So a few weeks ago I wrote a story on movies I felt were overrated. Now those were not necessarily bad movies I just didn’t think they were the amazing 5 stars everyone else seems to. The follow up naturally becomes what are underrated movies that deserve more playing time?
I actually struggled in coming up with a list because some of them seemed difficult to defend but I enjoyed them nonetheless. Some might think how could I not be into the Godfather and like Sweet Home Alabama or The Blind Side? I can’t explain it. I just do. So here are some underrated gems to check out by category:
Rom Coms that do the genre right- anyone knows I love a good romantic movie but they have been the scene of some truly horrific flops in the last 10 years. Some that were unjustly ignored are:
IQ- a funny movie starring Meg Ryan, Tim Robbins and Walter Manthau about Einstein’s niece falling in love. The banter between Einstein and his buddies is hilarious, the chemistry is right on. Its available on netflix so check it out (many on this list are on netflix).
Sweet Home Alabama- Predictable? yes. do some of the jokes fall flat? yes, but I really enjoy this movie. I LOVE Josh Lucas. He is super sexy and Patrick Demsey plays the other man with a lot of class. They do not take the easy way out and make him a jerk.
Just Wright- A movie nobody saw with Queen Latifah and Common. The Queen is divine as a physical therapist tasked with helping an NBA player come back from an injury. Yes, its predicable but you need some of that in this genre. Its really a fairy tale with the prince charming a basketball player and Paula Patton as the somewhat evil stepsister (god-sister in this story . She’s a gold digger with a heart and boy is she pretty)
Return to Me- Similar to IQ this sweet love story of a girl who gets a heart transplant but then falls for the widower of the heart donor. Its sweet and how great to have a Hollywood romance where the character falls in love without the girl revealing a scar on her chest. A very clean simple movie with a great group of older actors playing the Irish/Italian family of the Minnie Driver character.
Better Off Dead- I can’t really defend this movie except to say that it makes me laugh every time. A boy is infatuated with his girlfriend and then is dumped for the captain of the high school ski team. To get back he decides to ski the K-12.
Hijinks erupt with everything from Howard Cossell Japanese taxi drivers, animated burgers, a paper boy who wants his $2, a mother who boils bacon and makes goo for dinner and a brother who cuts out coupons from boxes before the cereal is eaten. What can I say? It just makes me laugh.
Drama’s that deserve to be seen-
Marvin’s Room- A gut wrenching drama with Meryl Streep, Dianne Keaton, Robert Deniro and Leonardo Dicaprio. It reads like a good play. Two estranged sisters get back together when one is diagnosed with cancer. Dicaprio plays a teen with severe behavior and mental illness issues but it is done in a realistic way. Every performance is good. It felt like watching a real family.
Warrior- Not enough people saw this great sports/family movie. The conceit is predictable. We know the brothers will end up fighting against each other but the journey is so well done. All the performances are great. Tom Hardy is super hot and Nick Nolte is totally believable as the alcoholic father everyone has discounted. The fight scenes are not overly long and the tension is built perfectly. Great example of its genre.
Secret Life of Bees- Another movie with a strong ensemble cast that nobody saw. Based on the bestselling novel by Su Monk Kidd tells the story of a little girl who runs away from home in 1964 South Carolina. She finds a new home with a family of black women that knew her mother and are beekeepers. I loved the book and the movie.
Jane Eyre 1996- I have yet to dislike a version of this story (including the 2011 filming) but this one may be my favorite big screen adaptation. Charlotte Ginsberg is the most plain Jane but that totally works for the character. William Hurt is brooding and fun as Rochester even without a British accent.
The Blind Side- Obviously this film has its fans as it won an oscar for Sandra Bullock but amongst critics it is frequently chided as sentimental and even manipulative. My answer to that is so what? Hasn’t sentimentality always been an essential aspect to the movies? Even going back to Gone with the Wind or Mrs Minver. If it is done well I enjoy a good hearted fable that helps encourage me to be a better person.
This story is of course about future super bowl winner Michael Oher and how he is adopted by the Tuohy family of Mississippi. Its the kind of movie I want to watch when I’m having a bad day or feeling discouraged and I don’t think that is a bad thing. Our society could use a little more hope and little less cynicism.
Children Movies You Might Have Missed
Winnie the Pooh Movie- Finally a movie designed for little, little kids. Its short enough for them with a simple sweet story that I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for. I LOVE the music. No winking humor for adults just an unabashed little kids movie (5 and under)
Holes- The first time I saw this movie I was blown away. I called my family and said ‘you have to see it’. They weren’t as impressed but I thought it was so creative. Weaving a story of a kid sent to a desert camp to dig holes and an cowboy love story that ended badly leaving a curse on the entire family. I still think it is brilliant.
Where the Wild Things Are- This movie has its fans and I admit it is one you either go with or don’t. I did. When I saw it in the theater half of us thought it was amazing and half a big bore. I loved its realistic depiction of a child, without any of the cloying sweetness of most Hollywood movies. This is a real kid with tantrums and stubbornness.
Then he is given the chance to actually lead creatures, creatures that feature all of his good and bad traits and he realizes how hard it is. He gets a new empathy for his mother. I loved the music, voice acting, the kid is a great actor (plus looks like my step-nephew). Its different but I totally bought it.
Ponyo- A weird but delightful animated movie from Hayao Miyazaki who made Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. Both of those are better movies but this one is more like My Friend Totoro and is designed for little kids. The story is simple but the images are so creative and the basic idea so dazzling that the kids have room to write some of their own story. It is about a little boy that adopts a gold fish that is the daughter of the great sea wizard. The ocean begins to search for the adorable Ponyo and everything begins.
Classics You Should See-
Talk of the Town- At its release this movie was nominated for Oscars but I doubt many have seen it. Certainly Cary Grant’s other comedies such as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday (both wonderful) are more popular but I love Talk of the Town . It has Jean Arthur who plays the high school crush of town good-for-nothing Grant who has been framed by a union for a fire that killed a man.
Knowing the jury is rigged Grant escapes from prison and seeks refuge at Arthur’s summer home which is soon to be occupied by a potential supreme court nominee played by Ronald Coleman. Justice vs mercy is amazingly mixed in with some great slapstick. I laugh my head off at this movie and think about philosophy at the same time. A rare combination.
Brigadoon- The Gene Kelly musical most people haven’t seen. Lerner and Loewe’s broadway musical comes to life about a town that ages only one day every hundred years. Kelly and his friend stumble upon the town on a hunting trip and meet the lovely Cyd Charisse. Some great songs such as Almost Like Being in Love, There but for you go I, Waitin for my Dearie and other great music and dancing.
Lili- A movie most people probably haven’t seen but a sweet fairy tale with amazing dancing. Its the story of a girl named Lili played by Leslie Caron who stumbles upon a circus in a small town who agree to give her a job as a magicians assistant. Young, she botches the first night and runs away in distress. To her surprise she stumbles upon a puppet show and the puppets start to speak to her.
She agrees to be the MC for the puppet show but gets so lost in the illusion that she doesn’t remember who is behind the scenes. Could it be jaded carnival operator who is bitter about his career in dance going down the tubes because of an injury? You will have to see! The dancing is magnificent and like I said it is a gem.