This article comes from Den of Geek UK.
Sometimes, we figure, you come to a site like this just to find out about a film you didn’t know about; that you want recommendations of movies that you might not otherwise have uncovered. This list, then, has no theme, save that the films on it are really good, and didn’t get much of an audience first time around.
That, or they seem to have been forgotten. It’s a real mix, but hopefully, there’s something on here that appeals…
The Brady Bunch Movie
No foreknowledge of the series is required, and the first movie takes the Brady film and transplants them into the 1990s, with no change made to them at all. It makes for quite brilliant comedy, with Gary Cole and Sherry Long leading the cast. The sequel, A Very Brady Sequel, is even better, but do go for the first movie before you get to that. A very funny piece of work.
A fearless acting choice for Kevin Bacon, taking on the role of a child molester who returns to his home town, following the completion of his prison term. It’s a very uncomfortable drama, as you might expect, anchored by Bacon in the leading role in one of his very best performances. He’s surrounded by an excellent ensemble, and a film that explores the impact of his return to the community that was glad to be rid of him.
Keri Russell’s best screen role to date I’d argue is headlining the terrific Waitress, a comedy-drama where she plays a woman working as – yes! – a waitress, trapped in an unhappy marriage and making pies. Into her life comes Nathan Fillion’s character, a physician who helps her with her pregnancy. A real delightful indie movie ensues, one that’s subsequently been adapted for a stage musical.
2 Days in Paris/2 Days in New York
Stylistically, there are overlaps with Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, but the doubleheader of 2 Days in Paris and its follow-up, 2 Days in New York, have plenty of character of their own. Julie Delpy headlines, with Adam Goldberg co-starring in the first film, and Chris Rock in the second. The title is accurately reflective of each film, too. Both are impressive character dramas, both are little seen, both deserve a bigger audience…
Based on the novel Derby Girl, penned by Shauna Cross, Whip It is a delightful sports film, one of the few centered around the world of roller derby.
Ellen Page and Marcia Gay Harden headline this one. On the sporting side, it goes through fairly familiar narrative territory, but it’s got a hell of a lot of heart, characters to care about, and a coming of age undercurrent that shines through. Even more than that: it’s a really, really fun movie.
Even though Maggie Gyllenhaal earned a richly-deserved Golden Globe nomination for Sherrybaby, it’s a film that’s sunk out of the public conscious. It deserves not to. Here, she plays a woman who’s just served time in prison and is recovering from drug addiction. She’s also desperately keen to be a good mother to her daughter, the daughter her family have been raising for her. It’s a very human story the film tells, sometimes threatening to veer towards a movie of the week, but strong writing and an excellent leading performance keep yanking it back. Well worth seeking out.
Elvis & Nixon
You think modern films are too long? Check out Elvis & Nixon, a sprightly, enjoyable drama that covers the unlikely real-life meeting between Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon. It was Presley who requested the meeting, and the film unfussily tells the tale. It’s lifted in particular by Michael Shannon as Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon, two actors who consistently deliver top quality work, as they do again here. The whole film is done and dusted even before 90 minutes is up, too. Bonus.
The Last Supper
A hugely underrated American indie film of the 1990s, one that’s ripe for rewatching. It posits the question: if you met Hitler when he was young, and he told you his ideas and ethos, would you take him out there and then, and make the world a better place for the future? A young group of friends take that conversation a step further, and begin inviting people with extreme views to their dinner table, before deciding whether to let them live or take them out.
But I’m a Cheerleader
Released around the time that Bring It On became a box office hit (and before it became a straight to DVD boxset), But I’m A Cheerleader is a strong indie comedy, headlined by American Pie’s Natasha Lyonne in arguably her best screen role so far. She stars opposite Michelle Williams, as a teenager sent to a special rehab camp when her parents suspect that she’s attracted to women. The camp is designed to reverse such feelings but, well, watch the movie. It’s really very good…
Take This Waltz
Think Seth Rogen films, and generally, most of us expected an R-rated comedy playing to a fairly wide audience. But he’s also shown an eye for more interesting roles. Observe & Report wasn’t a successful project, but I always admired Rogen for picking it. And then there’s Take This Waltz, a film that follows a woman who loves her husband, yet finds herself attracted to an artist who lives across the street. Rogen is on supporting duties here, with the ever-excellent Michelle Williams in the lead. It’s a quiet, very human movie, that doesn’t veer away from exploring human flaws.
