor whose machine’s malfunction deprived him of eating some peanuts M&M. In his letter, he describes the event as quite upsetting since his wife had died 10 minutes earlier.
The writing in this movie is particularly strong and screenwriter Bryan Sipe’s depiction of grief incorporates several minor details that when separated, seem of little importance, but put together give depth to his main character. This is the perfect date movie as he will leave your significant other crying in your arms.
4. The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)
The second entry on this list by director and screenwriter Derek Cianfrance, The Place Beyond the Pines also portrays a story of love gone wrong like Blue Valentine did but it also incorporates a crime story to it making it a more interesting watch.
Ryan Gosling also stars in this movie but for a small fraction of it which upset several people who went to see this flick for him alone. I understand the frustration but it does not mean what the viewer is left with is filler.
Luke (Ryan Gosling) is a professional motorcyclist who follows a circus as they hop from city to city in small town USA. As they come back to one of their locations after a year, Luke meets up with an old flame. In a soap opera turn of events, it turns out she is pregnant with Luke’s kid.
Faced with the consequence of his actions, Luke seeks out a way to make quick and easy money and, of course, becomes a bank robber.
3. Spring Breakers (2012)
I never thought I would recommend any movie from the mind who created something as vile as Trash Humpers. The times are a changing as Spring Breakers turned out to be worthy of being experienced. Blasting Skrillex over scenes of debauchery is a perfect introduction to Spring Breakers as the movie is just like a dubstep song: overbearing and impossible to miss.
A couple of college aged girls are trying to fully enjoy their spring break. Faced with a lack of money, they organize a hold up in a restaurant. While preparing for the heist, a character says “act like you are in a movie or something” or even “just pretend it is a video game” demonstrating how naive they are.
These girls are book smart but have no understanding of the world at large. These characters seem to believe their actions will not have any repercussion on their real lives.
This movie is so over the top and leaves the audience always guessing what is going to happen next in a mixture of curiosity and mild anxiety.
2. Winnie the Pooh (2011)
I purposefully put this entry after Spring Breakers just to demonstrate who eclectic my cinematic taste is. Winnie the Pooh is near and dear to my heart and I always queue up at the Magic Kingdom ride alongside toddlers and their parents.
I don’t really know why this character touches my soul in such a meaningful way as I have not grown up surrounded by it more than any other kid born in the mid-90s. I just enjoy how relaxed the atmosphere of his world is in contrast to the ADHD-inducing kids films of recent memory.
The fun aspect of Winnie the Pooh is that there is no main story allowing the characters to interact with each other yielding amazing comedy for the young and the young at heart.
The songs are written by the duo Kristen Anderson Lopez and Robert Lopez, the masterminds behind the Oscar-winning song “Let it Go.” As you would expect, the songs featured in this movie showcase their writing talent as they are instant classics who will stay in your head long after the end of the movie.
1. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Few working directors today have such a distinctive style that their work is instantly recognizable after only a few frames. Wes Anderson‘s Grand Budapest Hotel exemplifies such visionary work, much like the rest of his output. So distinct is his visual voice that one might write the work off as an exercise in style-over-substance.
However, Anderson’s films convey several highly interesting stories about an array of compelling characters. Grand Budapest Hotel tells the story of a hotel concierge and his foreign employee on the eve of World War II.
Anderson’s writing is quirky and has distinctive weird tendencies as Ralph Fiennes’ character has a passion for elderly women. It is such a bizarre idea and anyone else who would attempt to exploit it would make it sound completely ridiculous. Anderson has a magic touch to make seemingly outlandish ideas compelling.
Grand Budapest Hotel is a fast paced comedy with too many amazing jokes to count. It is highly rewatchable as it is impossible to fully appreciate this movie in only one sitting.