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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

Quarantine Escapism (Vol. III): 10 Resounding Tales of Suspense, Melodrama and Sublime Deliverance

Movie poster for the top-10 list Quarantine Escapism (Vol. III)

1. Zodiac

Movie poster for the film Zodiac starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo

“Zodiac” (2007) is a dense and highly absorbing true crime thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle who, in 1969, becomes involved in the police investigation of the notorious Zodiac killer. Following a brutal attack on the 4th of July, the San Francisco Chronicle begins to receive encrypted letters from the self-styled “Zodiac”—captivating the impressionable Graysmith. He soon finds himself assisting crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) and detectives Dave Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) in deciphering the killer’s cryptic messages—steadily immersing himself in the dogged pursuit of the enigmatic killer. Directed by David Fincher (“Fight Club”), “Zodiac” is a complex and labyrinthine escapade, highlighted by Fincher’s masterful direction, A+ cinematography courtesy of the late Harris Savides (“The Game”) and impassioned performances from its entire ensemble cast. Equal parts fascinating, thrilling and utterly terrifying, it’s sophisticated and utterly sublime filmmaking at its finest.

View the trailer here.

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel

Movie poster for the film The Grand Budapest Hotel starring Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014) is the light-hearted tale of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a hotel concierge in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka circa 1932. Courting wealthy older female patrons in a resoundingly charming manner, Gustave soon finds himself the benefactor of the deceased Madame D's estate. In an act of retribution, however, he is framed for the Madame's murder and unjustly imprisoned—soon finding himself face-to-face with a hardened group of brute convicts. In one the film's more amusing developments, Gustave befriends his fellow captors and hatches an illicit plan to escape prison with their assistance, as well as that of his trusted lobby boy, Zero. Written and directed by Wes Anderson ("The Royal Tenenbaums"), "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is a lively and enjoyable fable cemented by Fiennes' dynamic and utterly superb performance. It's a role he was born to play, delivering great energy and wonderful comic timing to his unique character. In all, it's a winning comedy from one of Hollywood's most unique and quirky voices—this one slotting in near the very top of his impressive resume.

View the trailer here.

3. Pan's Labyrinth

Movie poster for the film Pan's Labyrinth starring Ivana Baquero and Sergi López

“Pan's Labyrinth” is a Spanish-language fantasy film from 2006, set in 1944 amidst the darkest days of Francisco Franco’s dictatorship, that follows a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) as she travels alongside her mother to the rural home of her new stepfather: the cruel and sadistic Captain Vidal (Sergi López). During the nighttime, Ofelia is visited by a fairy that leads her to an underground labyrinth, where they encounter a faun that proceeds to explain how Ofelia is the true reincarnation of Princess Moanna, and is destined to return to her rightful place on the throne of the underworld. The faun bequeaths a book upon Ofelia which spells out three daunting challenges within the underworld that she must complete, in order to gain immortality and return to her true home. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro ("The Shape of Water"), the film balances majestic fantasy with savage warfare and tense thriller elements to utterly sublime perfection—delivering a full-bodied, enormously evocative adult fairy tale to the audience.

View the trailer here.

4. The Fighter

Movie poster for the film The Fighter starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale

“The Fighter” (2010) is a true-to-life depiction of the early years in the career of renowned professional boxer “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), coming up from the streets of Lowell, Massachusetts in the shadow of his elder half-brother, Dicky (Christian Bale). A former professional boxer himself who once fought "Sugar Ray" Leonard, Dicky now finds himself down and out, strung out on drugs, even as he endeavors to train his younger brother in his imminent bid for the welterweight title. Directed by David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook,"), “The Fighter” is a spirited and provocative sports drama, highlighted by Bale’s masterful, Academy Award-winning performance as the troubled Dicky. Russell employs his wildly idiosyncratic brand of storytelling in the best possible manner with this one, delivering a top-notch cinematic experience and one of the finest sports films of the 21st Century.

View the trailer here.

5. The Prestige

Movie poster for the film The Prestige starring Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale

“The Prestige” (2006) is a thrilling and absorbing psychological suspense film starring Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier and Christian Bale as Alfred Borden, burgeoning illusionists in 1890’s London who become fierce rivals in the high-profile world of professional stage magic. Their rivalry intensifies as they each seek to perfect a seemingly impossible stage illusion known as the “The Transported Man”, entailing human transportation across the breadth of the stage. As they desperately strive to beguile one other as much as their audience members, Angier and Borden soon find themselves traversing increasingly treacherous terrain, far beyond the boundaries of recourse or atonement. Co-written and directed by Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”), “The Prestige” is a boldly captivating period piece that delivers atmosphere, high drama and stunning narrative turns in equal measure. Utterly staggering in its full actualization, this is one film that will bewilder and haunt you long after the final credits have rolled.

