6. Life Itself
Now Streaming on Hulu

Release Date: 2014

Genre: Documentary

Director: Steve James

Cast: Roger Ebert

No, not the 2018 Life Itself that received abysmal reviews. This is the wonderful documentary about the late Roger Ebert. Based on Ebert’s own memoir, Life Itself tracks the film critic’s life, from his childhood on, covering his career and his love of film. Director Steve James started making the film in the final months of Ebert’s life, and Ebert appears several times, his jaw removed due to his cancer. Despite this element of the story, Life Itself isn’t a tragedy – it’s a celebration. Watching this doc, you begin to fully understand, and appreciate, what made Ebert so unique, and why his legacy will live on for years to come.

For fans of: Page One: Inside the New York TimesObitWon’t You Be My Neighbor, silent weeping.


7. De Palma
Now Streaming on Netflix

Release Date: 2015

Genre: Documentary

Director: Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow

Cast: Brian De Palma

If you’re not a fan of the films of Brian De PalmaDe Palma might change that. This documentary from Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow sits the De Palma down, and lets him talk about his entire career – Blow Out, ScarfaceThe Untouchables, Sisters and on and on. Intercut with De Palma’s narration are scenes from those films, reminding the viewer how masterful a craftsman the filmmaker is. De Palma himself is insightful, funny and honest, talking about the problems behind-the-scenes on some films, and more. The doc runs only 107 minutes, and manages to cover all of De Palma’s films – but I personally wish it were longer. I could’ve watched another full hour of the director talking about his work.

For fans of: All of Brian De Palma’s films.


8. The Awakening
Now Streaming on Shudder

Release Date: 2011

Genre: Supernatural drama

Director: Nick Murphy

Cast: Rebecca Hall, Dominic West, Isaac Hempstead-Wright and Imelda Staunton

In this creepy slow-burn chiller, Rebecca Hall plays a highly skeptical woman who travels around debunking ghost sightings, and other phony paranormal occurrences in the 1920s. But her skepticism is put to the test when she’s asked to come check out ghostly sightings at a boarding school, where there very well may be actual ghosts present. The Awakening is an old school ghost story, the type that seems as if it’s been pulled from a Gothic romance novel of the past (it hasn’t). Hall is, as always, wonderful in the lead, giving a nuanced, quiet performance.

For fans of: The InnocentsThe Others, overcoats.


9. The Villainess
Now Streaming on Hulu

Release Date: 

Genre: Action

Director: Jung Byung-gil

Cast: Kim Ok-bin

The Villainess is like a sudden rush of blood to the head. And then all the blood comes pouring out of your nose. This South Korean action flick opens with a stunning, impossibly long POV shot of the main character (played by Kim Ok-bin) tearing through several locations, murdering the ever living hell out of several nameless goons. Plot-wise, The Villainess is more or less a remake of La Femme Nikita (which was already remade once as Point of No Return) – a young woman is trained to be a deadly assassin by a shadowy organization. The story is really secondary. What matters here is the brutal, pulse-quickening action, which almost never lets up for the exhausting 129 minute run time.

For fans of: La Femme NikitaKill BillThe Night Comes for Us, lots and lots of punching.


10. Gotti
Now Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

Release Date: 2018

Genre: Fuggedaboutit!

Director: Kevin Connolly

Cast: John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Spencer Lofranco, William DeMeo, Leo Rossi, Victor Gojcaj, Stacy Keach

Yes, that’s right – I put Gotti on this list. Gotti, reviled as one of the worst films of the year. Why is it here? Am I trying to tell you Gotti is actually better than the critics say, and secretly surprising? Absolutely not! This movie is terrible! But it’s that unique kind of terrible that has to be seen to be believed. John Travolta hams it up big time as the famous mob boss, strutting around the film with a permanent frown on his face. Over-directed, cursed with a clunky script that has no sense of pacing or the passage of time, and chock-full of gangster movie cliches, Gotti must be seen to be believed. I know what you’re thinking – life is too short to waste time watching deliberately bad movies. Maybe you’re right. But maybe, just maybe, you should pop open several bottles of wine, kick-back, and marvel at the wonderful badness that is Gotti.

For fans of: The five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island.

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