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Mar 6, 2007

Underrated Films (part I)

Call them what you will - underrated, unloved, ignored, or just plain not loved enough, I've been thinking lately about some films that, for whatever reason, I don't think people appreciate enough. So, if you haven't seen these yet, well, you know what to do...

(In no particular order)

Yes, Swingers is a great film that spawned a million one-liners and launched the careers of Favreau, Vaughn and (to a point) Ron Livingston, but Go is director Doug Liman's best film. Centering in on one absurd night in the interconnected life of a group of young Angelinos, Go is charged with energy, originality, full of wit, and features a great soundtrack and a great cast.

Shattered Glass
"Anakin Skywalker as you've never seen him before" is putting it lightly. In director Billy Ray's (Breach) first feature, Hayden Christensen and Peter Sarsgaard star in the true-life tale of disgraced journalist Stephen Glass. It's hard to describe a film about a lying journalist as intense, but this one is. As good as Christensen is, though, this is Sarsgaard's breakout film.

You might have known this one was coming. Though it does get some love every now and then, what is one of the funniest films of the 80s often times gets lost in the shuffle amongst other classics like Trading Places, Caddyshack, and the John Hughes movies. Fletch Lives is also vastly underrated, but it's widely hated enough that I won't mention it. (Oh well, too late.)

12 Monkeys
Along the Liman lines - forget Brazil, this is Terry Gilliam's masterpiece. Featuring Bruce Willis at his apex, along with a then "up and coming" Brad Pitt (who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar - and deserved it), along with Madeline Stowe, David Morse and others, Monkeys is the Children of Men before there was a Children of Men. Worth seeing for the stunning visuals alone.

No irony, no sarcasm, just an earnest action-spy film (with the titular warrior mentality), complete with two of the best car chases I've ever seen, and I'm not even a car chase kind of guy. Throw in Robert DeNiro, Jean Reno, Sean Bean, Jonathan Pryce, Stellan Skarsgard, and gorgeous European destinations, and you've got a winner. One of the best action films of the last 20 years.

The only reason Tin Cup doesn't get as much love as Bull Durham is for two reasons: 1) Bull Durham came first, and 2) Durham's focus is on baseball, "America's Pasttime," while Cup is about golf, which may be popular, but doesn't touch what baseball did in 1988. Both are fair points, but neither should take away from how good Cup is. While Costner might not be the most likable movie star, he takes that unlikability and gruffness to an art form, especially in scenes with co-star Cheech Marin (in a great turn as well).

George Clooney has been in some great films (Syriana, Ocean's 11, O Brother Where Art Thou, Three Kings, etc.), but Out of Sight probably remains my favorite, and is the only film where I can watch Jennifer Lopez and take her seriously as an actress. Directed by Steven Soderbergh in 1998 (just before he got really big with Traffic and Erin Brockovich), it co-stars Don Cheadle, Albert Brooks, Ving Rhames, and 20 other great character actors. Adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel (which I'm a sucker for), and featuring a great soundtrack and script as well, the movie is almost flawless. In fact, it was so good, they even spun it off into a well-received but eventual ratings dud of a TV show, based on the Lopez character and starring Carla Gugino (Sin City). All that said, I'll never forgive the studio (or whoever made the decision) to use the above poster for marketing efforts after its theatrical release, as the original poster belongs on the list of all-time great movie posters:

That's enough for part I. I've got another 7 lined up for part II, but be sure to let me know if you have any submissions - I'd love to hear your choices.

2 people have chosen wisely: on "Underrated Films (part I)"

NFL Adam said...

Wow, I could not agree more on Go. What a fantastic movie. That Vegas trip was far more realistic than the hackneyed scenes in Swingers. And that is only one part of it. William Fitchner is wonderful in this film. Katie Holmes is in her pre-Cruise glory. I love this flick.

Also agree with Out of Sight as it has the automatic Clooney getting out of jail scene.

Abe said...

12 Monkeys is in my all-time top 5 movies list. It's one of the few movies I wouldn't change a single detail about.