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The Best Orson Welles Films, Ranked

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The Best Orson Welles Films, Ranked

Orson Welles may no longer be around, but his impact on the entertainment industry will never be forgotten. Not only was he a famous director, but he was also a producer, screenwriter, and actor, often starring in his own films. He is remembered for his fresh, innovative work across radio, theater, and film.



Despite his popularity, Welles struggled for creative control on his projects throughout his life, whether it be from the major film studios or independent financiers. Some of his films were edited far beyond what he wanted to appease them, and others still went unreleased. Touch of Evilwas re-edited in the late 90s according to his recovered notes, for instance, and his final film, The Other Side of the Wind, wasn’t released until 2018 after Neftlix had picked it up and finished it. Take a look at some of his best films for yourself to find out why he was such an influential filmmaker.

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8 Mr. Arkadin

In Mr. Arkadin, Guy Van Stratten, an American smuggler working in Europe, finds Munich resident Jakob Zouk and warns him of a plot against his life. Zouk is terminally ill, so he doesn’t care about the news, but Stratten reveals his past through a series of flashbacks depicting why he wants Zouk to live. Stratten had previously been given a tip about Gregory Arkadin, a famous oligarch who is said to possess some dark secrets. The infamously convoluted plot is both a result of Welles’ constant re-writing and the fact the multiple different versions of the film exist (three of which are presented in the important Criterion Collection version). While it’s a bit messy, Mr. Arkadin is a paranoid masterpiece of film noir and expressionistic suspense.

7 The Lady From Shanghai

The Lady From Shanghai is a noir film based on the book If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King. In New York City, sailor Michael O’Hara saves Elsa from an attack on the coach she was riding in, escorting her home and discovering that she and her husband Arthur Bannister, a criminal defense attorney, recently arrived from Shanghai and are on their way to San Francisco through the Panama Canal.

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He finds himself attracted to her and agrees to sign on as a seaman on Bannister’s yacht. When Bannister’s partner George Grisby meets Michael, he proposes a deal to help Grisby fake his own death.

Related: These Directors Usually Star in Their Own Movies, For Better or Worse

Another notoriously convoluted noir masterpiece from Welles, The Lady From Shanghai features Welles’ influential use of overlapping dialogue, extreme chiaroscuro, and iconic ending sequence in a hall of mirrors. Welles is excellent in the film, as is the immortal Rita Hayworth; the two has been married four years before the movie, but filmed it while they were estranged and separated, which possibly contributed to some of the dark tension in the picture.


6 The Trial

Based on the Franz Kafka book of the same name, The Trial is about Josef K., who finds himself in trouble with the law when he doesn’t remember committing a crime. What’s even worse is that no one will tell him what he’s even been accused of, so he doesn’t know how he’s supposed to stand for himself in trial. It begins when several detectives enter his apartment and tell him he is under open arrest, finding three of his co-workers have provided evidence regarding the unknown crime he committed.

Featuring arguably the most intensely Expressionistic cinematography and set design in any film after the 1930s, The Trial continues Welles’ obsession with fakery, paranoia, and suspicion. The film is a brilliant dissection of film noir and a dark political masterpiece.

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5 The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons is one of many Welles films that was heavily edited by the film studio. Recovered notes show what Welles had intended, but the lost footage remains lost, including the original ending that the studio re-shot. Nonetheless, the picture we have remains a masterpiece beloved by many. The movie chronicles The Ambersons, the wealthiest family in their Midwestern city, and their downfall over the course of a generation. The film was nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and some actually believe it to be a greater film than Welles’ most famous movie, Citizen Kane.

4 F For Fake

The docudrama F for Fake is a wonderful example of Welles’ experimental late career, where he played around with cinematic form and the medium of documentary. The film is about chicanery, fakery, magic, and illusions, something Welles is personally interested in as a filmmaker. Much of the picture follows the life of Elmyr de Hory, a famous art forger whose copies were so uncanny that he was able to trick professionals into believing it was the real thing, selling these fakes to reputable galleries and museums all over the world. His forgeries had even attracted enough attention that Clifford Irving, a real author, wrote a book about them, entitled Fake.

Related: Best Film Noirs of the 40s & 50s, Ranked

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Welles stars in this film as himself, becoming the narrator as de Hory recounts his career and some scenes are acted out. Of course, not all is as it seems, as Welles uses the story to showcase how easy it is to fool someone depending on how you present ‘the facts.’ Welles’ film is a playful, intellectual look at whether authenticity really matters, or could ever be considered true.

3 Chimes at Midnight

The comedy drama Chimes at Midnight is based on some works of Shakespeare, most explicitly influenced by Henry IV. However, Welles made it to take a closer look at one of Shakespeare’s recurring characters, Sir John Falstaff. In the film, Falstaff has taken on a fatherly role in Prince Hal’s life, the son of King Henry IV. They spend a lot of time together in the tavern, and are essentially close friends who even plan a few crimes together. When things begin to grow serious, as people who seek to usurp the throne from King Henry IV approach with armies, Hal soon has to choose between his real father and his long developed relationship with Falstaff. The film is a delightful, rambling, wholly unique and modernist Shakespeare adaptation.


2 Touch of Evil

The film noir piece Touch of Evil starts with a bomb exploding on the U.S.-Mexico border, destroying a car and killing the two people who were inside, in what remains one of the greatest single-take tracking shots in movie history. Prosecutor Miguel Vargas (played wonderfully by Charlton Heston), who was on his honeymoon with his wife, takes an interest in the investigation and joins the local authorities that arrive on the scene, led by police captain Hank Quinlan and his assistant Pete Menzies.

Welles is absolutely incredible as Quinlan, in what might be his greatest performance. He is a bloated, violent, scheming man, drunk on his own power but haunted by his own failures.

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1 Citizen Kane

Arguably the best of Welles’ films, Citizen Kane happens to be his first. The film has a biographical feel despite the main character, Charles Foster Kane, being entirely fictional. He was based on several people, including media barons like Joseph Pulitzer, Chicago tycoons like Harold McCormic, and parts of the screenwriters’ lives as well. Upon the death of an elderly Kane, a newsreel obituary is released detailing his life story, and it becomes sensational news. The producer then tells reporter Jerry Thompson to try and search for why his last word was rosebud. As Thompson tries to figure this out, he meets all kinds of people that knew Kane in his life, slowly piecing together Kane’s life story for the audience to view. Citizen Kane was nominated for many Oscars, and won one for Best Original Screenplay. For many people throughout the years, it is considered the best film of all time.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

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The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

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To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

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Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

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Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

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Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

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