24 Hour Party People (Michael Winterbottom, 2002)

On June 4, 1976, a television presenter named Tony Wilson watched the Sex Pistols perform at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. The audience for the pioneering punk band was decidedly small; fewer than fifty people attended. Nonetheless, many of these people would go on to have promising music careers of their own. To harness the energy of this new wave of music sweeping Manchester, Wilson founds a record label he dubs Factory Records, signing a promising collected called Joy Division as their first band.

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Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007)

A sixteen-year-old high-school student named Juno MacGuff has just discovered she is pregnant. The father is a good friend of hers – Paulie Bleeker, though she didn’t count on this to result from his first time. Realizing she wouldn’t be fit to raise this child, she initially considers an abortion. When she reaches the clinic, however, she changes her mind and decides to put the baby up for adoption instead. Juno manages to find a couple – Mark and Vanessa – willing to agree to a closed adoption.

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Knowing (Alex Proyas, 2009)

In 1959, a young girl named Lucinda Embry heard whispers from an unidentified being while staring at the sun. She convinced her school to make a time capsule, and each of the students drew a picture of what they believed the future would look like. However, Lucinda began writing down random numbers to put into the capsule. She went missing after the capsule was buried. When she was found, she had been scratching numbers into the door of a utility closet. Fifty years have passed since that day and the time capsule is about to be opened.

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The Incredible Hulk (Louis Leterrier, 2008)

General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross once met with Dr. Bruce Banner, the boyfriend of his daughter, Betty, with an interesting proposition. Ross aims to recreate the results of a World War II-era program in order to create an army of super soldiers. Had it been successful, he would’ve found a way to make humans immune to gamma radiation. Unfortunately, the experiment failed, and the radiation caused Banner to transform into a giant, raging beast for brief periods whenever his heart rate exceeds 200 beats per minute. Five years have passed since that day, and Banner now works at a bottling factory in Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro. He is determined to seek a cure for his condition, secretly corresponding with an unidentified individual known as Mr. Blue. He has not transformed in five months, but his peaceful existence is not to last.

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The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)

As the nineteenth century comes to a close, Robert Angier and Alfred Borden work as shills for a famous magician in London. One trick in the magician’s repertoire involves Angier’s wife, Julia, escaping from a water tank while tied up. The act takes a tragic turn when Julia fails to escape the tank and drowns despite the shills’ best efforts. Furious over the loss of his wife, Angier blames Borden, believing that tying a double knot directly caused this tragedy. Shortly thereafter, the two launch their own careers, fiercely determined to upstage the other in a war that threatens to consume them both.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003)

WARNING: The premise of this film contains unmarked spoilers for the story thus far.

Two hobbits, Sméagol and Déagol, were fishing in a river when the latter discovered a mysterious ring in the water. Upon seeing it, Sméagol killed his friend for the ring and retreated into the Misty Mountains. Over time, the ring’s power twisted his body and mind until he became a creature named Gollum. It was, in reality, the One Ring, an artifact forged by Sauron the Dark Lord in the Second Age of Arda in his campaign for world conquest. Many centuries have passed since that day. Gollum, having discovered that a hobbit named Frodo Baggins now bears the ring, will stop at nothing to retrieve it.

Meanwhile, Saruman, Sauron’s second-in-command has fallen, betrayed by his own servant, Gríma. At Isengard, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, and King Théoden reunite with Merry and Pippin. Gandalf retrieves Saruman’s palantír. Pippin looks into the stone as the wizard sleeps only to be telepathically assaulted by Sauron. Gandalf concludes that Sauron intends to attack Gondor in retaliation for his defeat at Helm’s Deep. Taking Pippin with him, Gandalf rides to Gondor’s capital city, Minas Tirith as his alliance prepares for one final battle against the forces of Mordor.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)

WARNING: The premise of this film contains unmarked spoilers for the story thus far.

Dire circumstances have torn the Fellowship of the Ring apart. Gandalf the Grey sacrificed himself to fend off the powerful Balrog, Boromir was mortality wounded in an Uruk-hai attack after attempting to take the One Ring in desperation, and Merry and Pippin have been taken captive. This has prompted Frodo and his friend Sam to journey alone to Mount Doom on their quest to destroy the One Ring, though they soon find that one of the ring’s previous owners is interested in reclaiming it. Meanwhile, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, have happened upon the Rohirrim. Their leader, Éomer, has informed them that Saruman’s servant, Grima Wormtongue, has manipulated their king into turning a blind eye to the forces of Mordor running rampant throughout Rohan. As the One Ring draws closer to Mount Doom, the flames of war threaten to erupt in a mighty conflagration.

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The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)

This story takes place in a world called Middle-earth. The history of this world is divided into three ages. The second age was defined by a massive conflict that threatened to reduce the world to ashes. The lords of Elves, Dwarves, and Men were given Rings of Power. However, the Dark Lord Sauron had forged the One Ring to rule them all in the fires of Mount Doom. His goal was nothing short of total world domination. An alliance of men and elves battled Sauron’s forces in the land of Mordor. In the ensuing fight, Prince Isildur of Gondor manages to sever Sauron’s hand and the ring with it, thereby causing the Dark Lord’s physical form to dissipate. With Sauron’s defeat, a new age is ushered in when Isildur, rather than destroying the One Ring, keeps it for himself. Tragically, the ring corrupts the prince, eventually leading to his downfall. The ring is lost shortly thereafter, and is found by a creature named Gollum 2,500 years later. He himself owns it for 500 years before it eventually falls under the possession of the most unlikely person imaginable: a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins.

Sixty years have passed since his grand adventure, and Bilbo is celebrating his 111th birthday in the Shire. He reunites with his old friend, the powerful wizard Gandalf the Grey. Unfortunately, the celebration is cut short when the One Ring begins to yearn for its original master. Realizing his age is starting to catch up with him, Bilbo entrusts the One Ring to his nephew, Frodo. From there, Frodo embarks on an adventure that will determine the fate of Middle-earth.

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District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009)

In 1982, the planet Earth was shocked to its core when an alien vessel began hovering over the city of Johannesburg, South Africa. An investigation of the spaceship turns up a population of malnourished aliens. Nicknamed “prawns”, the South African government decided to confine the aliens to a camp designated District 9. It is now the year 2010. Following a period of severe unrest between the aliens and the locals, the government hires the services of Multinational United (MNU), a private military company, to relocate the aliens to a new camp. Piet Smit, a prominent MNU executive, appoints his son-in-law, Wikus van de Merve, an Afrikaner bureaucrat, to oversee the forced migration. Little does anybody know that this routine operation will ultimately disrupt the South African government’s eighteen years of institutionalized speciesism.

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