A hard-edged cop thriller from 1989, that casts Jamie Lee Curtis in the lead role as a rookie cop up against a serial killer whose growing obsession with her puts her career and her life in jeopardy. Ron Silver proves a strong foe, but it’s Curtis, demonstrating her range, who gives you a character to root for in the midst of a relatively understated piece of work.
In a World
A bit of movie nerd gold, this. Lake Bell and Rob Corddry headline a fun comedy that’s set in the world of movie trailer voiceover work. If the world is a different one to that put on screen before, the tensions, relationships and behind the sides bickering is familiar. The film, though, comes armed with good characters, and a few little turns along the way.
A film that earned rich acclaim on its release, and then seemed to disappear. Hence, us giving it a slight nudge again here. Obvious Child follows the story of a stand-up comedian who discovers she’s pregnant following a one night stand. Jenny Slate takes the lead role, and it places serious issues at the heart of a very well written and played comedy. Also, one that’s willing to exist in a relatable, real world.
A really, really good movie this. A period piece that’s inspired by a true story, Belle follows Dido Elizabeth Belle – played expertly by Gugu Mbatha-Raw – who’s the mixed-race, illegitimate daughter of a Navy captain. The film skillfully explores what Belle is entitled to as a result of who she was born to, and the denied due to the colour of her skin. There’s a romance in the midst of it too, and it’s a really impressive piece of work, that tells its story and clocks out in 100 minutes flat.
Den of Geek is one of the many sites that’s penned articles highlighting the films based on comic books that aren’t superhero films. Thankfully, pretty much every time we see such a list, we’re all pretty uniform in praising to the skies the wonderful American Splendor. It’s a biopic of the late Harvey Pekar, primarily based on his comic book My Cancer Year. Paul Giamatti takes on the role of Pekar, but in a biopic that shakes up the rules and structure of how such films are made, the real-life Pekar keeps making appearances and having his say. A really impressive piece of work, this one.
The Prince of Egypt
Originally, this was set to be the first film release by DreamWorks Animation, but it moved back in the queue courtesy of the studio’s decision to fast track Antz (to head off Pixar’s A Bug’s Life). DreamWorks would only make four hand-drawn animated pictures before switching to CG, and The Prince Of Egypt is comfortably the best of them. A hugely ambitious telling of the story of Moses, it takes its cues from 1990s Disney, in that it’s swirling with songs, the odd comedy character, and dramatic animation. But it’s also a real achievement. I don’t think all the songs work, but I do think the telling of the story does, and there’s a glorious score underpinning it all. A shame DreamWorks never bothered to release this one on Blu-ray.
You know what? It’s alright this. The Peacemaker is notable as the first movie ever released under the DreamWorks banner, and for all its occasional daftness, it’s an entertaining thriller, with a nuclear bent to it. George Clooney and Nicole Kidman headline the film, one that was beset by problems. The end result is better than much commercial fare that bubbled to the top of the box office towards the back end of the 1990s. No classic, but entertaining.
A film about which a lot of noise has been made, with that not necessarily converting to people actually watching it. We’re firmly on its side. Essie Davis is incredible in the lead role of Amelia, a single mum whose son is scared of an apparent monster in the house. But from a conventional-sounding horror movie premise, the film heads off into far more interesting places. If you’re after a conventional jump piece, The Babadook has its moments but is likely to disappoint. If you like, however, horror films that embed themselves deep into your brain and rattle around there for some time afterward, The Babadook is a modern classic.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
If the common complaint now is that big blockbuster movies have a familiar feel to them, then perhaps seeking out something of a noble failure is a good way forward. Sky Captain has problems, certainly, but this is a really ambitious piece of filmmaking and a more entertaining one than it was ever given credit for. Sadly, its failure at the box office resonated around Hollywood, hence they don’t make ’em like this anymore. And this one was only made last decade…
Little Man Tate
An early 1990s drama lifted by an excellent performance from then-young Adam Hann-Byrd. He plays the seven-year-old who seems to be a genius, but whose intelligence is isolating him from his peers. Enter Diane Wiest, running a school for gifted children that absolutely does not involve mutant powers and bloated running times, and the film becomes a well-made exploration of a young man trying to fit into a difficult world.
