Top 10 Films That Will Make You Question Your Own Reality

Chosen by Maddy Glenn

Director Ari Folman’s mind-bending The Congress – the partly animated, partly live-action movie that wowed Cannes earlier this year – gets its UK release next month. Robin Wright (playing a version of herself) signs a contract with “Miramount studios” who preserve her as an avatar in a new computer programme. Twenty years later, technology has advanced ever further and the human race is addicted to a drug that allows them to live a life of dreams.

If that isn’t head-spinning enough for you, here’s a list of the top 10 films that make us question our own reality, tapping into mankind’s fear of the unknown and shaking up everything we thought we knew about our world.

1. The Matrix

MATRIX, THE ? Warner BrosThe red pill or the blue pill? Which would you take? – The Matrix is a computer simulator in which our minds live their lives, while our bodies lie preserved in the old “real” world. Thomas Andeson is a computer programmer who maintains a double life as an online hacker, “Neo”. Upon discovery of The Matrix, Anderson finds himself hunted by men in suits and has to rely upon fellow hackers, Trinity and Morpheus, to keep him alive. When Morpheus gives him the choice of ignorance or truth, the life that he knows is dramatically shaken as he learns that none of it was ever real.

2. Inception

InceptionLayer upon layer – Dom Cobb is a fugitive and skilled thief, stealing secrets stored deep within his victims’ subconscious during the ‘dream state’. In return for redemption, Cobb and his team of specialists are given a task; not to steal a thought but to plant one, a process called ‘inception’. Using a ‘totem’ – an object used to test if you’re in reality or a dream state – they manage to keep track of themselves. But can dreams become reality?

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (warning: hugely misleading trailer).

Film Title: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind.Quiet Joel and the ever-changing hair – Two lovers (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) erase their memories of each other when their relationship begins to fade. During the film we see into the diminishing memories of Joel Barish and start to question whether we, ourselves, are in a memory or in reality, or whether we’ve erased anything before.

4. The Host

The HostBella Swan meets the aliens  – From Stephanie Meyer’s novel of the same name, comes a seemingly harmless Sci-fi/Fantasy in which an alien life form takes over the minds of humans. Despite their peace-loving nature, they threaten our sense of identity. Melanie Stryder fights to prevent Wanderer from taking over her mind; resulting in a dual personality with dual love interests.

5. The Truman Show

TRUMAN SHOW JIM CARREY (c) Paramount PicturesAll the world’s a stage – Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives an ordinary life in the picture perfect town of Seahaven, unaware that he is the star of a documentary come reality TV show and that all his family and friends are actors. In the course of the film, he uncovers the secret and learns that his whole life was a lie.

6. The Congress

The CongressA slippery slope – Robin Wright (starring as a version of herself) is a fading celebrity who signs on with a film company who have discovered a new scientific development: A programme that allows actors to be saved and preserved as a memory chip, owned by the “Miramount” studio. The new discoveries slowly turn ever more sinister when a drug is released to the public, preserving them in their cartoon avatars, living the life of their dreams.

7. Memento

MEMENTO GUY PEARCE (C)  PATHEFaulty memory – Leonard (Guy Pearce) faces trauma watching the violent death of his wife and, as a result, suffers (oddly specific) short-term memory loss. We watch his pursuit for revenge in reverse and join in with his confusion…whether we’re meant to or not…

8. Secret Window

Secret WindowCurious incidents (including a dog in the night-time) – “You stole my story, Mr Rainey,” says Shooter, the movie’s villian. Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp), living in a down-beat shack, is pursued and threatened by the mysterious John Shooter, who claims that Rainey stole his story. After a series of murders, threatening letters and disturbing omens, the movie takes a turn – who is Mort Rainey and who is John Shooter? Are they not they same person?

9. The Thirteenth Floor

The Thirteenth FloorComputer scientist Hannon Fuller leaves his colleague, Douglas Hall, his newest discovery: a computer generated parallel world set in the (highly romanticised) 30′s. Similar to the Matrix, this film draws a parallel to computer programmes and ordinary life and, ultimately, asks “when does reality become reality?”

10. Total Recall

Total RecallA machine that can implant memory – Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenneger (1990), Colin Farrell (2012)) discovers “Rekall”; a company that provides memory implants. Quaid opts for memories of being a secret agent on Mars but the procedure, seemingly, goes wrong. On his way home, events slip into the bizarre and we start to question whether or not the procedure actually did go wrong.