View the trailer here.

6. End of Watch

Movie poster for the film End of Watch starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña

“End of Watch” (2012) is a deeply emotive action thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, partners in the LAPD. Assigned to the Newton Division of South Central L.A., Brian and Mike share a close camaraderie developed over multiple years of working the crime-infested streets together. As the two officers fulfill their duties and enact the various highs and lows of day-to-day law enforcement, they ultimately stumble upon a gruesome crime scene within an abandoned house—their unwanton incursion eliciting dire recrimination from local members of the Sinaloa Cartel. Written and directed by David Ayer (“Training Day”), “End of Watch” is a refreshing twist on the genre, focusing far more intently on the solidarity between the two leads in lieu of exhausted corruption melodramatics. Their heartfelt fellowship lays the groundwork for an emotionally-charged thriller that delivers a potent mixture of playful histrionics, high-grade action and resounding compassion in a manner that few other films even approximate.

View the trailer here.

7. Everybody Wants Some!!

Movie poster for the film Everybody Wants Some!! starring Blake Jenner and Zoey Deutch

"Everybody Wants Some!!" (2016) is writer/director Richard Linklater’s “sequel in spirit” to his modern classic "Dazed and Confused" (1993), and serves up his latest depiction of the freedom of youth—this time showcasing the first weekend of college for a young Texas baseball recruit in 1980. Jake (Blake Jenner) is quickly caught up amongst his newfound cadre of teammates in the pursuit of alcohol, women and good times—with a heavy dose of testosterone and competitiveness underlying all of their activities. It’s a highly enjoyable comedy that often transcends typical college humor, to draw out moments of intelligent banter, creative interplay and irrational shenanigans. Structured as an exploration of the various subcultures of the university world for Jake and his teammates, it's an engaging cross-cultural discovery process highlighting the new horizons in store for the receptive young gentlemen. This one will put a smile on your face and make you yearn for those halcyon days of youthful misbehavior.

View the trailer here.

8. In Bruges

Movie poster for the film In Bruges starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson

“In Bruges” (2008) is an unorthodox and darkly humorous crime film about two hitmen, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) who botch the assassination of a Catholic priest, and are sent to Bruges, Belgium by their employer Harry (Ralph Fiennes) to await further instructions. Ray and Colin's reactions to the fabled medieval city are starkly contrasting, however, as Ken embraces its beauty and historical significance while Ken steadfastly repudiates everything about it from day one. Their daily antics are soon overwhelmed by the arrival of the volatile Harry, whose ingression brings ominous shades of peril, as the mortality of all three parties comes to a point of profound reckoning. Written and directed by notable Irish playwright and filmmaker Martin McDonagh (“Seven Psychopaths”), “In Bruges” is a unique foray into the darker side of comedy, delivering wry humor and jarring violence in varied measure. It's a real treat for those with a taste for something off the beaten path cinematically.

View the trailer here.

9. Paterson

Movie poster for the film Paterson starring Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani

“Paterson” (2016) is a light-hearted, idiosyncratic story about a bus driver and amateur poet named Paterson (Adam Driver), residing quietly with his young wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani) in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. It’s a slice-of-life depiction of one man’s daily routines over the course of a single week, as he drives his bus along his route, observing the world, listening in on quaint (and often humorous) conversations and quietly drafting poetry in homage to his hero, William Carlos Williams. Written and directed by indie stalwart Jim Jarmusch, "Paterson" is relatively light on plot and the pacing is gradual, yet the poetic theme of the story slowly grows under your skin as it ebbs along, finding moments of insight, humor and inspiration within the grind of day-to-day existence. A nice addition to Jarmusch’s oeuvre, “Paterson” is the type of film that’s just right when you’re in just the right mood for it.

View the trailer here.

10. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Movie poster for the New Zealand film Hunt for the Wilderpeople starring Julian Dennison and Sam Neill

“Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016) is a vivacious adventure film starring Julian Dennison as Ricky Baker, an abrasive juvenile offender delivered by child welfare services to a remote farm in the New Zealand countryside. Taken in by foster parents Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec (Sam Neill), Ricky clings to his steeled urban shell, chafing at the cantankerous Hec yet unable to resist the sweet charms of Bella. When Bella falls ill, however, and the threat of child services proves all-too-threatening, the mismatched Ricky and Hec abscond into the wilderness on a grand, often comical expedition of elusion and desperation. Written and directed by Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”), 'Hunt for the Wilderpeople' sees Waititi employing his highly stylized brand of comedy-drama fusion in top form, delivering a simultaneously winsome and outlandish tale of modern-day adventurism. A real crowd-pleaser, this one’s tough to forgo and entirely impossible to resist.

View the trailer here.


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