Posts Tagged ‘Under The Radar’

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Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon doing what they do best, this is a fun heist film. The funniest I can remember since Disorganized Crime. Terence Stamp shows up. So you know it’s going to be interesting. And it is, with a decent script and distinctive characters who are not the best and brightest.

Looking over the Redbox selections and feeling massively underwhelmed, this was the only pick I could bother with. It has the heist movie homages, but the crew are so inept and at each others’ throats that the chemistry works.

Not an important, seminal work of artistic intent. It is worth watching though.

4/5

 

 

PS.

Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels were also pretty fun heist films.

 PPS.

The Big Hit. Way of the Gun.

Any more?  You people listening?

 

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Editor:

I hadn’t see quite a few of these…

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Originally posted on Flavorwire:

Today, our friends over at the Criterion Collection are giving the Blu-ray upgrade treatment to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Wes Anderson’s 2004 comedy/drama — a film that arrived with sky-high expectations (it was Anderson’s first film after the acclaimed Royal Tenenbaums, and star Bill Murray’s first since his Oscar-nominated turn in Lost in Translation) that it didn’t quite meet. But few films could have, frankly, and seen from this distance, Life Aquatic holds up quite well; in fact, it’s one of many films from the first decade of the 21st Century that doesn’t seem to have the reputation they deserve. In the spirit of celebrating such overlooked gems, we’ve assembled this list of the most underrated pictures of the 2000s.

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This very French take on young love comes in at over three hours in length. The director was intransigent in his perfectionism and this is how he demanded the film be. At the end of the running we leaned that it was supposed to be divided into two chapters, but I don’t recall any actual chapter break / intermission on the DVD.

It’s probably best to break it after the first 90 minutes or so. The scenes are well acted and often very good, natural, but so many of them wouldn’t have made the cut in Hollywood. American audiences may not be so patient.

The film, of course, has extended raw sex scenes between the two girls. They may have ran a bit too long, but then so did the rest of the movie, and so proportionally they make sense.

 

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It’s a very recognizable coming of age story with a likeable French girl Adele, a kindergarten teacher, who doesn’t really fit into the eccentric art world of Emma, the blue-haired seductress. They make a go of it, hiding their relationship as needed, but human weakness and temptation throw their ship toward the rocks.

The style is claustrophobic, nearly every shot a close-up of Adele. It’s always right up against her cheek, and we see every side of her imaginable. The production ran way long, snatching up footage for months after the initial production schedule had expired. This was a very good idea, something Kubrick would do. Time is the crucial ingredient that allowed film to progress beyond the mundane, beyond the script and the production schedules that seek to limit the possibities.

Neither actress would ever work with director Kechiche again. The film, though, won the Palme d’Or and launched their careers in a way they could never have hoped for. We don’t see such raw, powerful performances very often. So credit is due.

4/5

 

 

 

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Instant Cult Status

A first-time director, no money, no air conditioning and a captivating story that I’d been hoping would show up–I don’t actually look forward to much from the movie business these days.

 

Sadistic elite depravity and the corruption of money keep two down on their luck guys enthralled by the prospect of easy riches. Not so easy it turns out.  The puppetmasters sink their hooks into the two, and it becomes increasingly harder for them to wriggle out from their machinations.

A socio-political undercurrent grounds this black grindhouse comedy. With very little in resources, the crew managed to score a diabolical win and thrill them at last year’s festivals. Cheap Thrills showed up at the big red neighborhood boxes, and it’s sure to cut a little deeper than the competition. So bon appetit.

4.5 / 5

 

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This was a fun little indie comedy that was claustrophobic and stuck in one location. I’m partial to opening up the environment somewhat, and single location films sort of grate on me.

The people are pretty funny though, although all the humor is dialogue driven. So there’s a lot of talking about relationships and interpersonal problems. It also completely botches the reality of the weapons (poor science), but I can’t remember any film about anything that had scientific accuracy.

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But it’s a comedy, and so we give more leeway. What’s good about the film is that these people are such self-absorbed, oblivious, useless assholes that watching them face the apocalypse is sort of cathartic in and of itself. None seem worthy of surviving, and the world doesn’t seem to be losing much as a result. I thought the ending scene could have been drawn out and developed a bit more. It seemed rushed and implausible. They could have mined it a bit deeper, and I would have been more gushing in my praise.

3/5

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There are so many movies, but so few good ones, that I was happy to stumble upon Oscar Wilde’s tale of debauchery and Faustian bargains. For free on Hulu right now: http://www.hulu.com/watch/562422

Colin Firth and Ben Barnes really breathe life into this classic tale. The production is raunchy enough to do Wilde proud, and a modern score pulses and warps the world. They could have gone even more exploitative but opted instead to retain a bit of class. It’s an interesting story, and it can be viewed from several angles.

In one sense Dorian is the ultimate English aristocrat, with power and wealth, and he exists above the law. With these perks his moral compass slides off into oblivion. Unrestrained by the rules that apply to most, the young and attractive lord becomes a Nietzschean superman. Inevitably his excesses lead to regrets and misery. Yet he soldiers on.

From another angle it’s a Frankenstein’s monster story, one of a social mentor and apprentice. Jolly good show.

