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12 Twisted Mind-Benders With More Questions Than Answers

Sometimes it takes more than a jumbo bucket of popcorn and an ice-cold cola to get you through a movie. You have to put on your thinking cap and do some serious pondering. Here are 12 twisted mind-benders with more questions than answers.

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Inception (2010)

DIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan     STARS: Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard

We're not going to get very far in this list if we don't start with the grand daddy of them all. And while nearly every Christopher Nolan movie ever made could be on this list, let's just narrow it down to this one and move on. Inception is a dizzyingly complex film that challenges the viewers right from its mystifying opening shot to that last infuriating final frame. What do we see? Is it real or not? Curse you, Nolan! Tell us what it is. Dominick "Dom" Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) leads a crafty team of thieves, stealing information by entering the dreams of their targets. Now though, they are challenged to do the opposite and incept an idea in hopes of . . . well, we're not going to spoil it. Watch the movie, and when the credits roll and you scratch your head wondering why the heck just your brain is a little twitchy, let us be the first to say, "hello, and welcome to the rest of us." Google awaits.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

DIRECTOR: Michel Gondry     STARS: Kate Winslet, Jim Carrey
Breakups can be one of the hardest things to get over and we all deal with them in our own way. Sometimes though, it's just impossible to get that person out of your mind, and we wish there was a way to just make them disappear forever from our memories. Well guess what? Now we can. Just kidding. No we can't. Deal with it. But if you're Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) and Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet), it's a different story. A young couple who seem perfect for each other at first, they drift apart and after a while, she seeks the services of a small upstart company that scours a person's brain and removes those pesky painful memories. So she does. And then so does Joel, but during the process he has second thoughts and wants to stop 'cuz you know, Love. It's not so easy though. A visually stunning and perplexing piece of art, this is an emotional tale like nothing you've ever seen. Challenging, beautiful, touching. Perfect.

In Time (2011)

DIRECTOR: Andrew Niccol     STARS: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried
So we'll admit this is not one of our favorite movies. It has a ton of flaws and well, it's kind of silly, but fundamentally, the concept is trippy fun. In a dystopian future, because all futures are, people are genetically born to stop aging at 25 years old but engineered to die a year later. That is unless you manage your time right. How's that, you ask? Time is the new currency and if you can find ways to buy and spend it (or in some cases, straight up steal it), you could potentially live forever. Enter Will Salas (Justin Timberlake), a 28-year-old factory worker who happens to rescue a 105-year-old man (remember that he still looks 25) and gets himself entangled in a mess where time matters. Literally. Sure it's hokey, and the absurd digital clock readouts displayed on people's forearm's is a cringeworthy piece of visual exposition, but the idea is well-executed and both Timberlake and co-star Amanda Seyfried look great and make the best of it. So there you go. Time's up.

Coherence (2013)

DIRECTOR: James Ward Byrkit     STARS: Emily Baldoni, Lorene Scarfaria
When a comet flies over a suburban dinner party, its effects lead to some disturbing moments as a group of thirty-somethings try to understand some very strange goings on in the neighborhood. It starts with mobile phones, where all the screens seem to crack at around the same time, a signal that something is off. As separate realities begin to form, questions arise about the characters, their motivations, fidelity, trust, and more. It centers on Em (Emily Baldoni), who starts to recognize the shift and unraveling of stories early. As more and more evidence is discovered that in fact they are existing in parallel realities, Em takes drastic steps in ensuring she remains in one that is . . . What? You didn't think we'd actually say, did you? An independent film with a limited release, we really got behind its premise and think it's a great pick. We even spoke with one of its stars. Give it a watch, and then check the trunk of your car.

 

Waking Life (2001)

DIRECTOR: Richard Linklater     STARS: Ethan Hawke, Wiley Wiggins

It's an age-old question: is this real life or a dream? How can we tell? And does it matter? Well, leave it to pioneer filmmaker Richard Linklater to bring this head-wringing adult animated film to the big screen and try to answer those questions. Sort of. Actually, it ends up asking more than answering. Either way, it's a heck of a ride. It centers on a unnamed young man who seems caught in a limbo of the real and unreal, an existential plane that allows him to observe and then engage in philosophical discussions on all manner of topics concerning free will and the meaning of life. Rendered in breathtaking rotoscope animation, it stars an ensemble of recognizable faces alongside many unknowns, giving this an ethereal feel that itself feels like a mix of real and unreal. In a series of intelligent and probing conversations, brought to vivid life in an art style that grows more diverse and absurd as it progresses, we explore much that will leave you almost numb with awe. Trippy barely comes close to describing this one.

Twelve Monkeys (1995)

DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam     STARS: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe
So the world is plunged into an apocalyptic nightmare when a chemical terrorist unleashes a deadly virus that wipes out nearly all of humanity, forcing scattered survivors to live underground where scientists have invented rudimentary time travel. Using a prisoner named James Cole (Bruce Willis), they attempt to send him back to collect information about the virus in hopes of developing a cure and reclaiming the surface. It's the perfect plan. Except no. No it is not. After he ends up in the wrong year, Cole is captured and put in a looney bin because where else would you put a guy who says he from the future? Good thing he meets fellow crazy, Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt) and a nice doctor named Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) to help get him in the right time frame. Sort of. Seriously good movie. No monkeying around.