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Joe | Film review – Cage dials down the craziness for compelling Deep South tale

Joe - Nicolas Cage

Nicolas Cage dials down the craziness to deliver a performance of true sensitivity and depth in absorbing American indie drama Joe.

Not that his character doesn’t have a wild side. An ex-con leading a tree-poisoning crew for a lumber company in the Deep South, Cage’s Joe is reckless, volatile and hot headed. Yet he has a fundamentally decent core, as becomes clear when he takes downtrodden 15-year-old boy Gary (Tye Sheridan from Mud) under his wing.

Based on the 1991 novel by Larry Brown, this is a film is laden with symbolism – with Cage’s Joe much like the doomed trees destined to make way for young saplings – but director David Gordon Green creates such a convincing sense of gritty, sweat-soaked authenticity that this never gets in the way of the story.

The fact that genuine labourers play Joe’s work crew add to the realism, but it’s the figure of Gary’s violent alcoholic father, played by non-professional actor Gary Poulter, that gives the naturalism a real edge. A homeless man who had never acted before, he goes toe to toe with Cage and more than holds his own. Tragically, Poulter died, found dead in three feet of water after a drinking binge, only a few months after completing the film.


Certificate 15. Runtime 117 mins. Director David Gordon Green.

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Small Screen – this week’s top ten…

Compiled by Maddy Glenn

1. Non-Stop4-single_stars

Threats on a plane – Set on an airplane in flight, aptly named Non-Stop grabs the attention of action fans in a thrilling quest to catch an anonymous murdering blackmailer.

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2. The Grand Budapest Hotel5_single_stars

The legend and the lobby boy – Unusually comic Ralph Fiennes stars as the concierge in a glorious hotel. Despite a cacophony of troubles backstage, including murder, art theft and charming rogues, the hotel is managed with flawless aplomb.

3. Under The Skin4-single_stars

Skin deep – An alien in the form of Scarlett Johanssen crawls the streets in search of men to feed on. Unnerving, yet compelling, this film explores the shallow nature of gender roles while simultaneously showing their depth.

4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes4-single_stars

A cautionary tail – James Franco plays a scientist in possesion of a possible cure for Alzheimer’s. Motion-captured Andy Serkis is his pet chimp, Caesar; a chimp with unusual abilities…

5. The Book Thief2-single_stars

Novel approach… Markus Zusak’s bestselling book, about a young girl who transforms the lives of those around her when she’s sent to live with a foster family in World War II Germany, is brought to life by Downton Abbey director Brian Percival.

6. Ride Along2-single_stars

On patrol… A fast-talking security guard (Kevin Hart) is partnered with a grizzled detective (Ice Cube) on a ‘ride along’ he’ll never forget in this mismatched buddy comedy.

7. The Hooligan Factory2-single_stars

Fool School – Ever pondered the definition of ‘hooligan’? Trust me, this film will give you every nitty gritty detail of the hooligan life. The Hooligan Factory tells Danny’s comic tale: a man who just wanted “to be someone; to be part of something”.

8. The Wolf of Wall Street4-single_stars

Money, Money, Money… Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Wall Street stock broker Jordan Belfort, living a life of money, madness and excess.

9. RoboCop3-single_stars

Part man, part machine… After being injured in the line of duty, good cop Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is transformed into a crime-fighting cyborg.

10. Lone Survivor3-single_stars

Do or die… A four man team of Navy Seals is left heavily outnumbered, fighting for their lives in Afghanistan.

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What is the Meaning of Life? Quirkiest tweets win Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem on DVD!


Have you caught the latest Terry Gilliam film The Zero Theorem? Its UK DVD and Blu-Ray  release is today, 21st July 2014.

Protagonist Qohen Leth is anticipating a phonecall that will give him the meaning to his life. In light of this, we’re asking you to give us your existential and fun theories on the meaning of life in only 140 characters! Tweet us here: @MovieTalkBlog

We know it’s no easy task answering this question in so few words, so to compensate for your hardworking brains we have three copies of the film on DVD to give away to the three readers who tweet us the quirkiest answer, so get tweeting!

(Fun fact: Gilliam was inspired by an image on Google Earth for the setting of the movie!)

