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Mar 10, 2007

Underrated Films (part II)

The list of unloved, forgotten, or just underappreciated films continues...

Red Rock West
Made back when John Dahl was the next "Up and Coming" director, and also when Blog Cabins' favorite pariah Nicolas Cage was still a respected actor (even by me). Hitmen, cheating wives, Dennis Hopper, and a still healthy-looking Lara Flynn Boyle are also along for the ride. Film noir well done.

Stranger Than Fiction
Unfairly dismissed by many as a Charlie Kauffman knockoff, this was probably the least-appreciated film of last year. Will Ferrell gives a tremendous performance as Harold Crick, a well-meaning but troubled IRS drone whose life is turned upside down when he starts to hear his own life being narrated. Though I could have done without the Queen Latifah character (unnecessary), Ferrell, Emma Thompson, and Dustin Hoffman (practically reprising his I Heart Huckabees role) more than carry the film.

I Heart Huckabees
Speaking of Dustin Hoffman's role...this is one of the funniest films of the last decade. Jason Schwartzman (always fun) gets his best role since Rushmore and Mark Wahlberg plays waaayy off-type as a firefighter whose lost some of his marbles. Hoffman and Lily Tomlin steal the show as a pair of "existential detectives." The first 5 seconds had me at hello - they will likely either turn you off immediately or suck you in.

Hudson Hawk
How is this considered a failure?!? Maybe it didn't make a ton of money, and maybe on some levels, it was a failure, but this is one of the best "bad" movies out there, joining such classics as Roadhouse and the next film listed here. This is The DaVinci Code for dummies, but it also happens to be a lot of fun, featuring candy bars, Bunny the dog, a fat man singing, and an explosive auction, amongst other things. Also, don't forget to keep an eye out for David Caruso in his pre-NYPD Blue form (and speechless, no less!)
Starship Troopers
A first-ballot Hall of Fame Bad Movie. What's not to love? Director Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct) watches over one of the worst acting groups ever to grace celluloid - Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Patrick Muldoon, and a bunch of bugs! Doogie Howser himseld, Neil Patrick Harris, even has a small role as a genius (fitting).
The really funny (not funny, but sad) thing is that Troopers was meant to be (and succeeds somewhat) a sharp satire. Presented in a psuedo-newscast/recruitment video at times, it urges the viewer to question the military's tactics for attracting "fresh meat" and the roles of the soldiers once they get there (the source material caused alot of controvery at the time of its release). Just a good, dumb time all around.
No irony or sarcasm here, just a critically-loved yet commercially-ignored indie from the time when indies still weren't getting all that much press (1995). Starring Harvey Keitel, Forest Whitaker and William Hurt (amongst others), Smoke follows a number of tangential stories between a group of New Yorkers. Low-key, slow-paced and touching, Smoke is a great watch on a night when you just want to chill out for awhile - it wouldn't hurt if you liked cigars, either. (The filmmakers even made a companion piece, the more loose yet not as good Blue in the Face. If you like Smoke, it's worth a watch just to see some of the characters, but is otherwise not too special.)
Want to see Jeremy Piven in one of his first leading roles (more or less)? Want to see Jon Favreau before he got thin (and fat again)? Want to see the Animal House of the 90s?
Ok, forget that last question, for it was the undoing of PCU. Saddled with the high expectation of living up to one of the most loved comedies of all time, floundered (no pun intended) under the weight. However, it's pretty witty at times (the term paper handouts by Piven) and pretty much plays out like the original Old School. Good times. Besides, can you really go wrong with any movie featuring George Clinton? I think not.
Sliding Doors
Don't like Gwyneth? Ok, then this film may not be for you, as there is double the Gwyneth for the price of one here. But if you can get over that, you'll see a well-done, high-concept romantic comedy that asks "What if?" John Hannah nearly steals the film from Paltrow, however, in a charming role as the better or two suitors for her. Oh, and Gwyneth shows off her impeccable British accent - no small feat, considering the number of American actors that even attempt that.

3 people have chosen wisely: on "Underrated Films (part II)"

gabe said...

was it me or was Emma Thompson hamming it up in stranger than fiction.Loved the movie ..but she could've underplayed it a wee bit.
Still waiting on that 300 review ...

NFL Adam said...

Oh man, I really loved PCU. Great movie.

Fletch said...

Agreed on Emma Thompson, but I think it worked for the movie. Ferrell was so low-key most of the time that she provided a jolt of energy when onscreen. And she's earned a little ham time.