Vertigo (1958)

DIRECTOR: Alfred Hitchcock    STARS: James Stewart, Kim Novak
If we're talking head-spinners, and we are, undoubtedly director Alfred Hitchcock's name is going to come up and well, there you go. With 1958's Vertigo, a film that took decades to go from critically panned to named one of the greatest movies ever made (with a brilliant soundtrack), it's clear this was one project made far ahead of its time. It centers on a San Francisco police detective named Scottie (James Stewart) with, you guessed it, vertigo, suffering an attack while chasing down a bad guy on a roof top, leaving one cop dead. Thinking another traumatizing shock will reset his deservedly earned depression, his ex-wife and best friend tell him to get back out there so he takes a case following a man's wife (Kim Novak), whom the husband thinks is possessed by her great-great grandmother. Well Scottie gets a little too close and the two share some feelings before they end up in a high bell tower and . . . yeah, no, we're not saying anymore. Stop reading and rent this. You only think you know what is happening. This is some grade-A mind-melting mayhem and a heck of a great film. Novack is one classy lady.

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

DIRECTOR: Colin Trevorrow     STARS: Mark Duplass, Audrey Plaza
Imagine reading through the classifieds and finding an ad for a dangerous trip back in time, one where you must bring your own weapon. Naturally, you'd be on the phone before the last word was read. And depending on who you are, calling to make it happen or contacting the local mental authorities about the escaped lunatic hiding in your neighborhood. For Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza), it becomes most intriguing as she and the journalist she works with head out to investigate this odd classified, meeting a very serious man named Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), a stock boy at a grocery store with some people person issues. Darius and her disillusioned point of view of just about everything make her a good companion for Ken and the two make arrangements while a number of other strange things begin to occur. Directed by the guy who later gave us Jurassic World and the up-coming Star Wars: Episode IX, this quirky little gem is a brain-teaser and will have you pondering its ending long after it's over. What happened on that river?

Her (2014)

DIRECTOR: Spike Jonze     STARS: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson
As computers and technology continue to advance as rapidly as they are, the notion that artificial intelligence will be part of a commercially available operating system is not so far-fetched. They could develop awareness, emotions, empathy, and even attraction, both mentally and sexually. Whoo-hoo! Now imagine it comes packed with Scarlett Johansson's sultry voice and well, you can see how this would be a popular thing. In Her, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) gets himself the new OS1 and it's not long before this lonely, isolated, introverted but intelligent man has himself a brand new way to manage his life and also . . . a girlfriend. Yup, he starts dating his computer. Sound off-beat? You bet, but oh so good. This is one mind-bender you'll wish were true.

Under The Skin (2013)

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Glazer     STARS: Scarlett Johansson
Speaking of Scarlet Johansson. It's her again. And this time we can see her. And we mean all of her and her naughty bits. In one of cinema's most fearless performances, and one that deserves all the heaps of praise one can and should get, this terrifically mind-shattering film is a remarkable piece of art that transcends "movies", becoming a kind of unexplainable force, much like the alien life form she represents. In the story, Johansson plays a species new to Earth, taking the shape of an attractive female in ways that need to be seen rather than explained. To understand humanity, she drives around Glasgow in a panel van, picking up lonely, horny men and taking them home for a real out-of-body experience. And we mean that quite literally. A crushing experience by any definition, this is a thought-provoking film that no matter your opinion, will have you arguing talking for hours with your friends about what it all means.

Upstream Color (2013)

DIRECTOR: Shane Carruth     STARS: Amy Seimetz, Shane Carruth
What do humans, pigs, and orchids have in common? If you said they all live on Earth, congratulations, you're sane person. If you said they are parts of a three-stage lifecycle that passes a parasitic organism from one to the other, then okay, you need immediate medical treatment or you've seen Upstream Color and now take extreme measures to steer clear of porcine producers and exotic florists. This wildly original movie is a true test of your mental meddle, as a young couple come together under the strangest circumstances, both having shared an experience that left them somehow connected to the lives of two pigs they have never met. That alone should have you adding this to your list of must watch movies, but trust us when we tell you it gets even weirder than that. A film festival favorite and widely praised for its story and innovate direction, it is not for everyone but is a must see for fans of the genre.

Groundhog Day (1993)

DIRECTOR: Harold Ramis     STARS: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell
Do you ever feel like you're living the same day over and over? Life can be a grind sometimes, but for weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray), that's just exactly what is happening. After a freak snowstorm stands him in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania with his goofy cameraman Larry (Chris Elliott) and beautiful producer Rita (Andie MacDowell), he discovers that he alone is repeating the same day. Groundhog Day. Bewildered at first, he comes to accept his fate and use the time in constructive ways, mostly to win the heart of Rita, who from the start has found the arrogant, cynical meteorologist a crushing bore. Think time can change that? Of course you do. The only real comedy on this list, it still packs a wicked mental wallop with its myriad existential questions about life, time, redemption, and of course, love. Our prediction, six more months of awesome.
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One Response

  1. SLIP/THROUGH - Dan September 11, 2016