Having series fatigue? Our film critic, Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle, gives her top picks to break the rut of series binging and revisit some great movies to see us through the remaining lockdown. From Ridley Scott to Steven Soderbergh to 80’s romcoms, she covers a range of films for every taste and includes an ode to 'Wilson' which we may just appreciate a lot more now! Start the popcorn...
Everything old is new again
Like everyone else, you now find yourself confined to your home for the foreseeable future. Once you’ve taken care of necessities like securing a healthy stock of food, tried all the at-home workouts available on YouTube, and crossed all the items off your to-do list, it’s time to address the really important question: What kind of movies do you want to watch?
Your first impulse might be to watch a bunch of films filled with pleasures you can’t enjoy at the moment, like travelling, eating in restaurants, or standing within four feet of another human being. But it could also be the perfect time to revisit some great films from the comfort of your own home.
1. Kingdom of Heaven (or any Director’s Cut of your favourite movie)
Ah, the director’s cut: it means a movie you love, but more of it. Sometimes you really do need 45 more minutes. No director proves this better than Ridley Scott, who has been packing extra footage onto DVDs throughout his career, often to transformative effect. Take “Kingdom of Heaven”: the theatrical release was a middling adventure vehicle for Orlando Bloom with mixed reviews from critics and audiences. But the director’s cut, all 194 minutes of it, is a multi-layered historical epic worthy of your time. So, start with that and then make your way to “Blade Runner” and let’s say “Lord of the Rings” if you’re brave enough.
- Oceans 12 (or any Soderbergh movie)
Honestly, you could settle for any Soderbergh film here – and yes, even “Magic Mike”. What you really should be looking for from a movie in these chaotic times is competence and a little something that shines through. I know no major filmmaker with a better grasp of both of those than Steven Soderbergh. But “Ocean’s Twelve”, oddly enough, feels like a viral viewing high-water mark. The film was panned on release, and I honestly can’t figure out why. It’s just famous people, being charming, in Europe, while stealing things. What could be better? What could be further from our present crisis? Come for the Julia Roberts bit, stay for Brad Pitt’s buzz cut, and giggle amongst yourselves at Vincent Cassel’s whole capoeira thing.
- Casablanca (or any black and white classic)
As with others on this list, there is a debate about whether really great films deserve a “comfort” ranking, but Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman’s great romance in wartime Morocco soothes the soul.
- Prisoners (or any Denis Villeneuve movie)
Talk about an uninviting title: Prisoners. No thanks, we are literally living it! And yet, here we are. It has turned out to be a very long quarantine and I, for one, am already at the point where a diet of ‘90s sitcoms, pop-star live streams, and cute animal TikToks just isn't cutting it anymore. The point where I’m craving something that’ll get my heart rate up and make me forget that I own a smartphone. What better movie than Denis Villeneuve’s 2013 “Where’s my daughter!!!” thriller? Though “Prisoners” is commenting on America’s Bush-era torture program, it’s pretty resonant right now, too: Here’s a picture of how much more frightening captivity could be.
- Castaway (or any Tom Hanks movie)
If you're feeling lost during this time of self-isolation, why not let America's favourite and nicest leading man show you how to cope with it? We may not be stranded on a desolate island with a dearth of resources and nothing but a volleyball to keep us company. Nonetheless, Tom Hanks' resolve and persistence to build a new routine is both inspiring and—for all of us now—instructive. This film shines a light on two very important human qualities: our ability to renormalise and to persevere. Let’s hope our rescue boat finds us all soon.
- Demolition Man (or any 90s action classics)
The 1993 action classic “Demolition Man” is a blockbuster set in a near-future utopia where every restaurant is a Taco Bell. For me, this movie checks all of the boxes, including an incredible cast, anchored by a pre-“Speed” Sandra Bullock and a young-as-heck Rob Schneider. Any 90s action classic can be slated for a weekly rotation during this confinement. Why? Because these movies make everything better, and nothing beats seeing Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes as men out of their time, battling it out in a better future that should have been.
- When Harry Met Sally (or any 80s style romcom)
Director Rob Reiner's legendary New York love story is considered one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time. Starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, this pair's on-again-off-again story stands the test of time. Feel free to add any John Hugues 80s romcom or Meg Ryan movie, really.
- It’s Complicated (or any Nancy Meyers films)
Nancy Meyers is the Michelin-starred chef of cinematic comfort cuisine and here she serves up a richly flavoured dish of escapist storytelling, a true festival of gastro-lifestyle porn featuring rich people who don’t particularly regard themselves as such. Meryl Streep is the divorced woman with grown-up kids, who is now a “boulangère” of some sort. Her roguish lawyer ex-husband, played by Alec Baldwin, broke her heart by running off with a younger woman who is now failing to satisfy him on the life-affirming laughter front, so he starts having an affair with his ex-wife. You really do need to suspend your disbelief in this world of almost weightless freedom from work and ordinary money worries, but it is undeniably enjoyable and comforting in its weird way.
- Alexa Bouhelier-Ruelle
With a life-long passion for film and a master’s degree in journalism from the Sorbonne, Alexa joins Riviera Insider as our film critic.