TOP 7 Films to Watch While Self-isolating

With everyone required to hibernate in our comfy bunkers for some time, the era of vegging out and binge watching TV is officially upon us. But what to watch? With so many choices out there, the Xpress Film & TV team have some slightly left-of-centre viewing recommendations to keep you company – and hopefully a few gems you’re less familiar with. So let Film & TV Editor DAVID MORGAN-BROWN, DAVID O’CONNELL, JOSHUA HALL HAINES, ANDREW DE THIERRY and X-Press Editor HARVEY RAE become your new guide for home entertainment while we’ve got the time and reason to gorge on great (home) cinema. Happy viewing, hopefully you’ve stockpiled on the popcorn and candy.

1. The Iron Giant
Network: Netflix

This directorial debut for Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) was a box office flop at the time of release, but has since gone on to achieve the recognition that it deserves. Set during the height of the Cold War, this is similar to E.T., concentrating on the friendship formed between a boy and an alien. The Iron Giant boasts some beautiful animation, but offers so much more – in its riffing on classic 50s and 60s sci-fi themes, it casts a critical eye at the xenophobic fear inherent in society, while offering us existential hope that we can break from that mould and become something better. After all as its emotional gut-punch of a climax reminds us: “You are who you choose to be,” and we can all try to be “Superman”.


2. Her Smell
Network: Amazon Prime

The life of a rock-star has never looked so off-the-rails. Elisabeth Moss gives a fully committed performance as Becky Something, the frontwoman of a 90s rock band who invites us into her delirious drug-and-booze-filled world of backstage and studio antics. The seemingly off-the-cuff dialogue, the anxiety-amplifying music, and the wildly swinging emotions emitting from this troubled woman all give an overwhelming sense of living life in the too fast lane. This should be heralded as one of the great portraits of rock star divas, one that is purely embedded in the disasters of Becky’s life that comes to a quest for redemption. Although the rock songs performed in this film really aren’t great (but really aren’t supposed to be), Becky’s piano rendition of Bryan Adams’ Heaven to her daughter is a show-stopper for this film, making it one of Moss’ highlights in her already impressive career.


3. Prisoners
Network: Netflix

Visionary Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s films have good representation on Netflix. Arrival may have recently disappeared, but you’ll still find Sicario (his best) and Blade Runner 2049 available on the popular streaming platform, the latter arriving just last week (and well worth a second – or first – viewing). One you may have overlooked is the tense small town crime thriller Prisoners. Featuring Hugh Jackman looking scarier than Wolverine with his claws out, the incredible cast also includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo and Paul Dano. An epic nail-biter right up to its climax, you’ll be second guessing the bad guy right to the final reveal.


4. Marathon Man
Network: SBS On Demand

Paranoia thrillers hit a high with this classic, which is so tense and shocking, it leaves you sweating like you’ve actually run a marathon. Dustin Hoffman is dynamic as history studies graduate Babe, who gets caught up in a scheme by a wealthy German immigrant trying to keep his diamonds safe after they are bequeathed to him by his brother, so he aims his sights on Babe to gain access. Babe becomes the reluctant hero who suffers the increasing terror that suddenly savages his life, particularly when he’s put through a gruelling torture process. The film becomes even more engaging as it’s revealed how this German came into possession of such valuables, placing this story in a troubling time for post-WWII America.


5. Flatliners
Network: Netflix

Poorly categorised as a horror film, this underrated 2017 remake of the popular 1990 Brat Pack film presents more as a suspense thriller with a science-fantasy edge. A group of resident medical students come together and embark on a new area of medicine which borders on the supernatural. Ellen Page does a great job in maintaining an equilibrium and grounding the film’s otherwise comic book concept. “We should bottle flatlining and sell it as a club drug,” she suggests. Flatliners explores near death experiences as the ultimate high, with characters starting off as relatable, and soon perishing to stereotypes, ego, circumstance — with unlikely characters showing humility by the closing credits. Once you accept Flatliners as a supernatural thriller, the pace and story are interesting and boast striking visuals. With a slow pulse to start, Flatliner’s reanimates by the end.


6. First Reformed
Network: Netflix

Haunted by a dark temperament, though ending on a (somewhat) hopeful note, First Reformed is for those who like their coffee black and their water chilled.  A lonely small town priest, devastated by the death of his son in war-time, becomes more and more radicalised into eco-terrorism. Feeling so alarmingly close to modern day issues, First Reformed is a meticulously crafted display of personal despair becoming aggravated by wider world problems caused by uncaring elites, that results in desperate acts of madness and violence. Ethan Hawke is tremendous as the priest, who gradually unfurls all his rage and frustration throughout the film at corporations, himself, and his faith.


7. The Nightingale
Network: Amazon Prime

The Nightingale is an unrelenting and at times rather confronting film. It follows the story of a young Irish convict Clare Carroll (Aisling Franciosi) as she exacts revenge against a British group of soldiers in Convict era Australia. Sam Claflin plays an absolutely repugnant and despicable character called Lieutenant Hawkins who shows psychotic tendencies and no regards for human life at all; it is his most horrible role. The shots are beautiful, the scenery is beautiful, and the acting is just raw and unrelenting. Coupled with scenes that show racism, rape and brutality, this film will make you feel both anger and disgust. Directed by Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) she does a great job of capturing convict era Australia in a film and this is essential viewing for any lover of Australian cinema.


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