Watching an indie movie about jazz drumming might not sound like the most riveting way to spend an evening, but trust us: Whiplash is no ordinary movie about jazz drumming.
Miles Teller plays a music college student determined to become one of the skin-bashing greats. The only problem? He’s never quite good enough to impress his insanely demanding band conductor, played in Oscar-winning form by J. K. Simmons. Simmons’ monster of an instructor dominates the film right through to the unforgettable final reel. We doubt you’ve ever seen a music movie with so much blood, sweat and tears.
Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
Clocking in at a butt-numbing 161 minutes, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tends to elicit one of two reactions: unadulterated Tarantino worship or complaints of terminal boredom. As usual, a more considered response probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Yes, there are drawn-out scenes of seemingly inconsequential dialogue that feel needlessly indulgent, QT’s weird obsession with women’s feet is more in-your-face than ever, and you’ll need a strong constitution to stomach the violence when it comes, but when have any of these things put people off his films before? Glossy, glitzy, cool, lugubrious, gory – it’s one event movie you probably shouldn’t miss.
Shaun of the Dead
The first and arguably best film in Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (comprising this, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End) sees London electrical shop worker Shaun (Pegg) attempting to rescue his girlfriend and flatmate and survive a sudden zombie outbreak.
This zom-rom-com's scares might be somewhat thin on the ground, but the laughs more than make up for it. There’s bags of heart to it too, mostly erupting from the relationship between Shaun and his slacker best mate Ed, played memorably by Nick Frost. Wright also demonstrates time and time again the tricks and quirks that have made him a Hollywood darling – with this movie’s inspired quick-fire editing proving a star in its own right.
Why can't all teen comedies could be as funny, well-paced and ultimately life-affirming as Superbad, which manages to juggle all the tropes of the genre (partying, sex, friendship) without feeling hackneyed, gross or bloated?
Co-written by Seth Rogen (who also appears in a supporting role), it stars Michael Cera and Jonah Hill as high school best friends out to have the best party possible before going their separate ways and heading off to college. The chemistry between the pair sells the ludicrous events that follow, proving that there’s nothing inherently cheesy or lame about racy teen coming-of-age comedies – they just aren’t usually made with this much care.
Russell Crowe ascended to Hollywood stardom off the back of this swords-and-sandals epic, in which he plays a celebrated Roman general who, when cruelly betrayed by Joaquin Phoenix’s power-mad new emperor, is forced to fight his way to vengeance via the blood-stained pits of gladiatorial combat.
Directed with typical visual panache by Ridley Scott, Gladiator is a stirring Hollywood blockbuster of the highest order, ticking a whole range of boxes in its two and a half hours: sweeping vistas, soaring emotion, romance, bloody fight scenes and a truly despicable villain. Movies of its type don’t always age well – astonishingly, it’s 20 years old – but thanks to Scott’s mastery behind the camera and Crowe’s Oscar-nominated performance, this is one that’ll still feel fresh in another two decades.
The Big Lebowski
The Coen brothers’ cult comedy hit – a louche, lackadaisical and outwardly lightweight follow-up to the multiple award-winning thriller Fargo – is packed to the gills with clever call-backs, references to other films and other oh-so-clever touches for astute viewers to pick out.
But it’s also an absolute riot, as Jeff Bridges’ middle-aged stoner The Dude sets out to right a wrong (in a case of mistaken identity, two hoodlums “soiled” his beloved rug) and ends up sucked headlong into a kidnapping case involving German nihilists, pornographers, a wealthy paraplegic, performance artists, a sullen teenage car thief, the police chief of Malibu, possibly hallucinatory cowboys… and bowling.
With an outstanding script and supporting cast including Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, John Turturro and John Goodman, The Big Lebowski is a rare cinematic gift – one that keeps on giving with subsequent viewings.
A love letter to mecha anime and classic kaiju movies with a peppering of Top Gun chucked in for good measure, Pacific Rim is the high-concept popcorn movie Michael Bay doubtless wished he’d thought of first: massive human-piloted robots in epic punch-ups with giant sea monsters from another dimension.
As you’d expect, director Guillermo del Toro delivers a smart, imaginative and visually stunning spectacle in a manner Bay never could, even if the relentless brawls and lack of character depth do get a touch trying towards the end.
Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out might appear to pack less of a satirical punch upon first viewing, but masterfully concealed just beneath its home invasion horror, in which a family is assaulted by a murderous set of deranged doppelgangers, is a particularly barbed critique of class, upward mobility and the American Dream.
Even on the surface this makes for an entertaining, creepy and gore-splattered watch, but dig a little deeper and it might give you cause to start questioning your own position in society – and whether or not your own resentful double is out there somewhere, just waiting for the right time to take your place…
A decade of Marvel Cinematic Universe movies comes to a crescendo in this lengthy blockbuster packed with fan service, spectacle and humour.
Endgame is in many ways a curious movie: taken on its own, it would incomprehensible, overlong and unsatisfying. But for those that have digested the preceding Marvel films, who know and love these characters, it’s a last chance to see the entire gang together for one final hurrah, as Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and company attempt a bold gambit to reverse the tyrannical Thanos’ victory from Avengers: Infinity War and restore the world (and the friends) they’ve lost.
Ridley Scott’s stunning vision of a future in which rogue AI-driven robots, indistinguishable from humans but faster, stronger and more deadly, are hunted down by sanctioned enforcers set the tone for an entire generation of cyberpunk fiction.
Harrison Ford plays replicant-chaser Deckard with typical understatement, but there’s so much flair, atmosphere and spectacle in this neo noir yarn that Blade Runner will stay with you for a long time.
Once Upon a Time in the West
Sergio Leone set aside the Dollars trilogy’s crowd-pleasing antics to create two and half hours of cinematic history with this scorched-earth homage to the gritty realities of homesteading on the new frontier.
Expertly paying homage to practically every film in the genre, Leone helps the everyman Henry Fonda find his dark side while giving Charles Bronson his own theme tune (supplied, of course, by long-term Leone sidekick Ennio Morricone). It’s beautiful, brutal and iconic stuff – and a must-watch for any would-be cinema connoisseur. This is the spaghetti Western – gourmet style.