Don’t Go (2018)

I’m not one for existential metaphors so I took a risk. Fortunately, this one paid off. Rather than another angsty cliche about loss, it turned out to be layered, nuanced poetry. As the main character teeters between delusion and spiritual experience, the story keenly walks a fine line between heavy-handed symbolism and enigmatic meaning. Other films have explored the effects of grief over time but this is by far the most beautifully written and superbly acted.

The Others (2001)

When suspense turns creepy– especially when it’s downright chilling– you know you’re watching a horror movie, even if there’s no gore. As if a haunted house isn’t spooky enough, mysterious visitors appear; some helpful, others ghoulish. Like any proper ghost story, nothing is as it seems.

Ricky and the Flash (2015)

When a plot is a character study rather than a tale with a definitive moral, trivia will overshadow all other aspects. In this case, the fun facts (e.g. Meryl Streep learned to play the guitar and does her own singing alongside career musician, Rick Springfield and her real- life daughter plays the part onscreen) enhance the realism that keeps it from being overly simplistic. Any humor lies in relatable and/or ironic elements, which can only be disappointing when compared to a formulaic Dramedy, in which everyone learns their lesson far too easily.

The Mule (2018)

The prickly maverick we’re used to seeing in so many iconic Westerns is anything but stoic in his role as a cantankerous old man, whose family receives none of the tenderness reserved for his prized flowers. In fact, the horticultural circle where he’s found his niche brings out a charming side few others get to see. As it turns out, he’s also good at minding his own business and staying under the radar. His newfound value to a Mexican drug cartel provides a whole new source of pride, especially since it provides the means to buy his family’s admiration.

This film is a sincere sentiment about the true meaning of love in an unflinching glimpse into the world of drug running; disparate worlds are two sides of the same coin as they struggle to understand loyalty and affection.

(I feel it’s worth mentioning the bedroom scene at the mansion party, though not necessarily gratuitous, can be skipped to avoid the disparate element of nudity as it does nothing to advance the plot.)

Mortal Engines (2018)

How to describe such a unique fantastical premise…

Entire societies are mobile; each hierarchical city functions within its own feat of engineering (think interlocking collapsable compartments). These giant robotic apparatuses roam the globe vying for power, forcibly assimilating anyone who gets in their way. The plucky young heroes could’ve been in The Maze Runner!

Until now, such an imaginative book series couldn’t have been adapted for the screen. Fortunately, The Peter Jackson specializes in bringing fictional worlds to life via intricately detailed sets and props enhanced by state-of-the-art computer animation.

Swing Kids (1993)

Pit any character against a Nazi and the audience will automatically know who to root for. It’s much harder to show how a reasonable person can become a cold-hearted monster. The zeal with which teenagers approach any popular interest makes them ideal recruits; it only takes a charismatic mentor to offer all the things the War has taken away, which no amount of Big Jazz, Swing dancing, and jive slang could provide. Friendships are strained as loyalties are tested. Could anyone/thing escape the grasp of the Reich?

Incidentally, (and thankfully) no one attempts a fake accent. They all speak American or British English and you don’t even notice.

Never Let Go (1960)

What’s a struggling salesman to do when his new car– the key to improving slumping sales– gets stolen? All the charisma in the world won’t help John Cummings retrieve it from the chop-shop if the police are more focused on catching the crooked garage owner than finding an individual vehicle. Cummings wants to provide for his family but as his obsession with retreiving his stolen property grows, taking matters into his own hands jeopardizes more than his own safety.

The Foreigner (2017)

The depth of the story drew me in and made me want to follow the main character further. Too bad this wasn’t a TV pilot! To cast a movie that could so easily have been yet another formulaic action flick was no small feat; actors we’ve seem before were wisely utilized for their specialty while being given enough room to break out of their characatures. Moreover, their experience and professionalism allowed the seamless fusion of cultures to tell a story that’s a genuinely fresh perspective on the balance between Justice and Revenge.

Libel (1959)

Rather than a lack of subtle clues and foreshadowing due to a meandering script, this story slowly unfolds just as it does for its subject: a former soldier, who may or may not be the man as whom he’s been living. When his identity is called into question, both he and his wife begin to wonder if the trauma he experienced during the war that affected his memory made it easier for him to inherit the life meant for someone else or if his personality genuinely changed. The evidence will reveal the truth and unlock the key to the nightmares and flashbacks that relentlessly haunt him.