Category: Underappreciated Movies

This Week’s Underappreciated Movies

Every Monday, each of us will suggest a film that we feel too few people have seen.


Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

Those of you that appreciate a great documentary will appreciate this one. I don’t even like Metallica very much, and I think this film is fantastic. Back in the early 2000s, VH1 sent in a film crew to make a reality show about the band making their St. Anger album. Unfortunately for VH1’s plans, the band was so dysfunctional during this period that they nearly broke up. The record company finally sent in a psychiatrist that specializes in sports teams in an effort to keep the band together. What the film crew wound up capturing is 1,600 hours of footage about aging rockers learning how to cope with one another after all these years. VH1 dropped the plans for a series, but in a moment of wisdom, Metallica themselves paid the film crew to finish the shoot and eventually edit the footage to a single film. The result is a dense, 140 minute film about fame, aging, collaboration, new media, and the nature of art.


Windy’s Pick of the Week: Strictly Ballroom

Do we all remember Baz Luhrmann? Like a meteor he sparkled across the sky and now seems to have faded. But my goodness, the sparkles! Especially in this, his debut film. The style is campy, the plot is predictable…but the emotion still rings true. Scott Hastings should be a ballroom champion, but he finds himself stifled by the staid structure of traditional ballroom. When he dares to dance his own steps, he gets firmly stepped on by the dancing community. But teaming up with misfit Fran, Scott pursues his own course. You know exactly what’s going to happen, but I challenge you to resist the charms of this technicolor fever-dream.

This Week’s Underappreciated Movies

Every Monday, each of us will suggest a film that we feel too few people have seen.


Windy’s Pick of the Week: Khabi Khushi Khabie Gham (Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness)

“It’s all about loving your parents.” This Bollywood extravaganza stars the manly trifecta of Bollywood superstars Shah Rukh Kahn, Amitabh Bachchan, and Hrithik Roshan. This supersized epic (at 210 minutes) has a flashback so long that I forgot it was a flashback. This is not Bollywood for the first-timer, but if you’ve got at least one under your belt (I recommend Kal Ho Na Ho as a good beginner), then you should not miss the modern classic of the Indian cinema. Shah Rukh is Rahul, adopted son of Amitabh – who wants him to follow tradition and marry the bride chosen for him (and hey, it’s an old family friend that he’s actually fond of, so not too bad really). But Rahul unexpectedly falls in love with someone else and it tears the family apart. Years later, second son Rohan is sent by his mother to find his brother and help the family heal. Chock full of epic melodrama, crazy shenanigans, and Bollywood production numbers, you’ll find yourself deeply satisfied by the end.


Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Cannibal! The Musical

If you have ever enjoyed South Park (or anything else by Matt Stone and Trey Parker), you owe it to yourself to check out their first full-length film, Cannibal! The Musical. Made on a miniscule budget, the film is a musical comedy adaptation of the true story of Alferd Packer, a gold prospector who turned cannibal during an ill-fated expedition. (Really!) The filmmaking lacks the skill and polish of later Stone/Parker productions, but what does work really works, and it’s easy to see how they quickly gained fame in comedy. Bonus: if you get the DVD, listen to the commentary track. It’s one of the best (and drunkest) commentary tracks I’ve ever heard.

This Week’s Underappreciated Movies

Every Monday, each of us will suggest a film that we feel too few people have seen.

Lord of War

Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Lord of War

Back in 2005, Andrew Niccol (who crafted the brilliant GATTACA) wrote and directed a movie that tragically flew under the radar. In Lord of War, Nicolas Cage plays real-life arms dealer Yuri Orlav, and the film follows him through the birth, peak, and fade of his decades-long career of providing guns to the warlords of the world. Cage is great as a man who takes pride in his work as he simultaneously avoids allowing himself to think too much about what he’s doing. The film also benefits from the presence of Jared Leto, who plays Orlav’s distant-eyed brother, who is not as deft at life, but who does possess a moral compass that Yuri lacks. Ethan Hawke also pops up here and there as a dogged Interpol agent, who wants very badly to put Yuri out of business, but cannot because it would require dodging the law he is trying to uphold. Niccol’s sly script and deft storytelling give both gravity and black humor to the story, making it good, meaty fun.