4/5

Grabbers

Well if you’re going to watch cheesy sci-fi monster movies anyway, then you might as well watch an Irish cheezy sci-fi monster movie. This low-budget effort pits an ignorant island against a new kind of intergalactic sea monster, a real nasty one.

I liked that they incorporated the whole village. I didn’t like the formulaic by numbers approach it took though. No matter how Irish – and with a drinking twist – they still kept to the b-movie playbook with almost religious devotion.

But then again there’s that pure Irish drinking twist…

3/5

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Mexican Grindhouse

Critics are polarized over this one. It’s been on my Netflix queue since it released, and I finally got around to it. There are pluses and minuses here. On the one hand they took it seriously, with a budget, shot on film, a number of locations and an unconventional story. On the other, it feels confined and constrained anyway with a couple of self-indulgent drawn out, slow scenes at the beginning that scream “I’m an Auteur!”

The family is perhaps not so believable either, a bit too fantastical in their interpersonal relationships.  They seemed stilted and scripted. What sticks out as exceptional is the greater meaning they seem to represent: the old ways vs. the modern. The family is a throwback to Mexican Indian savages, with cannibal rituals that survive in the shadows. Good idea, but it seemed more influenced by American slasher gore than by any anthropological exploration of people on the fringes.

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The characters are simple, way too simple. Their crimes are blundering and incompetent, surely unrealistic in their sheer incompetence. How does a cannibal family survive that long with such poor hunting skills?

In the end it seems to be a nasty statement about eradicating the primitives and their ways. Not that the modern forces are any more competent. The police are fools as well. Everyone is poorly skilled and blundering about in this world. I’m not sure the makers have a very positive view of humanity at all.

Poverty plays a background role.  The family ends up in dire economic straits at the film’s inception.  They live in a bare hovel.  Even their victims are mostly poor, from street kids to streetwalker whores.  What’s more the police are motivated to solve the case to get a bonus and a promotion.  Is poverty a motivator for the cannibalism?  Not so much, it turns out.  They aren’t hunting to have enough to eat, but for a religious ritual that needs to occur before a time deadline.

It is what it is.  The story lingers about the next day, and so maybe there’s more to ponder.

We Are What We Are inspired a US remake as well, which raked in some higher scores over at the Tomato site.  Maybe it’s worth a look.

3/5

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If Tarantino can gush over Dazed and Confused, which I thought was unimpressive, a little too corporate and obvious, on the nose, then I can bring up a far more interesting young and wasted story. Actually both films, like Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Wild Life, cover pretty much the same territory.  Superbad as well.   It’s just that The Stoned Age is very guerrilla, balls out, and gritty.

Plus, I feel like I’ve met some of the characters in real life, whereas not so much in the other films.  I felt distanced and completely alien to the Dazed and Confused characters.  The ending in particular was an anticlimax.

Here, however, there’s a real interplay between the two main characters, sort of an anti-buddy comedy. These two are rubbing against one another like sandpaper throughout the entire journey. The plot, of course, hinges on trying to find a girl and party. That’s not the interesting part.

 

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What elevates the movie are all the wacky side characters they come up against along the way.  It’s an odyssey, and all these dregs and misfits are pretty much in the same boat as they are, out of love and trying to get wasted to pass the time and soothe their egos. The plot takes a major turn when a secret gets spilled, that there are a couple of eligible young ladies in waiting.  Spilling this news leads to major conflict later on.

 

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It’s a damned funny movie about the kind of misfits I remember well, without the feeling that there are 57 guys with machines and lights and cranes hovering about behind the camera.

 

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True to my word, I put Sound of Noise at the top of the queue after watching Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Trailer From Hell. This is such an off the wall, off-beat import, from Sweden.  I suppose it takes a certain personality to appreciate wacky satire, and of course the film didn’t do much at the US box office. Foreign numbers were difficult to hunt down.

But if you want to know what to expect, see this short film version they produced prior to the feature…

Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers

The film plays with the idea of art-terrorists, musicians challenging society’s expectations and the status quo.  Deadly serious, like Red Brigades, these drummer-provocateurs go to absurd lengths in the name of art.  The film also has a magical element affecting the tone deaf cop who’s hot on their trail.

Lagging slightly near the end, the best stunts are right up front as the project gets ramped up.  Their first gig, in a hospital surgery theater, steals the show.  Definitely pump up the volume.

Sound of Noise has that European perspective that confuses and repulses Americans.  Good.  No danger of a bad Hollywood remake anytime soon.

4/5

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This 2001 production tells the story of the Mirabal sisters who went up against the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Trujillo.

Edward James Olmos plays the lecherous, bloodthirsty tyrant in an understated, restrained manner.  These three daughters of Dominica would challenge the legitimacy of the thug and inspire a national revolution.  This is truly an anti-fascist film, and we could use more like it.  The editing and scenes flow smoothly and quickly.  The vignettes advance as the story of Latin America plays out, a monster set against his own people.

The film is an adaptation of a novel by Julia Alvarez of the same name.

Treat, the film is up on Hulu right now.

4.5/5

 

P.S.

Hey look at that, how surprising:

“From the beginning of the military assistance program in fiscal 1952 through fiscal 1961, the total value of U.S. military deliveries to the Dominican Republic was approximately $6.1 million…”
-The Trujillo Regime and the Cold War