A little recycling

As I stood out front of the Movies at Midway, The Clayton, The Carmike Surf and Sand in Ocean City desperately looking for a new film opening worthy of the tree which perished for this page, I realized that was not even a sapling-worthy title among them that has not already been reviewed.

So, in the interest of becoming even more environmentally friendly in the new year, I am dedicating this column to recycling some titles of films that did not make it to local multiplexes, but are certainly worthy of adding to your Netflix queue or your next visit to the video store.

In no particular order, here are some overlooked gems for every cinematic tastebud. (Click on title to see the trailer for the film)

once1.jpgOnce – Reed thin to almost the point of transparency, this Emerald Isle export stars two non-actors (Glen Hansard, singer of the popular Irish band The Frames, and Prague-born Marketa Irglova) as two nameless lonely soles who unite platonically through music. Though there is palpable chemistry between the two, the film never exploits their personal attraction , focusing instead on their mutual love for song. And when they do combine their voices for the film’s many musical numbers, it rivals any big studio’s tenderly shot love scenes.

thisisengland.jpgThis is England – For those who thought “American History X” was a terrifying journey into extremist hatred, “England” provides a much more subtle, yet equally startling, descent into the world of skinheads. A troubled lad (a heartbreaking Thomas Turgoose) gets picked on in Thatcher-era Britain and befriends a gang of Doc Marten-donned hooligans who treat him like family. When Combo (a terrifying Stephen Graham) returns to the group from a prison stint, he brings his overtly racist leanings to tear the group apart and force the young lad to choose his true allegiance. An intimate depiction of despair, hope, family and violence that resonates long after the credits roll.

giuliani.jpgGiuliani Time – Those looking to cast a ballot for “America’s Mayor” owe it to themselves to check out this documentary on the pre-9/11 leader and what some may refer to as his tyrannical reign over the streets of New York City. Even though he continually wants to remind voters of his heroic chest thumping after the attacks, his disregard for many of his own citizens highlights a much different, perhaps power-drunk, side of the man and his role in politics.

youregonnamiss.jpgYou’re Gonna Miss Me – One of the best documentaries in recent memory, this film paints an incredibly intimate portrait of a little-known legend, Roky Erickson, who, with his bad the 13th Floor Elevators, helped coin the term psychedelic rock. After years of drug use scrambles Roky’s brain and leaves him virtually penniless, his family bands together to help him, but with very different techniques that lead to inter-familial litigation. Taking turns typically found only in a scripted drama, “Miss Me” follows years of intense in-fighting and resolution, leading to Roky’s return to the stage.

perfume.jpgPerfume: The Story of a Murderer – Director Tom Twyker (“Run, Lola, Run:) is a visual magician, so much so that he almost brings the sense of smell to the screen (without having to resort to those “Odor-ama” cards, either). Forget those Axe ads you see, this film convinces that smell can drive beings to unspeakable acts. While Dustin Hoffman camps it up in a brief supporting role, the ever-sturdy Alan Rickman anchors this hybrid slasher-period piece that follows the olfactory obsessions of of one Jean-Baptiste Grenouille and his drive to capture the perfect scent.

isolation.jpgIsolation – Bear with me as I lay out the plot synopsis of “Isolation”: A genetically engineered cow plays host to a mutated gene that turns its fellow bovines into killers. Yes, killer cows. And the film is not played for laughs. In fact, it is quite riveting. This low-budget Irish film blends just the right elements of “Frankenstein” and “Alien” to create a nightmare that is udderly creepy.

noend.jpgNo End in Sight – Regardless of your political views of the current conflict in Iraq, regardless of how many films devoted to the subject you may have seen, this level-headed, thorough, damning account of the ineptitude that led to the war and the bungling of its initial stages is essential. Told by those who were on the front line both figuratively and literally, these men and women recount with disbelief and horror just how ill-prepared we were for how to handle what we started.

starterfor10.jpgStarter for Ten – Perhaps hoping for another “Big Fat Greek Wedding,” Tom Hanks produced this ever-so-slight British comedy of a young man’s dreams of participating in a national game show while balancing a burgeoning love life and an aspiring college career. It is filled with tiny inaccuracies (most notably a soundtrack filled with hits that were written long after the film’s 1985 setting), but for those looking for further proof of the range and charms of James McAvoy (currently setting hearts aflutter in “Atonement”), look no further.

daywatch.jpgDay Watch – I have watched this film twice and I cannot tell you what the hell it’s about, but I can say that it is true pop-comic nirvana. The plot has something to do with battling tribes of vampires called The Others and a magical piece of chalk, but regardless, this Russian film, the highest-grossing in the post-communist era, is a brain blitzkrieg that will rattle your home theater speakers and put to use every pixel of your new high-definition plasma screen. One wishes the final installments of the “Matrix” movies were this much fun.

firstsnow.jpgFirst Snow – We’ve all taken playful trips to the palm reader, but what if the prognosticator failed to detect a life line beyond the following week? At first, the cocky, slick salesman Jimmy Starks (played by Guy Pearce) brushes it off, but when some other smaller predictions are realized, he begins a panic that sends him into a downward spiral. The ever-reliable J.K. Simmons (most recognizable as the gruff J. Jonah Jameson in the “Spider-Man” films) creeps in a memorable, albeit brief, performance as the nomadic psychic, and while the conclusion lacks the certain punch that would qualify this for any box office potential, it still manages to balance its metaphysical questions of fate and self-determination without pandering.

brothers.jpgThe Brothers Solomon – I’m sorry, but if “Knocked Up” hadn’t come along one trimester earlier, “The Brothers Solomon” might have had a better shot at the multiplex this summer. It’s a well-worn concept of two socially inept, but ever-plucky lunkheds forced to fend for themselves in the world ( see “Dumb and Dumber,” “Wayne’s World” or “A Night at the Roxbury”). John (Will Forte and Dean (Will Arnett) are siblings who want to fulfill their dying father’s wish of an offspring. Their misadventures are ridiculous, absurd and nowhere near the realm of reality, yet there is something refreshingly uninhibited about this fractured comedy whose silliness is served without a standard mean streak that can mark similar pictures of its ilk.

~ by usesoapfilm on December 30, 2007.

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