Donnie Darko

This is part of my section on alternative film recommendations, check out the Films to See category for other recommendations.

Now, a lot of people in the UK will have heard of Donnie Darko. It was championed by a Radio 1 DJ, and one of the songs from the soundtrack was Christmas number 1 in 2003 (was it really that long ago?). Donnie Darko (Jake Gylenhall) is a troubled teenager who is having visions of a man called Frank, who happens to be dressed in a full-length bunny suit. Under his influence, Donnie sleepwalks and commits various acts of violence and destruction, waking up somewhere else with only a faint idea of what he’s done. At school, Donnie finds Gretchen (Jena Malone), a new girl who he falls in love with. The plot gets a little confusing, involving time travel and the end of the world, but trust me, it is well worth sticking it out. The characters are interesting and three-dimensional and the cast well chosen, the music fits the feel of the movie and is funky besides, and the story just grips you. This is a film that will leave you thinking about it long after the credits roll.

Shaun of the Dead

This is part of my section on alternative film recommendations, check out the Films to See category for other recommendations.

Zombie movies aren’t something I usually make a beeline for I must confess, but Shaun of the Dead is different. The filmmakers argue that it’s actually a Zom Rom Com (i.e. a Zombie Romantic Comedy), and that’s pretty much what it is. Simon Pegg plays Shaun, an average bloke with no career, no prospects and a leisure schedule that includes going to his local pub, the Winchester, and nothing else. Fed up with this, his girlfriend, who wants something more from life, breaks up with him. Shaun goes on a bender and wakes up to find a large percentage of the population has become zombies. He sets about getting the people he cares and taking them to a safe place, the Winchester.
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The Dish

This is part of my section on alternative film recommendations, check out the Films to See category for other recommendations.

As Neil Armstrong was taking his first steps on the moon, the radio signals carrying the television pictures were being received by Parkes radio telescope in Australia, the largest of several radio telescopes that were drafted into the space program (and remain part of it). The Dish tells the story (based on real events) of the team who ran Parkes telescope during that historic mission. All is going well at Parkes, until they’re hit by a power cut and the backup generators don’t work, which wipes their computer and they lose track of Apollo 11. The team suffer from a mild inferiority complex, and so don’t admit their mistake to NASA, even convincing the on site representative to go along with it. They gel together to overcome the problem and recover the signal from space. Meanwhile, the local inhabitants are learning how to deal with the American Ambassador and a visit from the Prime Minister. It’s a wonderful comedy about small town Australia dealing with the wider world and being part of the global mission to the moon. Sam Neil heads a great cast who hit their marks perfectly and will have you laughing out loud.

Blackball

This is part of my section on alternative film recommendations, check out the Films to See category for other recommendations.

Now, I’m not a fan of lawn bowls. In fact, I would generally describe it as a boring game played by old people. Not something you would typically want to make a movie about, but that’s exactly what Blackball is about. Cliff Starkey (Paul Kaye) is not your typical bowls player; he’s rude, obnoxious and from a council estate. Normally he avoids club greens as a way of sticking two fingers up at the elitist bowls committee, but when the chance to take on the Aussie Doohan brothers, undefeated for years, pops up, he puts his mind to making the England team. Unfortunately, he has a little problem: a 15-year ban. Blackball is a comedy with a distinctly British feel, and as such, may only appeal to British tastes (and much of the Commonwealth, not to mention the Germans, who, apparently, love British humour). It plays on the class differences, the age differences, and it pokes fun at the stuffy bowls establishment, but it’s ultimately a poor boy done good tale, with a dollop of romance. It’s exceptionally funny, and don’t be put off by the topic, they make bowls look much more exciting than I’m sure it actually is.

Brotherhood of the Wolf

This is part of my section on alternative film recommendations, check out the Films to See category for other recommendations.

Brotherhood of the Wolf is a French-language film (with subtitles, though you do get a dubbed English-language track on the DVD) based on a myth/legend of a werewolf killing people in 18th Century France. This isn’t your typical period piece. Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), the royal naturalist, is despatched to hunt down ‘the beast.’ Accompanying Fronsac is Mani (Mark Dacascos), a Native American who is deadly with or without a weapon. They track the beast, learning more with each new attack as Fronsac applies science to the problem. When the beast isn’t attacking, they mix with local society, and Fronsac continues to be the hunter, Mademoiselle Morangias being his chosen prey. Slowly they begin to unravel the mystery and figure out a chilling truth: someone is controlling the beast. The film is beautifully shot and is packed with stunts, action and slow-mo. It’s not hardcore horror, more action thriller, but well worth persevering with the subtitles.

Films Worth Watching

Now, it is with some trepidation I write that I am going to start my own little series recommending movies that people may not have seen, but are well worth a look (at least, in my opinion). The reason this concerns me is that it will probably open me up to some serious ridicule. Many of the movies will be from my personal collection, many of them will not have been commercial hits. I have no timeline, no set pattern for publishing these recommendations, so you’ll have to take them as you find them I’m afraid. It should also give me a chance to share some of the lesser-known films to be produced in this green and pleasant land.
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