• Michael Antony Austin

'1001 Nights In - The A to Z Of Movies You Might Have Missed'

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

The decline of Blockbuster Video and it's ilk, (a foregone conclusion with the advent and domination of a plethora of streaming services), has meant that a great many films from a multitude of genres have yet to be unearthed and rediscovered. The days of casually browsing your local 'Mom & Pop' Home Video Store has given way to time efficient, complex algorithms suggesting what you might want to view next - based on what you've already seen.

But you may ask, with so much content online surely there is nothing that I can miss out on or still need to discover? Is there? Let's find out!

American Graffiti / George Lucas / 1973 / Richard Dreyfuss / 15

Ron (“Happy Days”) Howard, and a delightful Richard Dreyfuss contemplate graduation, the draft and leaving town. Set against a back drop of 1960´s America, each scene is timed and cut to the length of a particular resonating song from the R&R era. Its strength lays in its ability to be both funny and nostalgic, even if you aren’t American or old enough to have lived through the period yourself. It's an honest, semi-autobiographical story from George Lucas, who would later be consumed by the less personal, though visually impressive Star Wars.

American Werewolf In London / John Landis / 1981 / David Naughton / 15

Classic 80´s comedy/horror that was both ground-breaking in its use of transformative practical FX, and in its use of black humour. Landis' quirky American observations lampoon British hospitality (check out the scene in The Slaughtered Lamb with ex-milkman turned actor Brian Glover in a brilliantly unsettling cameo), and turns the genre clichés on their head. David Naughton is perfectly cast as the titular character, fresh faced Jenny Agutter adds the sex appeal/love interest, while Griffin Dunne turns in an unforgettable role as the rotting best friend, returned from the grave and imparting warnings of the werewolves curse!

Antz / Darnell & Johnson / 1998 / Woody Allen / PG

The first (and often overlooked) computer animated offering from DreamWorks SKG Studios, remains one of their best. Woody Allen voices “Z”, a worker ant unhappy with his place in the world, with pretty much all of his usual onscreen characteristics intact. The humour is clever, dry and dark, with some pretty weighty themes (war/genocide) making this more for adults and older children than your typical animated affair. The likeness and voices of Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, Christopher Walken and Gene Hackman simply add to the fun.

Any Given Sunday / Oliver Stone / 1999 / Al Pacino / 15

Directed by 'General' Oliver Stone, this plays out like a war film as boardroom backlash rubs (wide reciever) shoulders with medical ethics. Throwing some tense sexual politics into the pains of the game, Stone then maneuvers the individual pieces like a chess master, manipulating a delicious, almost Shakespearean play. Plus, there is enough action on the field to shame most major blockbusters. Superbly acted by old hands Al Pacino, James Woods and Dennis Quaid, other stand outs include Jaime Foxx and a never better Cameron Diaz.

Almost Famous / Cameron Crowe / 2000 / Patrick Fugit / 15

A semi-autobiographical look at the '70's Rock & Roll scene, based on Crowe's early years as a reporter for Rolling Stone Magazine, this Box Office flop is actually a thoroughly delightful tale. Told through the eyes of 15 year old fan and aspiring writer William (beautifully played by Patrick Fugit), we experience life on the road with struggling band 'Sillwater' (an amalgamation of early Hard Rock acts such as Free, The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd). The sex, the drugs, the egos and insecurities are all played out in a meandering but very funny pace. The attention to period detail is believable and has a lived in feel. The Main Cast - Jason Lee, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand and Kate Hudson all excel in their individual parts, but the movie is stolen by a smart, emotive cameo from Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his best and most beloved roles - that of real life critic Lester Bangs. A must-see, warm hearted coming-of-age drama.

Ben Hur / William Wyler / 1959 / Charlton Heston / 15

Filmed twice before (silent) and since, this 50's classic is a true cinematic event. Although an over long and over ambitious project, it marked a turning point in film making using huge sets and thousands of extras. An unlikely proposition today, more than often CG rendered due to the incredible production costs involved. Chuck, all wide jaw and clipped vowels, was never better than in this “Tale of the Christ”. Despite the occasionally corny dialogue, the scenes with charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd sizzle with sexual chemistry, (thanks to hints within Gore Vidal’s subtle homoerotic storyline), while the 9 minute chariot race remains one of the most truly unforgettable moments in big screen history.

