TOP 10: Best Quarantine Movies

My friends Aaron and Matt over at The Retro Craptacular podcast were recently discussing their top 10 movies to watch in quarantine and asked me if I wanted to contribute a list! I was honoured and gave ’em a list and figured I’d put it out there on my blog as well. Make sure you check out their podcast before you leave!

So I figure in quarantine you either want a movie you can empathize with because of its themes of isolation and cabin fever or you want the complete opposite—a cozy sort of movie that transports you to a completely different world entirely. So this list is a mix of films in one camp or the other (maybe both in some cases). The ranking is preeeety much arbitrary.

10. Swiss Army Man (2016)swiss-army-man

I mean if you had a choice for a quarantine buddy, who wouldn’t want a corpse that can shoot grappling hooks out of his mouth!

9. The Breakfast Club (1985)mv5byjzhyti0y2mty2u2nc00mgfhltk2mgytntawmtq5yzbhmgi5l2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynzawmtu0nzk40._v1_

Bored, just like you! Flip this on, talk about your problems, and learn a new dance routine or two.

8. Little Women (2019)
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So cozy and fun and sad and just a total tear-jerker overall. Just so fucking good–watch this movie.

7. Robin Hood (1973)
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Funnest movie ever, with the most golden and cozy soundtrack in existence.

6. 10 Cloverfield Lane
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A cozy, cute film about a found family living together underground, playing board games and just having a grand old time.

5. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
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A grand, sweeping fantasy adventure with the most warmth of the three films in the trilogy.

4. The Shining (1980)
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^ Me every night after having my 4-year old jump on me all day.

3. Ex Machina (2014)
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Is there a more heavenly place to quarantine than this pristine futuristic mansion in idyllic wilderness with these two hunks and some dancing robots? Nothing could go wrong here right?

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
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Cuddle up with these cuties and all that magic and warm lighting and a nice mug o’ hot chocolate or (butter)beer.

1. All is Lost (2013)
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A relaxing ocean voyage alone with Robert Redford.

What are your thoughts on this list? What have you been watching lately?

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school. (IMDb)
Lots to like here, with a few concessions, in the characters (the meek and kind-hearted Newt and the fun Kowalski with a nice character arc are great, but Grindewald’s motivations needed more fleshing out); the plot (a nuanced take on good vs. evil–every party has both–is hindered by too many loose threads and a dragged-out ending); the themes (those on politics and environmental care are intriguing but surface-y); and the directing (the music and sets are excellent but the CGI is a bit much).
7/10 (Good)

RANKED: Harry Potter films

Now that my official mini-reviews for each film in the Harry Potter series are up, I figured I’d post a summary of how I rank them, from worst to best, in the hopes of hearing from you how you would rank them! What’s your favourite of the series and why?
As a huge fan of the books as well, I tried reeeeally hard to watch and review them as stand-alone works, but it was easier said than done. Anyways, click on the title for my official mini-review, and without further adieu:

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8. Goblet of Fire

Don’t get me wrong, this was still an enjoyable flick, but it kind of felt like the awkward 14 year old of the series. There’s a whole lot more going on at school (Tri-wizard tournament, a school dance) and outside of it (the Quidditch Cup fiasco), to go along with a heap of new characters (Cedric, Moody, Karkaroff, Crouch, Krum, Fleur, etc.). Amidst it all, the film is trying to transition to darker, more epic scale material, no longer just dealing with shenanigans at school. It just felt like it couldn’t quite handle it all at once, breezing through plot points trying to fit it all in.

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7. Chamber of Secrets

A fun sequel to the magical first installment, to be sure. The flying car; the slugs, the spiders, the snake; loser Lockhart, creepy Myrtle, frustrating Dobby… and an engaging mystery plot, to boot. The whole duelling bit was painful though… it was more like just politely taking turns to wave their wands and knock the other person back than any form of mutual combat. The ending, too… painfully cheesy. How does the whole school (minus Malfoy) all of a sudden love Hagrid so much so as to give him a standing ovation when he returns. Nothing against Hagrid, I like him, but the sentiment felt a little forced.

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6. Half-Blood Prince

Certainly the funniest of the lot, with its teen romance hijinks (Ron’s escapades with Romilda and Lavender are certainly a highlight), but also the darkest, with Snape’s dark turn, Malfoy’s sinister plan and inner torture, Voldemort’s backstory, and the crushing blow at the end. I just felt like the teen romance should have been dialed back a bit to let the dark bits develop more.

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5. Philosopher’s Stone

Everyone’s adorable, so that helps. Truly a magical beginning–the film does well in introducing the world and giving it that feeling of wonder–thanks largely to that iconic theme, the grand sets, the moody lighting, the mature camerawork.

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4. Order of the Phoenix

This was by far my least favourite when it first came out–but I think I was just disappointed by how it chalked up the shortest run-time for what was the longest book. And while I still cringed at Harry’s awkward hair and the awfully blue climactic scene in the Department of Mysteries, the third time around or so I could appreciate this film a lot more. I loved the development of Harry’s torturous connection with Voldemort and of course the irresistible rebellion plot. Dumbledore and Voldemort’s final duel was actually cool, too, unlike the painful examples from Chamber of Secrets.

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3. Deathly Hallows: Part 2

The most cinematically spectacular of the series, for sure: The chaotic action scenes at Hogwarts with Harry, Ron, and Hermione making their way through it all with the mournful music in the background were beautiful. Snape’s memory montage-epic, even though it raised some questions I couldn’t quite answer. I loved the way it tied in clips from the earlier movies, and so seamlessly edited its varying voiceovers and visuals. And of course, its aftermath–a punch to the gut. A finale that didn’t disappoint.

