A Few Underappreciated Films For Your Consideration
Each year, films spend large amounts of money to garner your attention and draw you in to their web, causing you to spend your hard earned money on them. Some are worthwhile, others not so much. But there are also films which do not spend large amounts on advertising and as a result are not brought to your attention. Oftentimes they are worthy films, and are actually quite good. Other times a film might feature an actor who puts you off due to their actions, or your feeling that they are not someone you want to watch and as a result it is placed on a back shelf for you, or not even thought of at all. I know I am that way, but I am blessed to have a beautiful wife who brings these films to my attention and I end up truly enjoying them. What follows is a short list of a few films we have found and enjoyed time and again.
First, A Recent Big Budget Film Viewed
Our 11 year old son asked that we rent Interstellar recently. We relented and picked it up for an evening's viewing last weekend. I had seen a few clips on it and knew the bare bones but let me tell you: we were spellbound for the next three hours!
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain and Michael Caine, it is a big budget ($165 million) movie that did very well (over $600 million) at the box office. The plot is set in the future and virtually nothing is growing well. The population is diminishing and the future is bleak. McConaughey is selected to take a voyage into space in order to save both his children and humanity by finding an alternative to Earth for them to be transported to and live.
Suffice it to say, things are not as they seem and as the movie unfolds the viewer finds themselves drawn in to the script, and things witnessed early come back with haunting results. It is a truly engrossing film and we enjoyed it immensely. Immediately after viewing the talk began "Can we buy this movie!?" And we will be purchasing it shortly. If you haven't seen it yet, please run, don't walk to your local rental location and pick it up tonight. Be sure to allow plenty of time as it is close to three hours long.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
This film features one of those actors I originally refused to give his due: Ben Stiller. His acting roots run deep in Hollywood, with his father, Jerry Stiller (George Costanza's father on Seinfeld) a long time comedian/actor, and his mother (Anne Meara, long time actress/comedienne) being Hollywood stalwarts. It has taken a while, but I am beginning to realize he has talent, and this film presents the best he has accomplished to date.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a remake of a 1947 film featuring Danny Kaye, which was itself a story in The New Yorker Magazine in 1942. The Danny Kaye version is changed and adapted for modern film goers but loses nothing in translation.
Stiller, as Mitty, works for Life magazine, and the magazine is being subjected to closure. Mitty works in the picture development lab and is sent a shot by famed photographer Sean O'Connell, played by Sean Penn. The shot intended for the final cover of Life is lost and Mitty undertakes a journey to locate O'Connell to find out what it was. A dreamer, Mitty often loses himself in real life and in the early stages of the journey, but as the film progresses he finds his daydreams becoming less frequent as reality settles in on him.
Kristen Wiig co-stars, along with Shirley MacLaine and a cameo by Payton Oswald as Mitty's eHarmony customer service representative. What I loved about this film is the way Stiller as Mitty becomes someone real, someone who simply looks at a challenge and accomplishes it no matter what it entails. From hopping on a plane to Iceland to jumping out of a helicopter in the North Atlantic to skateboarding down a long mountainside, he simply does what he had previously dreamed of before.
This is one of those rare uplifting, empowering films that quietly leads you to know there is nothing you cannot accomplish. It may not be what you wanted to do, but somehow, someway you can still do what needs done and come out okay.
Starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson and a host of basically unknown actors (with a cameo by John Goodman) I wasn't sure I would enjoy this film. While I do enjoy silly/funny movies at times, I am not a fan of Vaughn as a rule. But I was very pleasantly surprised at the writing in this film.
Vaughn and Wilson are has been sales guys who hit upon a plan to reinvent themselves. They apply to Google (lying extravagantly along the way) for a summer internship. There are a large number of people vying for jobs at Google and the winners will win a job working for Google. They are put on a team of misfits and leftovers and struggle to fit in with the other groups. Their wisecracking ways, mixed metaphors and worn out sports and film lines work well and drive the movie. And while the end is a foregone conclusion it is nonetheless enjoyable and uplifting. The film mixes the old school ways with the new school electronic age to perfection and as a result the team comes together just in time.
I have now viewed this film at least a dozen times and laugh each and every time. The humor and camaraderie between the team members is fun to watch and will draw you in.
I have to admit: I was not an Adam Sandler fan. I never liked him on Saturday Night Live, finding him a bit too base in his type of humor (even for me). Happy Gilmore was barely acceptable and Billy Madison not even close in my opinion. But somewhere along the line (around Click maybe) I started to see that he had changed his choice of film and was making movies that were funny and had a moral to them. Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2 were in that mold and my wife and I feel he has the best soundtracks of any films made, with his mix of 70's and 80's music woven into the fabric.
But Blended takes him to another level in my eyes. He plays a father of three girls whose wife passed away due to cancer. Drew Barrymore appears once more beside him as a divorced mother of two boys. They end up (unwillingly and unwittingly) on a trip together in Africa and come to realize they are not only good for one another, they can help one another out in being a fellow parent to one another's children. Hijinks and laughter abound and an underlying feeling of family is prevalent.
One thing I enjoy is that Sandler has a cast of actors he keeps around in his films. Terry Crews is present and is hilarious as the welcoming singer who appears literally everywhere unexpectantly. Shaquille O'Neal has a cameo once more (Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2) and shows just how much fun he can be. Dan Patrick from ESPN appears once more (Grown Ups and The Longest Yard) as his usual self also. If one looks closely, one will see several more of Sandler's close friends in various scenes in the film.
This is a wonderful film for the family and well worth the time it takes to sit down and laugh.
In my opinion, I have saved the best (and probably least known) film for last. Still Mine is a very low key, sometimes hard to watch film starring James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold. You youngsters may not know the name, but I'll bet you know the face once you see Cromwell's craggy masterpiece of a face. And again, you youngsters will not know Bujold but us oldtimers might remember her from years ago.
This film is a classic, starring two under-appreciated actors. It tells the story of what happens to a married couple when Alzheimer's takes its toll. Heart rending as well as uplifting, Cromwell stands by his wife through thick and thin. But it is not always easy; her memory loss tests his short temper at times and it is only later that he truly understands what he must do, in spite of family, friends, and the law trying to dictate what he must do.
My wife found this one for me, and I returned the favor by purchasing it for us. This is truly one of those films that got lost in the shuffle, but deserves your time far, far more than most others. It tells a story, a true story of love conquering all. Please, if you only watch one film this year, make it this one.