A Boy and His Dog 1975


Adapted from a sci-fi novel by Harlan Ellison, A Boy and his Dog is an unusually imaginative sci-fi movie from 1975. Actor briefly turned director LQ Jones also wrote the screenplay with Alvy Moore; the story takes place in an apocalyptic wasterland and concerns Vic (Don Johnson) who traverses the remains of planet earth with his telepathic dog Blood (Tiger, voiced by Tim McIntyre). Vic is lured into an underground bunker where there are plans to harness his virility for pre-creational purposes, and A Boy And His Dog sticks to its independent guns by having the survival of the human race low on Vic’s priorities. With dialogue taken often verbatim from Ellison’s novel, A Boy and His Dog is a smart antidote to big-budget sci-fi; it makes its points with satirical verve.





Mousehunt 1997


Gore Verbinkski’s first features shows all the visual energy and gift of visual comedy that featured in the Pirates of The Caribbean movies, but without the lame-love interest. Instead there’s a stream of high quality slapstick for kids of all ages; Nathan Lane and Lee Evans play Ernie and Lars Smuntz, who are hoping to restore an ancient mansion but haven’t reckoned with the sitting tenant; a mouse who is unwilling to move out. Mousetraps, cats and eventually a tough professional exterminator (a brilliant cameo from Christopher Walken) are all enlisted, and Mousehunt has enormous fun with the comic possibilities in this breezy Dreamworks production; any film with such an extended mouse-down-the-trousers gag deserves points for trying.


Madagascar 3; Europe’s Most Wanted 2012


No prior knowledge of the Madagascar films is required to enjoy the third and best instalment; co-written by Noah Baurmbach, it’s a genial romp that finds the escaped zoo animals loose in Europe and infiltrating a circus for cover. Gia (Jessica Chastain) and Vitaly (Brian Cranston) run the operation, and there’s a choice dilemma for Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) and his gang; to stay with the circus where they are regarded as an inspiration, or admit that they’re losers on the run. The be-all-you-can-be message is exemplified by a dazzling montage set to Katy Perry’s Firefly, a sequence that elevates Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath and Conrad Vernon’s film to high art. And the regular appearances of a chimp in a Louis X IV wig are cause for hilarity in themselves; not quite on message with the rest of the gang, this baroque figure is the trickster incarnate.


Neighbouring Sounds 2012


The debut feature from Brazilian writer/director Kleber Mendonça Filho, Neighbouring Sounds is a clever domestic drama that takes place largely in an apartment block in an affluent suburb. Within the walls, a spate of minor crimes lead to a new security system coming into place, with guards becoming parts of the residents’ lives. Bia (Maeve Jinkings) is a young mother who is tormented by the sound of her neighbour’s dog, but does the barking signify imminent danger? Neighbouring Sounds has plenty of ominous foreshadowing, but the pay-off is surprising and effective; by selecting and dissecting a microcosm of Brazilian society, the film nails a few universal truths that resonate internationally.


Them 1954


1950’s creature features, with giant insects and animals fuelled by atomic testing, made for some pretty hokey movies, but Gordon Douglas’s 1954 chiller isn’t to be tarred with the same brush.  Opening in the New Mexico desert,  Ben Peterson (James Whitmore) comes across a little girl with a fear of ants; it’s the first sign that giant mutant ants are on the attack, and the army move in to destroy their nest. Two queens take flight and start a new colony in the LA storm drains, and Peterson has to move fast to stop a new and deadly infestation for happening. Them! Is more like a police mystery than a sci-fi thriller, and it’s all the better from the Naked City approach. Leonard Nimoy has a tiny role, but the ants themselves are the stars; their appearances are well handled although some of the effects seem a bit weak now; if ever a movie deserved a CGI makeover, Them! should be a prime candidate.


Project Nim 2011


Following on the back of his Oscar-winning Man On Wire, James Marsh chose to adapt Elisabeth Marsh’s book about the remarkable story of Mim Chimpsky, a chimpanzee raised by BYC academics as a human in the free-thinking 1970’s. Marsh shoots his interviews with an odd flourish, with the camera panning away as contributors finish their story. It’s a neat shorthand for the way in which Nim’s hosts continually let him down; after being raises as a man, the funding for the project was pulled, and poor Nim found himself ghetto-ed in zoo conditions, where he passed the time by teaching other chimps to talk using sign-language. Marsh’s documentary is a heart-rendingly sad story about man’s accidental cruelty to animals, with Nim’s predicament artfully outlined for maximum impact. Project Nim would make a good double bill with Rise of The Planet of the Apes; if Nim had went on to lead a revolution, it would have been no more than mankind deserved on this evidence.


The Bear 1988


Adapted from James Oliver Curwood’s novel, the unusual cast-list for Jean Jacques Annaud’s The Bear gives some clue of its unique proposition; Bart The Bear and Youk The Bear both get high billing, an indication that this outdoors drama shirks animation of CGI in favour of real animals. The story of an orphaned bear cub struggling to make his way in nineteenth century British Columbia, sporting stunningly shot landscapes, a great score from Phillipe Sarde and a strong empathy for the bears themselves. Although there’s no dialogue, The Bear is a must-see film for animal lovers in that it doesn’t attempt to force human values on the animals, they roam, they kill, they fight for survival in a remarkably visceral yet likable feature-film.