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2. Prisoner of Azkaban

Such a striking turn from the second film; though its plot bore similarities in structure to the previous two, its direction was a lot better. The film looked gorgeous, finally departing from the cozy but stuffy golden-tinged indoors of the first two films and incorporating in some beautiful scenery. It also flowed much better; the Whomping Willow transitional scene bits were a nice touch, and the conversations flowed more naturally too–a testament also to the maturing main three. The time-travel in the final act was also awesome; loved the way the film incorporated the clips from the “past” in the movie into the next scenes–Back to the Future style. Smooth and mature, the second best of the series!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I

1. Deathly Hallows: Part 1

THEY FINALLY SLOWED DOWN. I know that the books had a lot of content to incorporate, and it was tough to fit even just the necessary bits all in there without it feeling rushed, and that it obviously wouldn’t have worked to divide each book into two movie, but splitting the final book into two movies was the best thing that happened to the series. It allowed part 2 to really revel in cinematic glory, and it allowed part 1 to finally slow down the pace and let things simmer and build more gradually. There’s actual lingering character drama here, and slow-burning tension–nuanced feelings of frustration, hopelessness, jealousy. There are still exciting plot points (the Ministry break-in is great), and the setting is as beautiful and riveting as ever (the Voldemort takeover of the Ministry is chilling), but for once the story is allowed on occasion to take a backseat to the characters-making for the most mature, and best developed film of the series.

So tell me–how do you rank them?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

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Harry, Ron and Hermione search for Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes in their effort to destroy the Dark Lord as the final battle rages on at Hogwarts. (IMDb)
An epic finale: As the trio returns to Hogwarts only a quarter of the way in the film already has a climactic feel, sustained by a series of cinematically stunning action sequences, with Desplat’s mournful strings adding a tragic beauty to the chaotic proceedings. More notable though, is the series’ emotional apex–the perfectly edited Snape-memory sequence and its devastating aftermath. It raises a few plot-questions but the way it ties the whole saga together is unquestionably affecting.
8/10 (Great)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010)

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As Harry races against time and evil to destroy the Horcruxes, he uncovers the existence of three most powerful objects in the wizarding world: the Deathly Hallows. (IMDb)
A finally tempered pace produces superb results: The middle act with the main three in the forest is by far the most mature of the series, with its slow-burning character tension and nuanced feelings of frustration and hopelessness in a gorgeous natural setting. Aside from even more fresh material (see the handheld-shot chase scene, fantastic animation sequence) is great action (see the Ministry break-in) and a more-compelling-than-ever wizarding world, with its chilling new Nazi-like regime.
8/10 (Great)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

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As Harry Potter begins his sixth year at Hogwarts, he discovers an old book marked as “the property of the Half-Blood Prince” and begins to learn more about Lord Voldemort’s dark past. (IMDb)
A pleasing palette of murky greens and browns brings a fittingly mature visual tone to a film with more delicious dashes of darkness than its predecessors. Unfortunately, the plot never allows them to develop sufficiently (Voldemort’s backstory is severely limited, the Half-Blood Prince reveal is only one line) thanks in part to a burst of (admittedly entertaining) burgeoning hormone side-stories. The climax is devastating though; it’s too bad little else was allowed to live up to its potential.
7/10 (Good)

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)

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With their warning about Lord Voldemort’s return scoffed at, Harry and Dumbledore are targeted by the Wizard authorities as an authoritarian bureaucrat slowly seizes power at Hogwarts. (IMDb)
Harry’s intriguing inner demons that become a refreshing character-focused theme here instigate Radcliffe’s first standout turn of the series (“I just feel so angry, all the time”), as he leads the cast through a juicy rebellion-tinged plot (Staunton shines as the distasteful antagonist) marked by a couple well-crafted montages. On the down side, the final act is a bit lame (the spell-casting action still feels awkward), its climactic duel aside, and the prophecy bit is puzzlingly breezed over.
7/10 (Good)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

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Harry finds himself mysteriously selected as an under-aged competitor in a dangerous tournament between three schools of magic. (IMDb)
The script awkwardly attempts to juggle its new additions (foreign wizards, a school dance) with an already jam-packed line-up and drops the ball, hastily wrapping up or even discarding plot points (the final twist takes seconds and Crouch Sr. is left in the forest), whilst its secret antagonist is left mostly unexplained (Tennant’s overacting doesn’t make up for it). There are still lots of enjoyable bits here (see the thankfully well-paced graveyard scene) but the whole is a tad too messy.
6.5/10 (Alright)

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

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It’s Harry’s third year at Hogwarts; not only does he have a new “Defense Against the Dark Arts” teacher, but there is also trouble brewing. Convicted murderer Sirius Black has escaped the Wizards’ Prison and is coming after Harry. (IMDb)
The script still has some of the same skimmed-over feel as its predecessors (the terrific time-travel final act aside), but its direction is decidedly better: The cinematography is pleasingly mature with a buttery tone and beautiful wide-angle nature shots; the editing is smooth, featuring charming Whomping Willow scene transitions; and the dialogue flows more naturally (keep an ear out for the background conversations). Also notable is the fresh vigor with which Gambon portrays his Dumbledore.
8/10 (Great)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)

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Harry ignores warnings not to return to Hogwarts, only to find the school plagued by a series of mysterious attacks and a strange voice haunting him. (IMDb)
The plot is much meatier this time around: Introduced immediately, it’s a tantalizing monster mystery with connections to the past that grows darker with each passing scene, although it could have been explained with a little more subtlety. New bits of magic and characters bring more humour (see the Polyjuice Potion escapade and the outrageous Lockhart) but also more awkwardness (nearly every spell seems to do the same thing). Another unearned too-happy ending caps it off on cheesy note.
7/10 (Good)