If you’re gripped with terror at the uncertainty of the coming year, fear not! A dozen or so movies made over the last half-century take place in 2020, so we have a pretty good idea of what’s going to happen.
For the most part, that means grandiose journeys in the stars and disaster here at home.
From the mid-20th century right up to 2020’s doorstep, films have mostly envisioned that our current time would be spent contemplating the farther reaches of the galaxy in one form or another: Either by visiting it, or having it visited upon us. That, and dragons.
Here are 6 movies with visions of a future that’s here today.
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How far can you stretch an icon until the imagery shatters? What is the core essence of Santa Claus?
Normally in this column we’d look at the evolution of an actor to see how their persona changed over time, but ’tis the season to examine the jolliest shape-shifter. The concept of Santa Claus is an amalgamation of mythologies that solidified in the United States at least a hundred years before film was invented. In many ways, cinema is both obsessed and afraid of the figure. He pops up occasionally in the earliest days of popular filmmaking, saw iconic moments pop up sparingly in the WWII era, and only recently has emerged several times a year to give multiple actors a shot at laughing with a bowl full of jelly belly and a cherry nose.
In that time, movies have remolded Santa from a benevolent gift-giver to a superhero, a horror villain, and the single dad next door.
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Like the works of Shakespeare, Black Christmas has now been remade more than once.
The Canadian cult slasher that predates Halloween by four years has its ups and downs, but it warranted retreads because it captures a very special time of year. Not just as subversive counter-programming for the twee holiday season, but as a horror film that takes place in the safe space of a college campus that becomes isolated when everyone else leaves for the break. Its hollowed-out familiarity makes it ideal for a slasher stalking their victims.
The film also doubles down on the myth of Stranger Danger (it’s usually someone you know that harms you! Sleep tight, everyone!). Uncertainty, mystery, and our friends showing up murdered? Solid grounds for panic.
Here are 6 other films to give you the holiday chills.
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Noirvember, an excuse to spend a month watching all kins of film noir, ends in a few days, and it will last all year. That’s because it’s a spirit. An ethos. A perfect month-based pun that also happens to occur at the dimmed, icy time of year perfect for the genre.
In other words, keep this list handy for a bright, sunny day in Spring when you want to stay indoors with a soul-darkening picture filled with great actors playing bad people.
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The two major differences between Tom Hanks and Daniel Day-Lewis are their approaches to craft and how they answer questions on press tours. Everything else is window dressing.
Both are fierce, profoundly gifted actors. Both are deep wells of creativity. Yet even though each actor is equally at home in torturous dramas and whimsical romps, we never think of them in the same breath. Hanks is your next door neighbor; Day-Lewis is the eccentric guy who lives in the haunted house up the hill.
One is a capital-S Serious Actor, and the other lip syncs in Carly Rae Jepsen’s video. Now, I’m not saying Hanks could play Lincoln (or that Day-Lewis could handle Carly). I’m saying that Hanks’ well-rounded mainstream accessibility and well-honed persona as America’s Grandpa obscures his own capital-S status as one of the best actors of a generation.
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The latest Charlie’s Angels reboot is the latest movie with the potential to move us from groaning about originality to cheering for ass-kicking action progress. The trailers all look fun, and it’s still possible for fluff to justify its existence by making us eat all the popcorn in the tub, so maybe it’ll pull some magic out of its gigantic closet of explode-y weapons.
At the very least, it’ll be interesting to see how Elizabeth Banks does things differently from McG…
Oddly enough, it’s been the same amount of time (19 years) between the last season of the TV series and McG’s “modern” reboot film as it’s been between that film and the new incarnation. I’m looking forward to Charlie’s Angels in 2038 already.
Every version of the story has boasted three key elements: 1. women beating bad dudes 2. a ton of costume-based spy work and 3. the nonchalant fun that makes crime-busting look super delightful.
So, let’s look at 6 movies to watch with the new Charlie’s Angels if you’re sleuthing out a double feature.
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When we talk about Halloween and Friday the 13th launching a wave of rip-offs, we’re talking about movies like Final Exam. It came out so soon after Friday the 13th that you’d think its similarities were coincidences, but the truth is that MPM Productions simply made the movie double quick. Six months from absolutely nothing to prints in theaters.
