Today: February 28, 2024

Films You Should See Part Two

So many films, so little time. It’s a sad fact that most of us never get the chance to watch all the films we’d like to. Even keeping up with the ‘must see’ releases can be a full time job. Working out which ones are actually worth spending time and money to see is even trickier!

So many films, so
little time. It’s a sad fact that most of us never get the chance to watch all
the films we’d like to. Even keeping up with the ‘must see’ releases can be a
full time job. Working out which ones are actually worth spending time and
money to see is even trickier!
Fortunately here at FilmJuice we
have a pool of talented writers, prepared to spend the vast part of their days
hunkered down in darkened cinemas so that you don’t have to.

Earlier this year, FilmJuice decided to put all this
generated knowledge to the test and ask our regular writers to come up with a
list of the Films You Should See … But
Probably Haven’t
. This week, Dan Clay shares his choices with a pair of
films that prove that good filmmaking doesn’t need big budgets or big

Donnie Darko (Main Picture)
The end of the world is nigh, at least for a troubled young man and a
giant bunny rabbit.

With that kind of
premise, if you aren’t one of the many who’ve fallen under the spell of Jake Gyllenhaal’s perfectly-played
Donnie, then it really is time you did. After all he only has just over 28 days
to save the world – in his own way of course. To say much more about director Richard Kelly’s masterpiece debut (he’s
done little of note since, sadly) would really be giving the game away but Donnie’s greatest strength is also one
of its biggest weaknesses – its ambiguity. Even after a Director’s Cut shed a
little bit more light on exactly what kind of world Donnie’s living in, the
film’s immediate cult status and droves of daubings on fan sites reveals that
the film, much like some kind of religious text, is very much open to
individual interpretation.

What all agree on
however are some standard truths. While Gyllenhaal (and his sister Maggie) put
in stand-out performances, an ensemble featuring Patrick Swayze as a sleazy motivational speaker and Drew Barrymore as a frustrated high
school teacher mean Donnie benefits
from some terrific role play. Then of course there’s the soundtrack; one that
spawned Gary Jules’ rise to the top
of the charts courtesy of Tears For
Fear’s Mad World
, and gave us Duran
Duran’s Notorious
a few years before it was actually released (the story’s
set in the ‘80s).

And if that weren’t
enough, Donnie’s auditory treats
spread to a fabulous screenplay. One in which Beth Grant’s highly-strung teacher Kitty steals all the best lines,
especially those where lifeline cards inserted into orifices or concerns over
others commitment to dance troupes called Sparkle Motion are concerned. All of
which adds up one of the best films you’ll ever have the pleasure of
witnessing. The kind of film which, once finished, you’ll puzzle over so much
you’ll be heading back for another viewing within minutes. After all, as the
tagline hinted, there’s dark, there’s darker and then there’s Darko.


What could be better
than a tale of two guys, a ton of wine and a stag week that soon turns sour

Directed and written by
Indie auteur Alexander Payne, Sideways may have earned its plaudits
from middle-aged, male critics by featuring as its leads two middle-aged male
self-critics, but with a screenplay which sizzles on the palate and a crisp
line in dry, wry humour, Payne’s best film (1999’s Election comes a close second) is as sweet as the Pinot it so
celebrates. It’s not just the career-best performances from both Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church as the lovable Miles and Jack. Nor is it Rex Pickett’s fabulous source novel,
Payne’s unfussy direction or Rolfe
smooth score. But, much like the fine wine it so celebrates, it’s
the amalgamation of all these ingredients that makes Sideways so palatable.

So influential was the
film upon release (and the DVD is worth the purchase alone for the fabulous
Giamatti/Haden Church commentary) that sales of Merlot – “I’m not drinking any
f*cking Merlot!” – dropped dramatically after just a single line while Miles’
much-loved Pinot Noir saw a surge in sales from salivating supporters of the

Add to that some
wonderful dialogue – “Did you drink and dial?” – two equally adorable female leads
in the guise of Sandra Oh (Payne’s
wife at the time) and Virginia Madsen
and some bizarre moments of alcoholic assessment involving nutty edam cheese
and you really have got a truly vintage comedy that blends tragedy and drama
with a refreshingly sweet after-taste. Whether it’s a story about friendship,
ripening middle age or, as the tagline suggests, Pinot Envy, Sideways is perfect viewing
accompaniment to any film collection.

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Films You Should See Part Three

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