5 Films You Should Check Out

In England, I’m a horror movie director. In Germany, I’m a filmmaker. In the US, I’m a bum. – John Carpenter

Ever finish watching a movie and feel like you have to recommend it to someone? Well that’s what this regular blog post is for. If you need something to watch, check out the below and see if anything catches your eye.  And as always, feel free to post your own recommendations in the comments section – I’m always on the lookout for new films to see!

Film:  The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Director:  Val Guest

Staring: Edward Judd, Janet Munro, Leo McKern

Why you should check this out:    The weather is going crazy in this apocalyptic sci-fi flick, with tornadoes scouring Russia, blizzards freezing New York and floods in the Sahara desert. Determined to find the cause of Mother Nature’s tantrums, boozy British reporter Peter Stenning (Edward Judd) becomes embroiled in a cover up that threatens the very existence of the earth itself, not to mention his budding relationship with Met Office secretary Jeannie Craig (Janet Munro).

Apocalyptic setups are generally interesting backdrops on which to pose a story and The Day The Earth Caught Fire is no exception. Taught, suspenseful and creative with its progressive natural disasters, TDTECF stands as a grim (if not entirely factual) warning against the use of nuclear arms and tampering with earth’s fundamentals. For sci-fi / apocalyptic film fans, this is certainly one to watch.

Film:  The Proposition (2005)

Director: John Hillcoat

Staring: Ray Winstone, Guy Pearce, Emily Watson

Why you should check this out:    Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone) is an officer of the law in late 1800’s wild Australia. Having captured two of the four Burns Brothers outlaws, Stanley makes a deal with Charlie Burns (Guy Pearce) to find and kill sibling mastermind Arthur Burns (Danny Huston). If Charlie does for Arthur within nine days, he and his brother Mike (Richard Wilson) walk free; fail to kill the badman and Mike Burns swings from the gallows.

Possessed of a beautifully slow, careful pace, this Australian Western harks back to traditionalist gunslinger tales, pitching lawman against villain, with two compromised brothers trapped somewhere in between.

Everything here smacks of painstaking attention to detail: from Nick Cave’s (who incidentally also wrote the film) atmospheric and lonely score to Danny Huston’s disarming psychopath, The Proposition takes you to an unfamiliar place where morality and justice are merely subjective concepts.

After watching The Proposition, it’s easy to see why John Hillcoat was the perfect choice to adapt The Road to the big screen. Hopefully, his new film Lawless, to be released later this year, will be as much a success.

Film:  His Girl Friday (1940)

Director:  Howard Hawks

Staring: Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy

Why you should check this out:    Set within the chaotic maelstrom of a newspaper office, ex-editor Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) visits paper owner and old flame Walter Burns (Cary Grant) to inform him that she is getting remarried. Naturally, Walter can’t feel like he’s lost a fight; so ensues a rambunctious campaign to criminalise his male enemy, entice Hildy back into her old job and ultimately win her heart.

While appearing to only be a typical rom-com of its time, His Girl Friday is actually far more intelligent and entertaining than you would initially think; certainly comparatively more so than today’s generic Jennifer Aniston dross.

Foremost is the great comedy, which has admirably stood the test of time to remain funny, sharp and witty. Displaying a furiously fast verbal repartee, the characters’ banter and relationship is so energised and hyper-real, that you cannot help but be dragged into their crazy world.

Secondly, His Girl Friday boasts a rare gem in cinema: a strong female character. Able to give Walter as good as he gets, Hildy refuses to be packaged as a traditional subservient female side-character, instead admirably vying with an immensely popular Cary Grant for centre stage.

Fun, sharp and timeless.

Film:  Brick (2005)

Director:  Rian Johnson

Staring:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lukas Haas, Emilie De Ravin

Why you should check this out:    The disappearance of Emily (Emilie De Ravin) prompts her ex-boyfriend Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to initiate an investigation that takes him into the dark, dangerous underworld of an American high school. Forced to outsmart drug dealers, thugs and killers, Brendan must use all his wits to uncover the truth and emerge alive.