They made it on the cheap and dirty, and it rips off all sorts of visuals, but it’s still good. Maybe it deserves to be forgotten, but it doesn’t deserve to be as forgotten as it is. Fortunately, it was kept alive by fans of horror b-sides. You can own it on Blu-ray.
So, it’s obscure, but good and available. A Venn diagram centers that’s growing every year.
Obscurity is its own currency in genre filmmaking. It grants a special sheen to certain movies that manage to be entertaining (or downright excellent) without finding an audience. Some movies hit and then faded into the mist, some failed to ever surface, and some deserve to stay buried.
But others rightfully become the stuff of whispers shared between fans who have seen everything else and want more. They’re secret passwords. More and more, they’re becoming accessible thanks to an internet era were niche audiences can command a Blu-ray release and you can dive into the obscure without necessarily doing your other horror homework. The definition of “obscure” blurs when most everything is a tidy Google search away.
If you’re at the bottom of the cult classic pile, give these obscure horror films a shot in the dark.
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Finding a picture of Paul Rudd with a shaved head offers a bit of a challenge, so you’ll have to imagine it.
Harder than it seems. Yet it’s instrumental in displaying one of the actor’s fundamentally likable qualities. Back in the early 1990s, Rudd get his big break as a young actor with a role in Amy Heckerling’s Clueless, but it almost didn’t happen. Since he didn’t think he’d gotten the role, he shaved his head, which almost cost him the role.
Heckerling and company tried wigs on him because they thought Josh – the budding environmental lawyer – should have long hair. Thankfully, nothing worked, and Rudd ended up rocking profoundly conservative, slightly fluffy hair.
This examination of his public persona as an artist won’t fixate on something as small as hair, but you’ve got to admit that it can play an outsized role when you consider the consistency of a man who makes collective eyes pop because he grows a beard.
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There are more zombie movies than there were zombies in the original Night of the Living Dead.
Is that true? Feels like it. It’s a genre so over-saturated that its longevity resembles its slobbering, brain-hungry baddies. There’s a palpable relentlessness to it, as though the genre itself pushes back whenever anyone announces its demise.
Then there’s Zombieland, the 2009 film that decided to have fun both with the natural superiority of human beings over former human beings and our half-century-old familiarity with how it all works. It’s essentially an American version of Shaun of the Dead where, instead of heading for the pub, loners team up for a road trip, worship an unkillable junk food snack, and end up in an amusement park. There’s just so, so, so much America in this thing.
Including America’s mascot: Bill Murray.
Ten years later, we have a sequel. Finally. With every instance where a film follows a decade after, the question is whether it will have its own spark and freshness or if the same formula can still feel exciting. Unfortunately, Zombieland: Double Tap is up against a steeper curve because it comes after a massive wave of zombie movies that it helped cause. Fortunately, everyone involved is really good at making funny films with exceptional kills of the week.
Get ready for some cardio with these six movies you should double-feature with Zombieland: Double Tap.
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(Welcome to Role Call, where we examine two performances from an actor – their first defining role and their most recent/last – to get a sense of who they are.)
Joaquin Phoenix has been playing the Joker for a long time.
As the awkward romantic Leonard Kraditor in Two Lovers. As the lonely, optimistic Theodore Twombly in Her. As the morally ambiguous bruiser Bruno in The Immigrant. There’s also the scorned, disrespected monster Commodus in Gladiator, the sick puppy dog Freddie Quell in The Master, and the vacant, delusional version of “Joaquin Phoenix” who stared and stuttered his way through emerging hip-hop fame in I’m Still Here.
All of these puzzle pieces are present in his version of DC’s most infamous bad guy.
Usually in this column, we explore how Angela Lansbury went from gorgeous ingenue to globally respected murder-solver, but Phoenix’s career shifted slightly different than everyone else’s. While a lot of other stars evolve by broadening how we see the scope of their talents, Phoenix has deepened. His talent has a singular focus. In a word, “troubled.”
As in, more often than not, reviews of his movies include the phrase, “Joaquin Phoenix plays a troubled…” A troubled philosophy professor. A troubled club manager. A troubled WWII veteran. A troubled hit man. A troubled performer. The best – “a troubled soul,” from one description of The Master – sums up his career in just three words.
While Phoenix has stayed focused, the movie industry has evolved around him to take him from supporting actor to troubled leading man. Let’s look at how far he’s come from a laugh in 1995 to a signature cackle in 2019.
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