Released on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital on Monday 21st July by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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The Zero Theorem | Film review – Christoph Waltz startles in Terry Gilliam’s latest retro-dystopian fable

The Zero Theorem - Mélanie_Thierry

Terry Gilliam created a surreal comic masterpiece with his 1985 film Brazil, but he fails to pull off the same feat with this similarly retro-futuristic dystopian tale, The Zero Theorem. Christoph Waltz, startlingly bald and sometimes even more startlingly nude, plays the story’s hapless hero, the bizarrely named Qohen Leth. A hopelessly neurotic computer genius who lives in a derelict chapel, he toils away crunching numbers for the all-powerful ManCom Corporation, trying to solve a mathematical puzzle that will prove whether or not life has any meaning. Gilliam stuffs the screen with dazzling design, fleeting visual gags and zany cameos – Tilda Swinton pops up as Qohen’s goofy online therapist; Matt Damon as his enigmatic boss – but the story is too frustratingly muddled for his film to add up to another classic.


Certificate 15. Runtime 106 mins. Director Terry Gilliam.

Released on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital on Monday 21st July by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Win The Zero Theorem on DVD!

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Win A Hard Day’s Night 50th Anniversary Restoration Edition on Blu-ray


The year is 1964 and Beatlemania is in full swing. The biggest band on the planet are about to make their big screen debut. The film is A Hard Day’s Night, a seminal piece of filmmaking that shows The Beatles as they’ve never been seen before.

To celebrate its 50th Anniversary, the film has been given a 4k digital restoration approved by director Richard Lester, with newly created stereo and 5.1 surround mixes. Hot on the heels of its return to UK cinemas, a special edition DVD and Blu-ray release arrives on Monday 21 July 2014, courtesy of Second Sight Films, and we have three copies of the Blu-ray for you to win. To be in with a chance of winning simply answer the following question by filling in the form below.

Q: Wilfred Brambell, who plays Paul’s meddling grandfather in A Hard Day’s Night, is best known for appearing in which classic British sitcom?

  • Are You Being Served?
  • Steptoe and Son
  • Rising Damp

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Competition closes 4pm Friday 8 August. Terms and Conditions apply.



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Deception | Film review – Geoffrey Rush shines in seductive fable of fakes and forgeries in art and life

Deception - Geoffrey Rush as Virgil Oldman

Geoffrey Rush is on superb form as the repressed protagonist of Deception (also known as The Best Offer), a teasing romantic mystery from Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore.

His art auctioneer Virgil Oldman is a finicky, phobic man who prefers the company of paintings to people and keeps the world at arm’s length – until he is drawn into an intrigue involving an agoraphobic young heiress (Sylvia Hoek) whose decaying villa is stuffed temptingly full of antique treasures.

Deception - Donald Sutherland as Billy Whistler

Virgil has no scruples about resorting to sharp practice when it comes to getting his hands on art – as we see from his dealings with wily auction-room sidekick Billy Whistler (a twinkling, whiskery Donald Sutherland) – but when the reclusive Claire Ibbetson invites him to appraise her family’s works of art he finds unfamiliar emotions beginning to disturb his usual self-possession.

Claire fails to turn up for their initial meetings at the villa, but his exasperation turns to fascination after the unseen young woman, concealing herself behind a magnificent trompe l’oeil wall, persuades him to continue with the project.

Becoming more and more enthralled by Claire, he turns to young mechanical whiz Robert (Jim Sturgess), seemingly his solitary friend, for advice on how to woo her. And Robert is also helping him fulfil a second passion, to reconstruct a priceless automaton whose disassembled parts he has uncovered in the villa. But what really is going on?


Tornatore keeps us off balance by not revealing where this intrigue is taking place – the film’s unnamed European setting is a composite of more than half a dozen different cities, including Trieste, Bolzano, Fidenza, Rome, Milan and Vienna.

He lays on the symbolism about the nature of fakes and forgeries in art and life a bit thickly, and the film’s mix of accents offers a distinct whiff of Europudding. You will probably even see some of the twists coming. Yet the film is still terrifically compelling. Rush keeps us swinging between repulsion and sympathy for his prickly character, and the production design – which includes stunning recreations of the old master paintings that Virgil hoards in a secret room – is a marvel.


Certificate 15. Runtime 125 mins. Director Giuseppe Tornatore.

Released on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital on Monday 21st July by Signature Entertainment.