A film that furthered Gordon-Levitt’s transition from nobody to rising indie star, Brick successfully creates a modern film noir-esque thriller amidst relatively drab and low budget settings.

Excusing the slight unbelievability of the film’s events occurring in a high school, Brick nevertheless displays a comfortable skill when dealing with intrigue-fuelled narratives, that somehow never become too convoluted. Akin in many ways to Gabriel Byrne’s character Tom Reagan from Miller’s Crossing, Brendan reveals an impressive mastery of deception and character manipulation that naturally rubs off on director Rian Johnson.

As a side note, Gordon-Levitt is set to work with Johnson once more in his new film Looper, to be released in the UK on 28/09/12.

Film:  Visitor Q (2001)

Director: Takashi Miike

Staring:  Ken’ichi Endo, Shungiku Uchida, Kazushi Watanabe

Why you should check this out:    The Yamazaki family is the epitome of dysfunction: son Takuya Yamazaki (Jun Muto) is constantly hounded by bullies who attack his house with fireworks; he in turn regularly beats his downtrodden mother Keiko (Shungiku Uchida); and father Kiyoshi (Ken’ichi Endo) is determined to document sex and violence amongst youths, by filming his son’s regular abuse and having sex with prostitute daughter Miki (Fujiko). But help is at hand in the form of a mysterious Visitor (Kazushi Watanabe), who moves in with the family and seemingly resolves their problems.

Sounds mad? Well it is. In fact, this is probably the maddest thing I’ve ever watched, way more than El Topo or Un Chien Andalou. I love Takashi Miike, but by God has he created a lunatic with Visitor Q. Boasting incest, necrophilia, wanton family violence and copious lactation, you have to laugh at the absurd display…or go insane while clawing at your eyes. One for those who like the extremities of bizarre.

About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

13 Responses to 5 Films You Should Check Out

  1. steven says:

    not seen brick yet, been dying to see it, bet its cheap now on net, will have to buy it, keep forgetting about it, i have so so so so many dvd’s to watch….

    • filmfellahenry says:

      Thanks for reading Steven. If you enjoy Brick, I would also recommend The Brothers Bloom, another film from Rian Johnson. And if you like Gordon-Levitt’s stuff, then Hesher is a must-see.

  2. Mike says:

    Brick is amazing and Hesher recommendation is a good shout for sure. Have not seen His Girl Friday but will have to give it a watch. Visitor Q is delightfully strange, more so than Happiness of the Katakuris…Takashi Miike is one messed up guy!

    • filmfellahenry says:

      He is indeed. A recent Miike film I thought was outstanding is 13 Assassins: a simple, well-executed story of a group of warriors attempting to kill an insane Japanese fuedal lord. And I’m also looking forward to Chan Wook Park’s latest film Stoker, which I’m sure will be dark to say the least!

      Thanks for reading.

  3. Great choices. The only one I haven’t seen is ”The Day The Earth Caught Fire” but it looks interesting.

    • filmfellahenry says:

      Thanks for reading! You should definitely check it out, it’s a pretty interesting idea with a particularly strong end. Personally I’m a massive post-apocalyptic fan, so it’s right up my street.

  4. Love this list. Really interesting choices🙂 I love your blog, keep up the good work!

  5. Victor De Leon says:

    I love the JC quote at the top of the post. Very cool, I was totally surprised at seeing His Girl Friday on there. Good job. I love that movie to no end. I had a blast reviewing it for my blog.

    • filmfellahenry says:

      I generally aim to mix up the recommendations, so it isn’t just recent movies, horror etc. And His Girl Friday was too good to miss out! I think Arsenic And Old Lace may feature in August’s recommendations…

      Thanks for reading!

      • Victor De Leon says:

        anytime! keep up the great work. I will most surely check in often. I haven’t watched AAOL in like, forever. another good choice.

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