6. Escape Room
When six strangers from completely different walks of life receive a mysterious invitation to experience the escape room, they are keen to take up the offer in hopes of the winning the grand prize of $10,000. But what seemingly starts off as innocent fun, soon spirals into a question of life or death when it turns out that each room is an elaborate trap designed to kill.
Escape Room was not the first film to use the premise of an escape room as a thing of horror, but it was the first film to do so in a way that actually worked well and was incredibly watchable and entertaining. This film works especially well if you are a frequenter of escape rooms – you will get a kick out of watching the characters try to figure out the clues and watching one of the characters fan boy over the escape room because he has done so many previously.
The production design is really fun, and though the horror is not outright, it works really well in the premise. The cast works well together and allows the audience to pick a favourite, as no one character is the same. Though Escape Room is far from perfect and was not a critical hit, it is certainly one of the most entertaining and engaging films of the year so far.
7. High Flying Bird
Sports agent Ray finds himself caught in a face off between the players and the league in the midst of a pro basketball lockout. With his career on the line, Ray has only seventy-two hours to pull off a daring plan as he uncovers a loophole that could change the game of basketball forever.
High Flying Bird is director Steven Soderbergh’s third film since he returned to directing in 2017 and as with Unsane, he filmed High Flying Bird on an iPhone. Again, utilising iPhone technology means that High Flying Bird feels innovative and a bit different from other films and is also an improvement on Unsane’s iPhone experiment.
High Flying Bird is a smart and intelligent film and is great for those looking for something not so mainstream. Often High Flying Bird feels almost documentarian such is its realism on the subject. The production design and some of the scenes almost feel stark, reflecting the soullessness of the subject which might sound like it is a negative, but it just further enhances the tone of the film and its underlying messages on capitalism.
After an airplane crashes in the Arctic, a stranded man is faced with the impossible decision of whether to remain in the relative safety of his makeshift camp or whether he should embark on a highly dangerous and treacherous trek through the wilderness in the hopes of making it out alive.
Man versus nature has always been a popular theme in disaster/survival films and Arctic’s survival aspect is elevated by the solo element of Overgard’s situation – he is completely isolated and alone. Mads Mikkelsen as Overgard puts in a terrific performance, he is so realistic and believable, his performance is so grounded and inspirational.
The stunning film location of the glaciers of Iceland makes Arctic visually stunning and the cinematography is worthy of The National Geographic – breathtakingly beautiful and showing the true harshness of the landscape.
Arctic is an intense and emotional film, and marks an impressive debut from director Joe Penna.
9. Apollo 11
A film fifty years in the making, Apollo 11 shows never seen before footage and audio recordings of one of the most celebrated space missions of all time and one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments as astronauts Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Michael Collins embark on a mission to the moon.
The ultimate tribute to human achievement, Apollo 11 is a film that is a stunning, visual treat. As enthralling, gripping and compelling as any science fiction space themed film, or maybe even more so, Apollo 11 is a must see for anyone who has ever marvelled at the night skies and the infinite space above us.
Apollo 11 also reminds us of something that audiences may often forget when thinking about the space missions, and that is the human element. We might automatically think of the brave astronauts that made the trip, but behind that was hundreds of other people who worked tirelessly to make it all happen and seeing all the faces behind the scenes is just as fascinating as seeing the incredible vastness of space.
10. Late Night
When a legendary late-night talk show host hires her only female staff writer, her world is soon turned upside down. Originally only hired to fulfil a quota and smooth over diversity concerns, the two women, who are vastly different, soon become united by their love of a good punchline.
You never have to wait long for a new comedy film to pop up, they are one of film’s most popular genres. Yet it is not often that comedy films involve smart comedy, rather than relying on slapstick and toilet humour. Thankfully, Late Night is a smart comedy film and often even examines why we make jokes and why they do or do not work.
The cast helps elevate this film and features lead Emma Thompson in some of her best work. Along with Mindy Kaling as Molly, the two are relatable and charming in their own different ways. Late Night is reasonably formulaic and audiences won’t be surprised by how events unfold, and yet none of that really matters because Late Night’s satirical nature more than makes up for its predictability.