I hadn't realised until it hit me this week, but the past few months' biggest films have all been continuations of over twenty year old franchises. From Jurassic World to Mad Max: Fury Road to Terminator: Genisys, every movie that's dominated the headlines so far this year have all been entries into decades old franchises. So, almost in a passive aggressive retaliation, with one exception this week we're looking exclusively at new and unique cinematic experiences.

You know the drill by now; we've got a run-down of five essential films that you absolutely need in your life this weekend. From the best thing Sean Penn has ever done (because, thankfully, he never turns up on-screen), two incredible but polar opposite neo-noirs, a challenging 2012 romance starring Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul and a musical re-telling with some questionable singers, this week's 405 Netflix Guide provides a darker alternative to the Blockbusters that have officially kicked off the summer season this week.


Into the Wild (2007)

Into the Wild

Recommended Viewing Time: Friday 8pm
"Mr Franz, I think careers are a 20th Century invention and I don't want one."

Based on a true story, Into the Wild's harrowing and heartfelt story of self-reflection and survival makes for one of the most exciting films of the past decade. While the story itself - one of a character attempting to find themselves by living off the land - has been done before, no film has ever quite managed to capture the sense of content isolation as much as Sean Penn's film does.

But the phrase "Sean Penn's film" does come with some of the indulgent baggage you'd expect, and the first hour does suffer from a creeping sense of pretension and privilege that threatens to derail the entire flick. Fortunately, once the movie really clicks and finds its footing that initial indulgence reveals itself to be absolutely integral to the story overall, and only serves to make the film more nuanced and morally grey because of it.

However the best thing about Into the Wild is that, at almost 2 and a half hours long, nothing in the film feels superfluous. Every story beat, every small character dialogue and every action set-piece feels essential to the themes of the picture, and the film's indulgences only add to the superbly crafted sense of character and personality that makes the movie so special. Although the protagonist isn't entirely likeable, not all of the narrative threads tie up perfectly and Penn's reliance on overwrought cinematic flairs feel at times disappointing, you'll only ever notice these faults days after Into the Wild's captivating and engrossing ride has long since ended.


Oldboy (2003)

Oldboy

Recommended Viewing Time: Saturday 8pm
"Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone."

Although the 2013 remake felt like a vacuous attempt to recapture the flair of the daring original, the 2003 Oldboy still holds a special place in the hearts of neo-noir fans everywhere. Going down in history as a genuine cult classic, Oldboy's sense of escalation and action provided the high bar for intimate cinematic spectacle that other movies have been trying to catch up to ever since. While its narrative payoff isn't quite for everyone, the legacy of Chan-Wook Park's post-modern masterpiece more than holds up over 10 years later.


Sin City (2005)

Sin City

Recommended Viewing Time: Saturday 10pm
"It's a lousy room in a lousy part of a lousy town."

Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of Frank Miller's violent graphic novel noir kick-started an entire new revolution of CGI in films, and whether or not you agree with the overuse of that technology since, there's no denying that Sin City's atmospheric cinematography completely captures the grungy aesthetic of the source material perfectly. Fortunately though, the film doesn't rely on the visual style as a crutch, as Rodriguez' brilliant sense of character, action and humour perfectly complements the stylized extravagance of Sin City's presentation.


Smashed (2012)

Smashed

Recommended Viewing Time: Sunday 6pm
"I think I need to slow down."

Aaron Paul's had a sketchy career since leaving Breaking Bad; going on to high profile action movies always felt like a mistake when the actor always excelled in more low-key dramatic roles. 2012's Smashed acts a prime example of this, as Paul shines in a film about the destructive reality of social alcoholism. With both Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Paul providing a charismatic and dynamic centre that keeps the movie grounded, Smashed's honest and intimate portrayal of substance abuse makes for one of the most sobering and memorable independent films of the last few years.


Les Misérables (2013)

Les Misérables

Recommended Viewing Time: Sunday 8pm
"There's nothing I blame you for. You've done your duty, nothing more."

Okay, bear with me here. The first time I saw Les Misérables I didn't get the hype; it seemed too long, the cinematography too suffocating and the acting too straight faced and smug. However, while all that is still true in a way, the film is much more than the sum of its parts and the sheer gravitas of the movie, with its epic scale and captivating performances, proves to be incredibly infectious if you're open to letting it in.