Favourite Lesser Known Films

I figured I’d do a bit of a list on some films I like to recommend folks to watch. They’re not necessarily films that are on my “top 10 list” or my favourite films since there’s a lot of cross over with other people lists there, just films I like to recommend to watch that usually people likely haven’t seen. There is likely to be some spoilers here but for most part I’ll be giving the “back of the box” than the ending. If you watch any and enjoy them, let me know!

brazil Brazil (1985)
Brazil is a film I recently gushed about and lead to me wanting to write this list. It’s a Terry Gilliam film, famous for being one of the Monty Python members that created the weird little animations fed throughout and this sort of mind is what has created Brazil and other films. It’s likely you’ve seen Twelve Monkeys which is the much more accessible Terry Gilliam film and it’s that sort of aesthetic with a steampunk-esque world. The world he creates is a reason I gush over it, it’s sort of familiar to us, but so exaggerated and its own world. I love the computers they have with the small 5″ CRTs with a large lenticular lens in front to blow it up, and brass type writers keys and valves and such all wired up.
Ultimately the film is a mockery of bureaucracy taken to the extreme as Prices character tries to find the error caused between a literal bug causing an issue with the torture of a Mr Buttle instead of Mr Tuttle. Intermixed with him searching for the girl of his dreams, which his daydreams feature throughout and play out his fantasy as a knight in shining armour. The ending, for the proper release and not the studio tweaked “happy ending”, is brilliant and one of my favourite lines from Michael Palin.

 Moon (2009)
I think this film actually has quite a strong following but it’s worth bringing up. Moon features a cast primarily of Sam Rockwell as a worker on an automated moon mining facility, aided by the voice of Kevin Spacey as his robot companion. Carrying a film by yourself is a great skill, and it’s a compelling film as his seeming madness and paranoia unfolds and the conspiracy unfolds. I absolutely love Spaceys HAL-esque character too and it’s played off really well against your preconceptions of a robot AI in space in a movie is going to be like.

The Animatrix: Second Renaissance (2003)
The Animatrix is a project where Wachowskis had several animation houses from Japan making little spin-off stories set in the Matrix universe, with a few set between Matrix and Matrix Reloaded. Second Renaissance is a two-part story set many many centuries before The Matrix and shows the origin of the human-machine war and a classic sci-fi tale of “Then man made the machine in his own likeness. Thus did man become the architect of his own demise”. It features a grim future of the machine uprising, human vanity, all set to the toneless narration of the Zion mainframe AI. It features some great quotes too.

Your flesh is a relic, a mere vessel. Hand over your flesh and a new world awaits you. We demand it!

The other stories within Animatrix are worth a watch too, including “Final Flight of the Osiris” created by Square Pictures of the maligned Spirits Within film. Boy and World Record are particularly good.

The Snowman (1982)
Depending on the version of this you watch it’s opened by the father of the director of an above film; David Bowie. The Snowman is pretty much an annual tradition for Christmas in the UK, with it getting a sequel a few years ago in “The Snowman and the Snowdog”. I don’t know on the international reception of this film, but it’s pretty much without dialogue apart from the introduction by Bowie. It’s an animated film following the story of a boy who builds a snowman that comes to life to the tune of “Walking in the Air”. I’m not super sure but I’m pretty sure the animation is done with coloured pencil, so it’s an extremely distinct look to any other animated films you’ll have seen. It looks like an illustrated book come to life.

Enemy of the State (1998)
This 1998(!) film features Will Smith on the run from the NSA after accidentally acquiring proof of the murder of a US congressman. Given recent events with the NSA and their over reach in the US it’s a particularly relevant film. It probably isn’t a particularly shocking film in this day and age, but still worth a watch if you’ve not seen it. Also weirdly features Jack Black as an NSA agent.

Oblivion (2013)
I’d avoided this one for a while and I think part of it was the overlap with the Will Smith film out about the same time. But I eventually watched it and really liked it…up until some weirdness with the end but I guess endings are hard sometimes. The film sees Tom Cruise, who regardless of personal beliefs is in some pretty great films, as one of two technicians on a destroyed earth helping harvest water for use in fusion reactors for the colonists on Jupiter. As the film progresses Cruise’s characters curiosity starts to unfold a conspiracy. I quite liked the design of the drone ships in both their motion and sound, creating quite a bit of tension with them.

Are you an effective team?

Lord of War (2005)
Pretty much one of my favourite openings of a film; it follows the journey of a bullet from its production in the factory, transport across oceans and countries into a war zone and towards its eventual final destination. Lord of War features Nicolas Cage in a pretty great role as an international arms dealer, and his journey over the decades as he scales up from selling one off uzis to acquiring shiploads of weapons in the soviet collapse and his mixing with African warlords and competition against both Interpol agent Ethan Hawke and arms dealer Ian Holm.

Lucky Number Slevin (2006)
Great little flick featuring a bunch of great actors in a sort of “you’ll want to watch it again after to figure where it all ties together” story. Josh Hartnett is trapped between two rival mob bosses, Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley, in a case of mistaken identity while being hunted by the the steely Bruce Willis. He also hangs out with Stanley Tucci n Lucy Liu. Things happen, it’s all cool.
I particularly like the “kansas city shuffle” scene.

Penelope (2006)
I’m not a huge rom com guy (he says being aware of enjoying a bit of Love Actually and Mamma Mia now n then) but Penelope is quite different, and rather whimsical with a light bit of old curses n such. Christina Ricci features as a “blue blood” cursed with facial features of a pig. Through the actions of a pre-GoT Peter Dinkleage she is wooed by James McAvoy and befriending Reese Witherspoon (most of the film she’s without ‘er spoon though). It’s all fun, light hearted, the over reactions of her parents, her mother being Catherine O’Hara who perfected being a flustered mother in Home Alone, are great and just kinda sweet. I think involving ancient curses and sort of being set in the middle of the Atlantic ocean helps take it out of usual rom-com region.

Reign of Fire (2002)
It’s a post apocalyptic film but unlike a nuclear apocalypse, or zombie apocalypse or whatever, it’s DRAGONS! In present day slumbering dragons are accidentally awoken during extension of the London Underground and promptly wipe out much of humanity. We cut to the future where Christian Bale and Gerrard Butler are performing knock-off Star Wars plays for kids (it’s a great scene) and trying to eke out life that can be snuffed out at any minute by beasts of Arthurian legend. Along comes unrecognisable Matthew Mcconaughey as the tough gunning American soldier with his squad of dragon killers to help out and take the war to the dragons.
The dragons from Game of Thrones are a notable knock off in design, especially with moving the fire breathing from just being the mouth to specialised organs and outlets.

Gattaca (1997)
Back when “Designer babies” was a bit of a fear this film came out capitalising on that idea. In a world where the majority of children are all genetically modified to eradicate most imperfections Ethan Hawke(again?) is a naturally born child with dreams of joining the space program. Through the help of “Valid” Jude Law he joins the space program and must avoid detection of his “Invalid” status. It’s proper “hard sci-fi” type that looks are our sort of “genetic destiny” and the potential affects of a society with a high adoption of “designer babies”.