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.


Windy’s Pick of the Week: Vanilla Sky

A remake of Alejandro Amenabar’s Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) by director Cameron Crowe, this is a love triangle drama that takes a dark turn toward psychological horror. Tom Cruise plays spoiled David who uses his friend Julie for sex, and takes his best friend Brian’s date and falls in love with her. When Julie (Cameron Diaz) reacts poorly to being replaced in David’s life, she crashes her car – killing herself, and disfiguring David’s face. David cannot come to grips with the mess his life has become, especially when dead Julie starts reappearing and inserting herself into David’s life. The true nature of the haunting is surprising, and satisfying. (Watching it in a double feature with the original Spanish film is a treat, as the changes made are fascinating in what they reveal about the respective cultures.)


Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Night of the Comet

This is one of my favorite horror comedies, and has been ever since I discovered it during the heydey of 1980s cable television. It has long been unavailable on home video formats, but Shout Factory finally put out a DVD about a year ago, so now I can start bugging people to see the film. The plot involves a comet, zombies, teenaged mall rats, guns, nefarious government researchers, more zombies, arcade games, and a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. Catherine Mary Stewart plays the heroine with verve and big 80s hair. Joss Whedon once mentioned that the film was an influence on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so that should tell you a lot about the tone of the film. Track it down!

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: The Saddest Music in the World

Okay, bear with me on this one. The director of this film is the sort of director whose films get played in modern art museums (which is where I found him). But Guy Maddin’s avant garde proclivities are heavily dosed with a truly warped sense of humor (which is why I love him). The Saddest Music in the World is perhaps his best known movie, and one of my favorites. Filmed with the sensibilities found in early talkie films, this movie is a musical set in Depression era Winnipeg, where Isabella Rossellini plays a beer baroness who has staked a $25,000 bounty to find the saddest music in the world. As musicians compete onstage for the title, and the winners of each round get to plunge down a playground slide into a vat full of beer (!). Oh, and Mark McKinney from The Kids in the Hall is there (!!). And Isabella Rossellini’s character is an amputee, so she eventually winds up with glass legs. That get filled with beer (!!!). It’s delightfully weird, and if you like it, Guy Maddin has a whole goldmine of other bizarro films for you to enjoy.


Windy’s Pick of the Week: Free Enterprise

This 1998 movie has one of my favorite William Shatner performances. Robert and Mark are two 30-something movie producers (and die-hard Trek fans) trying to get their lives put together, when they chance upon William Shatner (playing “himself”) and strike up an unlikely friendship. Kirk has been their imaginary friend and advisor throughout their childhood, and now they must confront the reality of the man, as well as how their obsessions are affecting their adulthood. The script is surprisingly funny, Shatner is delightfully self-aware, and the central conflict resonates with any geek who has ever had to explain why scifi is awesome.

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: 12 Angry Men

If you love court-room dramas and you haven’t seen this? You’ve been cheating yourself. It’s weird to recommend a classic like this as “underappreciated” – but I can no longer assume that we’ve all seen these great films, as generations shift and movies that everybody knew are slowly forgotten. Twelve jurors in a murder trial slowly file into the room to decide on a verdict. It’s hot, it’s Friday afternoon, and they just want to finish and go home. Eleven voices agree “guilty” – and the voice of that one dissenting man becomes the driving force of a play entirely about perception and memory, bias and assumptions. The 1957 film has an amazing cast – Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Jack Klugman, Jack Warden, Ed Begley… This movie is the definition of “drama.”


Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Mr. Vampire

I’ve adored this film ever since I laid eyes on it, because it’s a joyous blend of three things I love: horror, comedy, and martial arts. It’s the story of a Hong Kong mortician and his bumbling assistants, who find themselves plagued by a rogue vampire. I say “rogue” here because most of the vampires they know are docile “clients” of a fellow mortician, who keeps them obedient via little yellow scrolls that he sticks to their foreheads. Oh, and did I mention that the vampires hop like bunnies? And that Ricky Lau directed it? And that Sammo Hung produced it? Yeah, it’s daffy and glorious.

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: Freaked

Okay, so, once upon a time, Alex Winter (the other guy from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure) remade Todd Browning’s Freaks, except it was a zany comedy with Randy Quaid as the villain and Bobcat Goldthwait as a man with a sock puppet for a head and all the makeup effects looked like they erupted from MAD Magazine and there’s a character named Oritz the Dog Boy who sounds suspiciously like an uncredited Keanu Reeves having the time of his life. Oh, and Mr. T was there, too.

If you’re wondering why I’m typing while having a fever dream, I assure you, this film exists, and you should see it.


Windy’s Pick of the Week: Bride & Prejudice

A Bollywood adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel! All the romance, with Bollywood dance numbers – but no kissing (Jane Austen would’ve approved). If you’ve never watched Bollywood, this is a good entry point. The film is mostly in English, it stars the stunning Aishwarya Rai, and it’s telling a quintessentially Western story. In this retelling, the central conflict between Lalita (our Elizabeth analog) and Darcy is his ignorance of and lack of respect for Indian culture – an apt and relevant point of contention that also allows for a satisfying resolution. The Bollywood song/dance numbers are not as polished and amazing as some other films, but they are charming and catchy, and the Indian twist on beloved characters is delightfully fresh.

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: Mongol

This Russian film from 2007 is everything you want from an historical epic: sweeping cinematography, a fascinating central character, and the unexpected twists and turns that lead our hero to his fate. I saw this movie at Butt-Numb-a-Thon in 2007, and even years later, those who were there remember what a stand-out film this was. Temudjin, who would later become Genghis Khan, has a very inauspicious beginning to his great career – several defeats, being left for dead, even sold into slavery. What made this movie so compelling though is the central relationship between Temudjin and his wife Borte, and how their love and commitment is their greatest asset even as they are separated time and time again. (When Temudjin is a slave in Tangut, she is determined to get there and travels as a merchant’s concubine in order to reunite with her beloved husband – a fact which is not concealed, and causes no disruption in their relationship. Fascinating!) While the pace is slow, it is well worth the time investment – like chewing on a truly delicious steak.


Melissa’s Pick of the Week: Miami Connection

Look, I’ll tell you right now: this is not a good movie. Yet this is one of those films that I hold near and dear to my heart because it delights me in stupid ways, and there is really nothing quite like it. This film exists because a Tae Kwon Do instructor in Florida was coaxed into making an action film by a friend, so he self-funded the project and cast a bunch of his students. The plot involves a Tae Kwon Do rock band (who all live in a house together) that winds up clashing with an evil ninja rock band (no, really) in Orlando (not Miami). Every scene is baffling in some way, and yet every frame of this movie is completely in earnest. This is a holy relic of so-bad-it’s-great cinema, right up there with Plan 9 from Outer Space and The Room. If you are a connoisseur of schlock cinema, this film is an absolute treat.

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