Windy’s Pick of the Week: Waitress

Adrienne Shelly wrote and directed this small, sweet ensemble romance. Small town diner staff are each exploring their relationships and the compromises we make to deal with the mistakes made along the way. Which sounds WAY heavier than this delightful little film is! Dare I use the dreaded “quirky” to describe the characters and dialogue? Keri Russell is the central character, unhappily married and even more unhappily pregnant, with Nathan Fillion (!!!) as her romantic-sparks-causing OB-GYN. A curmedgeonly Andy Griffith rounds out the cast. Warning: You might want to stock up on some pie before popping this one in the DVD player.

This Week’s Underappreciated Movies

Every Monday, each of us will suggest a film that we feel too few people have seen.

Addicted to Love

Windy’s Pick of the Week: Addicted to Love

There was a brief moment in 1997 when Meg Ryan got tired of being America’s Sweetheart, and before Matthew Broderick descended into one-dimensional kitsch. They got together and made a very off-beat romantic comedy predicated on Matthew and Meg teaming up to stalk their exes who are now together as a couple: Broderick is the sad-sack who just wants to figure out how to get his girl back, while Meg just wants revenge. Full disclosure: I haven’t watched it in years, but I do own it (and watched it frequently in the late 90s) because I loved how bitter and biting it was. The plot is predictable (it is a romantic comedy, after all) but it’s the byplay between Matthew and Meg that makes it fun. Also starring Kelly Preston and the dude who played the European scientist in The Core.


Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Creepshow

Back in the early 1980s, George Romero and Stephen King hatched this wicked little horror ode. This film contains a string of short stories, each a love letter to the particular brand of darkly humored monsters-and-comeuppance tales that made EC Comics famous. The film even has the bright, saturated colors of a comic, which is a nice change from the blanched horror films of today. Fans of playing Name That Actor will have a blast watching Creepshow, too, as it is loaded with great character actors and icons of 1980s cinema. In particular, watch for a pre-Cheers Ted Danson, a pre-comedy career Leslie Nielsen, and an unapologetically overcooked performance from Stephen King himself! The film relies far more on story, dark humor, and tone than it does on gore, so it can even appeal to folks who don’t normally dig horror films.

This Week’s Underappreciated Movies

Every Monday, each of us will suggest a film that we feel too few people have seen.

Jacob's Ladder

Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s Ladder is a movie whose script languished on the “best unproduced scripts in Hollywood” list for a decade before someone was brave enough to take it on. Finally, Adrian Lyne picked up the script, gave it a polish, and produced this dark, dread-filled horror-drama. There is nothing quite like the tone of this film: it has an eerie gravity to it, and it combines elements that would normally be gothic with a primordial quality that makes them truly seem like something that lurks in the corner of your eye. All special effects were made in-camera, and the sum of it all creates a sort of hell-on-Earth portrait of mental illness.

The plot is essentially a character study of a Vietnam vet (played by Tim Robbins) who is struggling with postwar life. His first marriage has failed and his son has died. He now has a job at the post office, but he suddenly finds himself plagued by hallucinations and visions. He finds that his old war buddies are also having the same problems, so he starts trying to find out why. His path is littered with government conspiracies and barely-glimpsed horrors, and it becomes clear that not all of he sees — or what we see — is real.

It’s certainly not a happy film, but it’s a masterwork of horror that I feel has been forgotten over the years. If you do track it down and enjoy (?) it, I recommend seeking out the DVD extras of the cut scenes. Almost 40 minutes of material were cut from the movie, and they are fascinating to watch.


Windy’s Pick of the Week: Pumpkinhead

I remember first seeing the trailer for this 1988 horror film — it looked pretty creepy, like it would deliver some good scares, and then Mr. Movie Voice declared “the name of terror is…PUMPKINHEAD.” And I burst into guffaws. Well, I wasn’t laughing when I finally saw this cult classic. The awesome Lance Henriksen stars as a father seeking revenge on those damned city kids for their (truly horrible) crime. But his vengeance will cost him, and as the demon he raised slowly tracks down the offenders, he regrets his anger – but regrets won’t be enough to stop Pumpkinhead’s rampage! Stan Winston directs this oddly well-put-together film.

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