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Don's ESL Journey
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Sup? I hail from Los Angeles and been teaching English in China for 7 years. And yep, I never would of thought!
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Looking to watch 5 awesome films and TV series that you’ve probably never heard of? Well of course you are! Who’s crazy enough to turn down recommendations for great entertainment!?
One of my absolute favorite hobbies since I was a kid is watching movies and television. There’s nothing like kicking back, ripping open a freshly popped bag of butter popcorn and catching a cool flick.
What’s more, put together a great script, director, cast, cinematographer, musical score, and visual effects, and I’m not only likely to painstakingly persuade my friends into checking out what I've seen, but I am also capable of spending around 4hrs putting together an article on Don’s ESL Adventure detailing my recommendations. Ha! With that being said, here’s my list of 5 awesome movies & TV shows you've probably never seen and should check out ASAP:
Black Mirror is hands-down thee best speculative-fiction television anthology of present day.
I was introduced to the series by a co-worker in one of our usual discussions covering popular television and film releases. “You have to watch this show, trust me!” he exclaimed. He even provided a direct link to a local Chinese website as to where I could watch it. That very same night I loaded it up, plugged my computer into the TV using an HDMI cable, pulled out the butter popcorn and hit play on Series 1. I ended up viewing all 6 episodes from Series 1 and Series 2 into the wee hours of the morning. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Created by Charlie Brooke, Black Mirror consists of 3 series with a total of 7 distinctive episodes (about 45 minutes to an hour long each) that examine modern society using dark, fantastical and futuristic settings. Think Twilight Zone meets Tales From the Crypt meets House of Cards. The British mini-series has received critical acclaim across the globe, even winning the Best TV/Mini-Series category at the International Emmy Awards in November of 2012
The series is brilliantly written, directed, casts, and shot. It’s full of enthralling themes that will surely have you debating at the water-cooler and wanting more following your first viewing. Just take a look at some of the thoughts that ran through my mind on my first watch:
“The Prime Minister must do WHAT to that pig!?” “I wish I could press a button and playback all of my life’s history in my head, too.” “Are you telling me the general public let an animated cartoon become a real life president!?” There’s so much more to this, trust me.
Created by: Charlie Brooker
Release Date: 2011
Check out the trailer to Black Mirror here.
Over the past few years there have been quite a few fantastical movies fixed around historical periods and figures. There was DJango Unchained, for instance, which was a stylized Spaghetti Western centered around an African-American slave reeking revenge on slave masters. There was Inglorious Basterds, which chronicled a group of American-soldiers in their attempt to assassinate Hitler. And there was Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, which is probably the worst film of all-time and unworthy of a description. Yet for me, there’s one movie that tops the list as the best fictional, alternate history film: Iron Sky.
Imagine a world where following defeat in World War II, Nazis fled to the dark side of the moon to setup an advanced military fortress in hopes of ravaging the world once again in the future. Well, that premise is a “reality” in Timo Vuorensola’s 2012 comedy Iron Sky.
From the opening scene to the closing credits, Iron Sky delivers the laughs as chaos unfolds when Nazis interact with the modern-day world. The movie does a fantastic job incorporating parodies of popular related Youtube videos such as “Hitler reacts to…,” and of prominent political and historical figures like Sarah Palin and Albert Einstein. Furthermore, the movie hysterically dabbles with racial humor and contains a boatload of great SFX that would make anyone doubt that its a low-budget film.
All in all, Iron Sky is pure comedy and nothing else. Those looking for a smart comedy are better off watching a Steve Martin or Billy Crystal film. If you’re looking to get baked and laugh your socks off, pop in Iron Sky.
Director: Timo Vuorensola
Starring: Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Götz Otto
Release Date: 2012
Check out the trailer to Iron Sky here.
Predestination is an exceptionally written and directed Australian science fiction film. The story chronicles the life of a “temporal agent,” played by Ethan Hawke, that travels throughout time to prevent major crimes from ever occurring. Drama ensues as we learn that our hero is caught in a seemingly never-ending pursuit of an elusive criminal.
