Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top Five . . . Underrated Films

Disclaimer: As you've probably guessed, I enjoy a good Top Five list. The Top Fives I describe here are not the definitive lists. They're just my humble opinions - you can feel free to disagree with me and debate it out in the comments section.

Today's Top Five is "Underrated Films". (Underrated can mean lack of critical praise or small viewership, or both.)

5. Mirrormask

As a big fan of both Jim Henson films and the majority of Neil Gaiman's work, I loved this film. It takes a lot of inspiration from the Alice books, but with Gaiman's dark spin. The visuals are beautiful and the acting is superb (especially by Jason Barry, who plays Valentine). Mirrormask is the logical next step from Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, and for those who grew up with these Jim Henson classics, this film is the perfect grown up version of their childhood favorites.

4. Mulholland Drive

David Lynch is the king of bizarre cinema (he's the brain behind the uber-surreal "Twin Peaks") and Mulholland Drive is no slouch in that department. The film is very weird, but it is also very beautiful. It's not a movie for everyone, but if you like weird movies, film noir, gorgeous cinematography, or all of the above, you should check out this flick.

3. The Thing

John Carpenter's remake of the 1951 film The Thing From Another World was not well-received by critics or moviegoers when it was released in 1982. Despite being an excellent horror film with amazing special effects, it was considered to be overproduced and excessively gory. Of course, compared to the recent gorefests released by Hollywood, it's relatively tame. It has some great actors (Kurt Russell and the always awesome Wilford Brimley), disgusting monsters, and a plot that induces all-encompassing paranoia . . . in short, a horror fan's dream.

2. This one's a tie . . .

Four Rooms:

This film is far from perfect, but it has a really interesting concept: an anthology film about a bellhop (Tim Roth) on his first night on the job. He visits four different rooms, and each room is a segment directed by a different director. The first two segments are decidedly under par, but the last two are what makes this film great. "Room 309-The Misbehavers" is directed by Robert Rodriguez and stars his frequent collaborator, Antonio Banderas. "Penthouse-The Man From Hollywood" is directed by and stars Quentin Tarantino and is an adaptation of an "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" episode . . . done Tarantino style, of course. Feel free to skip the first two rooms, but definitely check out this movie if you are a Rodriguez/Tarantino fan.

The Legend of 1900:

I saw this movie at my dad's and it is amazing. A beautiful film by Italian filmmaker Giuseppe Tornatore and scored by the great composer Ennio Morricone (Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly . . . just to name a few), this flick is heart-wrenching and flawlessly acted. Tim Roth stars as 1900, a piano prodigy who spent his entire life on a large cruise liner. It is a must-see for music fans.

and drum roll please . . .

1. Dark City

This flick actually garnered a ton of critical praise, but is a relatively unknown film to mainstream moviegoers. With influences as wide as "The Twilight Zone", Metropolis, The Maltese Falcon, and Akira, this film spans several genres. It is a sci-fi film noir that has a decidedly steampunk feel. There are some wicked special effects and the set design is beyond gorgeous. The cinematography is pitch-perfect and the cast is stellar . . . Rufus Sewell, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt, and a decidedly creepy Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as Mr. Hand. It is Kiefer Sutherland who steals the show as Dr. Schreber, however, in a role far flung from his usual typecast as the condescending asshole. Put this one on your Netflix queue immediately.

Let's hear it . . . What are your favorite underrated films?

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