Casablanca / Michael Curtiz / 1942 / Humphrey Bogart / PG

“You must remember this . . . . “. A thousand film scholars can’t be wrong! Without doubt one of the most beautiful pieces of cinema ever made, or ever likely to be made. Like a box of Belgium’s finest chocolates, each scene and every moment is filled with heavenly delights. Whether it is the enjoyably quotable dialogue that has entered into everyday usage, the beautiful picture book photography, or simply the magical chemistry between leads Bogart & Bergman, this remains a true celluloid treasure. Immensely watchable time after time if only for the delightful turns of Claude Rains as suave Capt. Renault & Peter Lorre as the creepy Ugarte.

They really don’t make them quite like this anymore.

Chopper / Andrew Dominik / 2000 / Eric Banner / 18

A cult Australian indie flick featuring a scarily accurate performance of infamous real life villain Chopper Reed, by Eric Banner. Violence and humour are uneasy bedfellows in this brutal prison drama, but the central performance is so mesmerising you'll forgive its misgivings

Hot on the heels of fellow Oz actors Russell Crowe & Guy Pierce, Banner displays the talent (good body /brooding and smouldering looks) that would steal him the role of Bruce Banner in Ang Lee’s existential, angst filled Hulk.

Constantine / 2005 / Keanu Reeves / 15

Alan Moore is apparently never happy with any adaptation of his work which is quite understandable, after all Comics and Film are two very different mediums. Here however, the balance is almost perfect (for Comic book to Film perfection watch Zack Snyder's Watchmen & Justice League or the Russo Brothers' Endgame). Reeves more or less plays himself, but the film is FUN! Plenty of Horror, action and dark humour make up for an age old story. Rachel Weiss looks battered, bewildered and beautiful, while Tilda Swinton is cleverly cast as fallen angel Gabriel. Shia Le Beuf overplays an unnecessary comedy side-kick role, although that alone shouldn't detract you from seeing this quirky flick.

Corpse Bride, The / Johnson & Burton / 2005 / Johnny Depp / 12

Perhaps not quite as accomplished as Burton’s previous animated work with Henry Selick 'The Nightmare Before Christmas', this remains thoroughly engaging nevertheless. The biggest let down is actually the songs, penned by usually reliable co-contributor Danny Elfman (who also voices here). Here, unlike Nightmare they merely get in the way of an otherwise creepily charming tale. The stop-motion animation itself is superb, while the voice talents including Helen Bonham-Carter and Emily Watson are the cream of the acting crop.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon / Lee / 2000 / Chow Yun Fat / 12

Taking western misconceptions about Chinese cinema and turning them on their head Ang Lee, (who won an Oscar for Brokeback Mountain), makes a surreal ballet with his actors. Having them fly across trees and over walls during intense, beautifully choreographed martial arts workouts. The entire film is cast brilliantly, but Chow Yung Fat & Michelle Yeoh are exceptional in their roles. There is also an emotion weight amongst the philosophy, and a heart-breaking story to boot. All that and outstanding cinematograpy, make for a truly unforgettable experience.

District 9 / Neill Blomkamp / 2009 / Sharlto Copley / 18

Insipred by events in Cape Town's District Six during the era of apartheid, this feature debut from South African Director Neill Blomkamp is a true original. In turn exciting, violent, bloody and heartfelt this Sci-Fi action film stands unique amongst a slew of similar found footage movies, that began with The Blair Witch Project in 1999. Produced by Peter Jackson in an international co-production between New Zealand, the US and South Africa it was filmed in Johannesburg. Using the city as a backdrop to explore racism, segregation and humanity.

In an alternative history aliens landed in 1982 looking for help... only to be placed into internment camps, which turn into slums. 20 years later, a bizarre chance meeting between a human social worker and an alien (known derogatively as 'prawns') begin a chain of events that will it show what it means to be outsider on your own planet.

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