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I Am Divine (2013) | Cinema release – The definitive portrait of the cult underground superstar

I Am Divine movie posterI Am Divine is the story of Divine, aka Harris Glenn Milstead, from his humble beginnings as a bullied and teased youth from Baltimore to internationally recognised drag superstar through his collaboration with filmmaker John Waters. Spitting in the face of status quos of body image, gender identity, sexuality and preconceived notions of beauty, Divine was the ultimate outsider turned underground royalty. With a completely committed in-your-face style, he blurred the line between performer and personality, and revolutionised pop culture.


Featuring rare movie footage, live performances and with brand new interviews with Hairspray and Polyester director John Waters, actors Ricki Lake and Tab Hunter, and Divine’s mother Frances Milstead (who provided her final interview just months before she passed away) in addition to many more of Divine’s family, friends, colleagues and forever indebted devotees, this is the definitive biography honouring Divine in a way he always craved: as a serious artist and immortal star.


In select cinemas in the UK and Ireland from 18th July 2014

Check out the Facebook page for some cool screening events in the UK and Ireland

Available on DVD and VoD from September 2014 – Pre Order Now

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes | Cinema release – Explosive! Exhilarating! Epic! Long live Caesar and his fur-tastic adventures

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Movie Poster

Apes Strong Together!
Ten years after a man-made simian flu epidemic has decimated the human population on Earth, Ceasar (Andy Serkis) and his genetically enhanced simian pals have established a colony of their own in Muir Woods National Park outside San Francisco. But their existence comes under threat by a small group of humans, headed up by the good-natured Malcolm (Jason Clarke), who want to restart a hydroelectric dam in order to restore power to the city.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 10

When young ape Ash is shot and wounded by Carver (Kirk Acevedo), a member of Malcolm’s group, Caesar’s leadership and loyalty is called into question by Koba (Toby Kebbell), the bonobo chimp that Ceasar saved during their flight from captivity a decade ago. Wanting no ape blood spilled, Ceasar brokers a deal with the humans: they can repair the dam, but only if the humans in the city leave the colony alone in return.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Ceasar, however, is unaware that Dreyfus (Gary Oldman), the humans’ self-appointed leader, is preparing to wipe out the apes using a cache of weapons stored in an armory. But there’s an even greater threat closer to home. Still nursing the physical and psychological scars of being tortured and kept locked in a cage by humans, Koba plots to dethrone Ceasar and convince Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston), the ape leader’s impressionable son, to join him on a devastating attack on the city’s unsuspecting inhabitants…

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 14

Explosive! Exhilarating! Epic!
This sequel to 2011’s surprise hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes is everything a cinema blockbuster should be, and amazingly its even better than its predecessor. The motion capture effects are so darn impressive that its impossible not to get caught up in the riveting story or be won over by the nuanced performances that come through the digitally-created simian characters, especially Serkis’s heroic Ceasar and Kebbell’s vengeful Koba.

If there is one criticism its with Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee), Malcolm’s teenage son, whose story ends up getting lost in the 3D fray. He does however get to share some quality screen time with one of my favourite simian characters, Maurice the orangutan (named after Maurice Evans, the British actor who played Dr Zaius in Planet of the Apes).

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes certainly does share the same nihilistic themes that were key to the final films of the original franchise, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (1971) and Battle of the Planet of Apes (1973), and has some knowning nods to the earlier entries, but this futuristic adventure is very much its own chest-beating beast. And if the final shot is anything to go by then long may the fur-tastic simian adventures continue.

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Some Like It Hot – Billy Wilder’s black-and-white comedy classic is back in cinemas

SOME LIKE IT HOT  - Marilyn Monroe as Sugar Kane

Twenties musicians Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon flee from Chicago mobsters after witnessing the St Valentine’s Day Massacre, join an all-girl jazz band disguised as women and make the acquaintance of Marilyn Monrie’s sweet and sexy Sugar Kane…

Hard to believe, but Billy Wilder’s classic comedy Some Like It Hot had American censors furrowing their brows back in 1959 with its salacious mixture of snappy mobsters and comic cross-dressers, not to mention Marilyn Monroe squeezing herself into a series of increasingly tight dresses. Of course, these days it all seems so innocent and one can appreciate the superb performances, not least Tony Curtis’s pitch-perfect imitation of Cary Grant.


Certificate 12A. Runtime 121 mins. Director Billy Wilder.

Some Like It Hot is back in cinemas from 18 July, opening at BFI Southbank, Irish Film Institute, Filmhouse Edinburgh, Glasgow Film Theatre and selected cinemas nationwide.

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