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Pop CultureJune 27, 2018

From Terrence Malick to Magic Mike: The hidden gems in the Lightbox Movies catalogue

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Lightbox Movies has a huge selection of movies to choose from, but film geek Sam Brooks is most excited about the obscure, hard-to-find and objectively best ones.

A Fantastic Woman

Obviously, the first thing a film nerd should catch up on, if they haven’t seen it already, is the latest winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This Brazilian drama-slash-thriller revolves around a transgender woman who faces discrimination and hardship after the death of her older boyfriend, and it’s anchored by a stunning performance from Daniela Vega. Sometimes the Foreign Language Oscar can go to the most obvious or pandering film, but this absolutely isn’t the case here – don’t miss the boat on this film.

If you liked this, you’ll also like: The low-key but surprisingly stylish Weekend, about a three-day dalliance between two gay men.

Song to Song

Terrence Malick rides the line between art films – and I mean proper art films, like the kinds that get played in warehouses and galleries, the kinds that even film festivals won’t touch – and mainstream cinema. His output of late has been… less critically well-received, to put it kindly, and sadly this means they’ve skipped cinemas as a result.

But never fear, you can find both of them on Lightbo. I for one am a huge fan of the late period in Malick’s career. He’s untethered himself entirely from the constraints of the three-act structure and gone into a more emotive and less structured form of storytelling, all without losing his incredible vision for how to marry sight and sound and capture truths that naturalism can’t even begin to fathom.

Plus, both Song to Song and Knight of Cups have a lot of famous pretty people in them.

If you liked this, you’ll also like: Knight of Cups

The Bling Ring

Move over Ocean’s 8The Bling Ring did it first. This Sofia Coppola film is based on the real-life story of a bunch of don’t-give-a-shit teenagers who robbed the houses of rich and famous (including popular songstress Paris Hilton) before eventually being caught for it. Like many of Coppola’s films, it’s less a celebration of the the rich and famous and more a critique of the ennui that modern life forces on all of us – which is more fun to watch than it sounds, I promise!

If you liked this, you’ll also like: Richard Linklater’s spiritual follow-up to Dazed and Confused, the raucous and very much stoner dudebro celebration Everybody Wants Some!

Mirror, Mirror

Cast your mind back to 2012. Obama was president, Prince was alive, and there were two Snow White films duking it out for dominance over the box office. One of these came with a terrible misleading trailer that tried to sell it as a broad and wacky comedy and one of these was a bad film. Mirror, Mirror was the former.

I saw Mirror Mirror three times in the cinemas, and once or twice since. A charming and subtly feminist retelling of the Snow White story, Mirror Mirror came from the mind of music video visionary Tarsem, director of REM’s iconic ‘Losing My Religion’ video, whose films are about the closest we get to expressionist art in mainstream cinema. Throw in some genius Eiko Ishioka costumes, an on-form Julia Roberts satirising her own persona, and Armie ‘Call Me By Your Name’ Hammer, and you’ve got a good time for you and your spawn.

If you liked this, you’ll also like: The equally charming and equally underseen  Where The Wild Things Area more than worthy adaptation of the beloved kid’s book.


I mean it’s all there in the title, right? Snowpiercer is obviously a post-apocalyptic thriller set on a train that constantly circles the world, and that train is a not-subtle-at-all metaphor for classism. (It’s maybe not that obvious.)

Directed by Korean cinema master Bong Jong-hoo, this tonally bizarre but consistently compelling movie has an equally bonkers cast: Chris Evans, Octavia Spencer, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris and Song Kang-ho, a legend of Korean cinema.

If you liked this, you’ll also like: The dark comedy-but-more-kind-of-horror Killer Joe which has Matthew McConaughey at his absolute best as a representation of pure cowboy evil.

Sing Street

Full disclosure: I watched this plane at the start of an eighteen hour flight, and then watched it again at the end of the flight. It’s essentially the 2007 film Once, but with teenagers. A nerdy teenager finds out what The Smiths are and decides to start his own punk band (which is more of a power-pop band, but let’s not split hairs), much to the consternation of his backwards town. You already know all the beats of this film, but goddamned if John Carney (who also directed Once) doesn’t know how to turn a rags-to-fewer-rags musician story into something that gets stuck in your head and tugs at your feelings.

If you liked this, you’ll also like: Begin Again which is also directed by John Carney, and is essentially Once but instead of Irish people it’s Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo. It’s also very good.

Edge of Seventeen

A great teen movie is hard to find. A great woke teen movie is even harder to find – some of those John Hughes’ films are problematic as hell now, you guys. Which is one of the reasons Edge of Seventeen is so special. This film barely made a ripple when it came out in 2016, perhaps because it lacked the kind of hook that a film like Love, Simon did. It was just a very well-made, keenly observed film about a teenager slowly realising she’s not the centre of the universe anymore, and dealing with it badly. It’s Mean Girls without the mean, Easy A without the A, and it’s maybe my favourite teen movie of the past decade?

Plus, it’s a reminder that Hailee Steinfeld is one of our best young actors, not just one of our strangest popstars.

If you liked this, you’ll also like: A film that also seemed to barely come out but actually features Meryl Streep’s best performance of the last decade, the delicate marriage drama Hope Springs

A Most Violent Year

Every year there’s a few films which are held until December in order to maximize the attention they can get from Oscar voters. Some rise to the top, but many others fall to the bottom. These are known as Oscar-bait films.

Many of these films are forgettable and bad – think of the endless films which make people dress up in old brown clothing and stare out windows longingly while someone pounds on a piano – but every now and then there’s one brilliant film that unfairly gets dragged to the bottom along with the rest of the Oscar-bait.

In 2014, that was A Most Violent Year. It’s a hard sell – a gangster film set in the 80s that isn’t based on a real life event (shock! horror!) – but it features career-best performances from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain, which is a big call that I’m gonna make right here. It’s a stylish, chilling critique of gangster culture as a parallel for toxic masculinity, and it deserves your attention.

If you liked this, you’ll also like: Another Oscar-bait film that is much better than that title suggests, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool features a nomination-worthy performance from Annette Bening as real-life 50s film noir star Gloria Grahame in the twilight of her career.

Magic Mike XXL

You don’t need me to tell you what this film is, you just need me to tell you it’s there. Go with what your soul wants, what your soul needs, what your soul yearns for.

(Magic Mike XXL is a legitimately great movie, and it’s a legitimately great movie that also happens to feature a lot of abs.)

If you liked this, you’ll also like: The act of turning oxygen into carbon dioxide.

Movies on Lightbox works on a pay-per-view basis. But your first movie is free if you rent before July 1st!

New releases are from $6.99, while older library titles are $4.99 and 5.99. Once you pay for a movie, you have 31 days (that’s a month, or a month and one day, or a month and three days if you’re reading this in February) to watch it, and once you start watching it, you have 48 hours to finish watching it.

You don’t actually need to have a Lightbox TV plan to watch movies, as they work on a pay-per-view basis. You can just go into the browser, enter your lovely credit card details and watch movies like you would with any of the other things you buy on the internet.

Watch all these movies and more on Lightbox right here:

This content, like all television coverage we do at The Spinoff, is brought to you thanks to the excellent folk at Lightbox. Do us and yourself a favour by clicking here to start a FREE 30 day trial of this truly wonderful service.

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