Predestination plays much like a roller-coaster ride; the build-up is full of suspense, then there’s a sudden drop and you’re tossed into a series of twist, turns, and wild fun at every second until you’ve arrived at the end. And once off the ride, there’s surely the debate about what exactly just happened.
Though most sci-fi films will attempt to throw viewers on a “wild ride,” most fail terribly. Predestination, however, is one of the rare gems that pulls it off brilliantly. The rich dialogue between characters as they move through a compelling narrative of time-travel paradoxes is the powerhouse of this film. Much like Back to the Future Part II, the fun begins when the temporal agent travels back in time to meet his, err, “acquaintances.”
In addition, although Ethan Hawke delivers a flawless performance, it is the extraordinary breakout performance by Sarah Snook, who transitions from a sweet, gentle girl to a hard-edged tomboy (you’ll have to see the movie to understand!), that truly drives this movie forward.
Based On: "—All You Zombies—" by Robert A. Heinlein
Director: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook
Release Date: 2014
Check out the trailer to Predestination here.
Enthiran is a mind-blowing 2010 Indian science-fiction blockbuster film. The story centers around a scientist that builds a sophisticated android in his own image that, upon being upgraded to comprehend human emotions, falls in love with the girlfriend of his very own creator. Drama follows as the robot turns on the scientist and tries to steal away his love interest.
There are several things I found interesting about Enthiran. The first was the exposure that I received to Indian culture and people. From costume designs, sets, locations, scores, and musical performances strangely inter-cut between scenes, I had discovered a brand new world.
Two, like the ever-so-popular Austin Powers films, both the hero and the villain are played by the same actor, Mr. Shivaji Rao Gaekwad, better known as Rajinikanth. Rajinikanth gives an absolutely phenomenal performance as Dr. Vaseegara, the humbly-spirited scientist, and as Chitti, the animated, evil-ridden android robot.
Three, the special effects and action sequences in Enthiran are ridiculously good. The tricks and varying combat techniques that unload from the android’s arsenal are visually stunning and wonderfully directed. After viewing the film, it’s not hard to realize that this was India’s most expensive film at the time, and at the same time, India’s highest-grossing movie.
Director: S. Shankar
Starring: Rajinikanth, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Release Date: 2010
Check out the trailer to Enthiran here.
Snowpiercer is a fantastically inventive South Korean sci-fi action film based on the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette. It’s loaded with visually stunning set pieces, a phenomenal cast, great acting, plenty of violence and gore, wonderfully crafted dialogue, and a well-paced, thrilling narrative all crammed into the confines of a moving train. That’s right, a train!
Snowpiercer is set in the far future where all human life on the Earth has been wiped out by a climate-change experiment that went catastrophically wrong. Only a lucky few have managed to survive by boarding the Snowpiercer, a colossal train that circles the globe. Furthermore, drama unfolds when a group of suppressed passengers take action to overthrow the corrupt upper-class that manages the social order within the train.
Snowpiercer has all the elements of an epic sci-film, only packed into low budget movie. The movie’s premise is as sci-fi as it gets, focusing on the dire outcome of humanity, with science and technology contributing to the ups and downs set in their reality.
In terms of star power, Chris Evans, famous for his role as Marvel’s Captain America, is our main protagonist that leads a pack of supporting characters played by Academy-Award winner Octavia Spencer, Jaime Bell, and John Hurt. Ed Harris and Tilda Swinton are also wonderfully cast as the sick, twisted adversaries our heroes must go up against.
Additionally, Snowpiercer doesn’t rely on heavy special effects to push the movie; after all, shots of the train powering through snow are forgettable. Yet, much of the movie’s visuals derive from its costume and production design, which parallel the varying social statuses that have formed between the train’s tail, where low class workers and commoners preside, and its front, where you’ll find the likes of the privileged top brass, royal aristocrats, and engineers. This visually distinctive contrast between cabins is surely enough to keep viewers locked into events occurring in the movie.
Based On: “Le Transperceneige” by Jacques Lob
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton
Release Date: 2013
Check out the trailer for Snowpiercer here.
Well, that’s my list. I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I did! Let me know what you think about them down below. If you also have more movies to share, don’t hesitate to leave a comment, as well
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