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Staff & contributors

The key to what makes this apocalyptic thriller from Mr Robot and Homecoming showrunner Sam Esmail so unnerving is how resolute it is about not taking place in an alternate timeline. Making references to memorable events in recent history and namechecking real brands and cultural touchstones (like Tesla and Friends), Leave the World Behind is uncannily familiar — which, when combined with the film’s meticulous crafting of tension, makes it all the more unsettling.

Though taking place amidst an ambiguous national emergency, the film is largely set in one house — a claustrophobic setting that puts the characters’ self-conceits and prejudices under a microscope and forces them to confront their own impotence in an analog world. If it all sounds a bit “we live in a society,” be assured that Leave the World Behind cleverly manages to avoid the pitfalls of seeming like a bad Black Mirror ripoff by sidestepping expectations and deploying all the atmospheric tools in its arsenal. Withholding key plot and character information to increase our own paranoia means the movie always runs the risk of disappointment when explanations are finally given, but its focus on the human drama and its well-set-up ending ultimately eclipse any niggling frustrations.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Alexis Rae Forlenza, Charlie Evans, Erica Cho, Ethan Hawke, Farrah Mackenzie, Josh Drennen, Julia Roberts, Kevin Bacon, Mahershala Ali, Myha'la, Myha'la Herrold, Orli Gottesman, Sam Esmail, Vanessa Aspillaga

Director: Sam Esmail

Rating: R

Serenity is a futuristic sci-fi film that serves as a feature-length continuation of the story-line from the TV program Firefly (2002-2003). The story revolves around the captain (Nathan Fillion) and crew of the titular space vessel that operate as space outlaws, running cargo and smuggling missions throughout the galaxy. They take on a mysterious young psychic girl and her brother, the girl carrying secrets detrimental to the intergalactic government, and soon find themselves being hunted by a nefarious assassin (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The first feature-length film from Joss Whedon (The Avengers), Serenity is a lively and enjoyable adventure, replete with large-scale action sequences, strong characterizations and just the right touch of wry humor. An enjoyable viewing experience that stands alone without demanding that you have familiarity with the original program beforehand.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Amy Wieczorek, Carrie 'CeCe' Cline, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Colin Patrick Lynch, David Krumholtz, Demetra Raven, Dennis Keiffer, Elaine Mani Lee, Erik Erotas, Erik Weiner, Gina Torres, Glenn Howerton, Hunter Ansley Wryn, Jessica Huang, Jewel Staite, Linda Wang, Logan O'Brien, Marcus Young, Mark Winn, Marley McClean, Matt McColm, Michael Hitchcock, Morena Baccarin, Nathan Fillion, Nectar Rose, Neil Patrick Harris, Peter James Smith, Rafael Feldman, Rick Williamson, Ron Glass, Ryan Tasz, Sarah Paulson, Scott Kinworthy, Sean Maher, Summer Glau, Tamara Taylor, Terrell Tilford, Terrence Hardy Jr., Tristan Jarred, Weston Nathanson, Yan Feldman

Director: Joss Whedon

Rating: PG-13

The Cabin in the Woods came to be as Buffy The Vampire Slayer writers Drew Goddard and and Joss Whedon set themselves on a mission to upgrade the slasher genre. With this film, they wanted to satirize the way it slips into torture porn. In other words, they aspired to make a clever, punchy new classic. Amassing a 30 million dollar budget attests to their hopes: a massive backend of VFX work provided an elaborate film world, where different levels of 'reality' are at play. As six college students head into the woods to spend a debaucherous weekend undisturbed, a whole underground laboratory monitors their every move. It appears that a big operation is underway to trap the unsuspecting crowd into a curated murder scenario, straight out of a horror movie. Among the victims, we see Chris Hemsworth at the time his career was just taking off, so that's history in the making for you.

Unfortunately, in its devotion to provocatively render some horror tropes irrelevant, The Cabin in the Woods cannot help but reinforce others. It still carries the whiff of the late 2000s' misogyny in the way it portrays women and it certainly doesn't try hard enough to disrupt the genre's opposition to female sexuality. The characters of Dana (the virgin) and Jules (the experienced one) are sure to make you wince, as they're written as flat as a piece of paper. So you say no to torture porn, but embrace misogyny...?

Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Adrian Holmes, Amy Acker, Anna Hutchison, Aya Furukawa, Brad Dryborough, Bradley Whitford, Brian J. White, Chelah Horsdal, Chris Hemsworth, Dan Payne, Dan Shea, Ellie Harvie, Fran Kranz, Greg Zach, Heather Doerksen, Jesse Williams, Jodelle Ferland, Kristen Connolly, Lori Stewart, Matt Drake, Matt Phillips, Maya Massar, Nels Lennarson, Patrick Gilmore, Patrick Sabongui, Peter Kelamis, Phillip Mitchell, Richard Cetrone, Richard Jenkins, Rukiya Bernard, Sigourney Weaver, Terry Chen, Terry Notary, Tim DeZarn, Tom Lenk

Director: Drew Goddard

Rating: R