Wednesday, December 29, 2010
7 Great Films You Likely Didn't Know Existed
Discovery was the main reason we started Rankography. We thought that if lots of knowledgeable movie fans started ranking their favorite movies in different categories, then we could find great unknown movies. Well, for me at least, that has been true in spades. Since we launched in May, my Netflix queue has tripled in size and I have watched many outstanding movies that I found on others' rankings.
I thought I would highlight 7 of the best "unknown" movies that I found during the last several months.
Sin Nombre (2009 - Mexico)
Stark drama about two Honduran teenagers, strangers brought together on the epic journey to the United States through Mexico. It is a graphic depiction of gang life in Honduras and the utter desperation to get to a better life in the US. If you can handle stark gangland dramas, in the vein of City of God, this is a very good film.
The Thin Man (1934)
I have garv to thank for highlighting this Classic on several of his ranked lists. This is a murder mystery comedy starring William Powell and Myrna Loy. This pair had such great comedic onstage presence together that there were several sequels to this movie. In total, the pair went on to partner for 14 films. They are naturally funny together. You will also enjoy the different attitudes toward drinking. This movie came out right after the end of Prohibition and you can tell by this timely film that the country was ready for a party!
Eastern Promises (2007)
Many of you may have heard of this Russian mafia movie, but given that it only cleared $16 million at the box office it is probably new to most folks. I found it on the rankings of the best Gangster Movies and I was not disappointed. This is an unraveling story about a young girl that dies in child birth after a brutal beating from an unknown abuser. The cast is excellent, including Viggo Mortenson and Naomi Watts, but Armin Mueller-Stahl really steals the show as the cold-blooded family patriarch.
Meet John Doe (1941)
Talk about bad timing, Meet John Doe is a Frank Capra/Gary Cooper meeting that was released in 1941, the same year as Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Hitchcock's Suspicion and How Green was My Valley. As a result, it has not survived in classic lore as well as many other movies, however this is one of my favorite Gary Cooper movies. The story is a bit of a feel good Depression-era film about how an unknown guy can change the world if given the chance. If you like Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, I think you will also like this one.
Okay, I am going a little off the beaten path for this one. Darkon is a documentary about LARPers (Live Action Role Playing gamers). I have never played these games and frankly watched this film because I wanted to understand what they people were thinking. However, the film-making in this low budget documentary is so good, that I felt myself hanging on the outcome of a major fake battle between to opposing sides. The camera angles, musical score and editing are very cool. It creates an illusion of watching a real Fantasy Adventure movie. You can watch this one on Netflix and its a fun watch. I highly recommend you check out this hidden gem.
Runaway Jury (2003)
Runaway Jury is the biggest box office success in this list. It grossed about $40 million at the box office, but that is still a paltry sum and means very few people have seen this excellent courtroom drama. The cast is outstanding Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz and John Cusack. It is a look into the backroom drama in jury selection and jury management in the big class action personal injury lawsuits. Gene Hackman is excellent as a ruthless jury consultant for the defense. As if the acting and drama were not enough, the plot takes some interesting twists and turns that is very entertaining. This movie is right up there in my Top 5 courtroom drama films.
And God Spoke... (1993)
And finally we end with a comedy way, way off the beaten path. And God Spoke...is a hilarious mockumentary in the tradition of This is Spinal Tap. It follows the drama of a film-making team as they try to produce their latest film with the same title. There is a lot of the normal behind the scenes mockumentary comedy, but the characters carry the day. Stephen Rappaport really stole the show for me. His character is so over the top that you actually feel like he believes what he is saying at time. It is amazing to me that he has not been cast in other comedic movie roles since this movie. Andy Dick also has a very funny cameo appearance as Abel to Lou Ferrigno's Cain -- you can imagine where that is going. I was laughing out loud by myself watching it on my computer through Netflix! Unfortunately, there is not an embeddable trailer, but there are a couple of clips available on youtube.