From the director of Big and A League Of Their Own comes the kind of fun little comedy that Disney has long since ceased making. It’s no classic, granted, but Renaissance Man is a Danny DeVito-headlined comedy that’s good, easy-watching fodder. It plays on the usual fish out of water army conventions, as DeVito finds himself teaching a bunch of recruits who he doesn’t want to teach. But he’s given space to put in a good lead performance, and it’s breezily directed too.
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself
A strong independent dark comedy, bursting with quirks and terrific performances. The title gives you some clue as to where parts of the movie are going, with Jamie Sives’ Wilbur repeatedly trying to kill himself, whilst his brother – played by Adrian Rawlins – keeps coming to his aid. Deeply enriched with characters you find yourself really caring and rooting for, the less you know about the movie is inevitably for the better. But this is a charming, indie delight.
An odd one this. Something of a monster hit in the UK, but one that notably struggled in the US, Arthur Christmas was Aardman’s second – and to date, last – attempt to bring its style and warmth to a Christmas feature. It’s very funny, packed with details, and in the character of the James McAvoy-voiced Arthur, it has someone to root for. Plus, in no animated film ever has the quality of jumpers been so fine. The high point, I’d suggest, is a lovely sequence where the Father Christmas family sit around a table playing a board game. Loved that, and love the film.
Tank Girl has had a bit of a revival in recent times, and thankfully, the core of something really interesting and fun stayed intact despite extensive studio meddling. That story has long since been told, but the Shout Factory Blu-ray will happily give you a refresher. Lori Petty owns the title role, and there are sparks all over the movie that make it both interesting in its own right, and an indicator of what could have been had the studio concerned taken more of a back seat.
Bhaji on the Beach
A funny and very human British comedy, that follows a group of women of differing faiths and beliefs on a day trip to Blackpool. In doing so, they exchange their life problems, and come into conflict with one another. Underpinning all of this – as well as the excellent performances – is a terrific screenplay that’s bursting with very funny jokes and no shortage of humanity. A little gem of a movie.
Something more modern, that seems to still be off many people’s radars. Prevenge follows Alice Lowe’s heavily pregnant Ruth, who becomes convinced that her unborn child wants her to murder people. As such, she sets about murdering people. It’s a jet black horror comedy we get as a consequence and an exceptionally entertaining one. It should, as you might expect, be noted that it’s not for the very squeamish…
Arguably Megan Fox’s finest screen work to date, she’s superb in Jennifer’s Body, a comedy horror where she plays a stereotypical high school cheerleader, but soon isn’t the stereotypical high school cheerleader at all. For a horror film, granted, it might lack genuine frights, but it’s a clever, well-written film with plenty to say. Even more importantly, it’s a piece of work that comfortably stands time’s test. There’s certainly lots going on under the surface.
Discussions about Jennifer Lawrence’s best screen performance to date inevitably turn to the likes of The Hunger Games, her Oscar-winning turn in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle or Joy. But there’s a sporting argument that suggests her astounding breakthrough role in Winter’s Bone is the one to back. It’s a superb drama, powered by Lawrence as the 17-year old trying to map her way through life. The film earned her, rightly, her first Oscar nomination. It should not be forgotten.
It’s telling that Oliver Stone’s recent dramatization of the Edward Snowden story couldn’t get anywhere near the impact of the documentary following his revelations about US surveillance. Citizenfour‘s lost none of its relevancy either, as terrifying as many horror movies, and wisely giving its subject the space to tell his story. An astounding film.
Love Is All You Need
Pierce Brosnan doesn’t often get the credit he deserves for his film choices since he left his James Bond days behind him. Amongst the best is this classy comedy romance – although it doesn’t feel like a straight rom-com – in which he co-stars with Trine Dyrholm and Kim Bodnia. It’s sparklingly funny, a mix of Danish and British cultures, and an absolute gem. Naturally, the vast moviegoing public has ignored it. It really is their loss.
Linus Roache takes the title role here, as a Catholic priest balancing his love of God with his repressed homosexuality. It’s a challenging film powered by an excellent script, terrific performances, and the ramifications that follow when Roache’s priest hears an unsettling confession from a young girl. A film that caused a reasonable amount of noise on its original release in 1994, this is powerful, brilliantly put together drama.