Might Have Missed ‘Em? 10 More Overlooked Movies at Redbox

by | Jun 20th, 2011 | 9:02AM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movie Lists, Movies

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Every few weeks I give you some of my Picks from recent redbox releases–smaller, overlooked, underrated films I find interesting or better than you might expect. But every now and then I like to round up the Picks of My Picks, going back over the past few months to point out those lesser-known films (in no particular order) I like a lot and highly recommend:

The Special Relationship

Michael Sheen continues to play British Prime Minister Tony Blair for screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) in their third such collaboration (including The Queen). The Special Relationship follows Blair’s mid-’90s rise to power in tandem with his political guru Bill Clinton (a smirking, charming but also battered and weary Dennis Quaid). Sheen is terrific as always as the earnestly ambitious Blair in this, a film about people and politics that understands you can’t have one without the other.

Animal Kingdom

This merciless Australian crime thriller follows a young man reconnected with his four bank-robbing uncles and their mother (his grandmother)–a bubbly, bottle-blond Lady MacBeth played with a crocodile smile by Academy Award nominee Jacki Weaver. Animal Kingdom is full of gun-toting (and futile) macho posturing, but it keeps a tight balance between character and plot and plays as a vicious crime epic in an unnerving minor key.

 

Nowhere Boy

Part rock-and-roll thrills and part broken-family ache, Nowhere Boy is a gripping, emotional look at how adolescent John Lennon eventually became “John Lennon.” Thanks to a charming, cheeky, and sometimes aching performance by Aaron Johnson as young John and Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff as his aunt and absent mother, the film works–both as bittersweet insight into how tension between two very different maternal influences spurred creativity, and as a joyful warm-up for the pop-culture-changing force that was about to be unleashed from Liverpool in the early ‘60s.

Stone

This subtle prison/parole drama with Edward Norton’s prisoner (the Stone of the title) squaring off against Robert De Niro’s parole official, has taken its lumps from both critics and viewers, in part because it refuses to become the thriller or fist-shaking melodrama some want it to be. But I like very much what it is: a study of sin and guilt, of morality and hypocrisy, of shifting motivations and intent. Norton and De Niro are typically strong, but the film’s real surprise is a tremendous supporting performance from Milla Jovovich as Stone’s almost inhumanly manipulative wife. Like its title character, Stone follows its own path–it’s not one with a neat and tidy end point, but the walk is worth it.

 

Faster

This is rock-solid, hard-boiled, R-rated, and highly recommended. Dwayne Johnson is out to ruthlessly and relentlessly avenge his brother’s death and Billy Bob Thornton almost collapses into himself as the seedy, shot-out cop trying to stop him. Toss in some Old Testament vengeance, sin, and redemption and you’ve got one of my favorite small genre films of the past year. Grim and gritty, lean and mean, Faster is no-frills, all forward momentum, and perfectly crafted for its stripped-down, violent purpose by director George Tillman Jr.

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson, Sugar) embrace a more conventional and overtly emotional narrative style in their adaptation of Ned Vizzini’s novel about a stressed out teen who checks himself into a psych ward for a few days. The resulting dramedy is a little Ferris Bueller’s Cuckoo’s Nest, a little One Flew Over the Breakfast Club, but it also features fine, honest work from stars Keir Gilchrist and Emma Stone, and a terrific supporting cast led by Zach Galifianakis and Jeremy Davies. It may feel familiar, but that doesn’t make the film any less genuine, moving or uplifting.

Somewhere

Sofia Coppola’s thematic and stylistic companion piece to Lost in Translation once again noodles languidly around an actor and a younger woman in his life–only instead of middle-aged Bill Murray’s platonic, father-like relationship with Scarlett Johansson, it’s Stephen Dorff as a 40-ish action-flick actor and a stunning Elle Fanning as his own preteen daughter. And instead of Tokyo, we’re drifting through the sunny shallows of L.A.’s Chateau Marmont. Coppola loves her some foreign-film rhythms and silences, but Dorff and especially Fanning keep reminding us that there are still human beings at the center of all this bright and lonely emptiness.

Biutiful

Thanks to Javier Bardem, in its strongest moments, the Best Foreign Film nominee Biutiful takes us to unvarnished, unromanticized places we may not want to go, and yet makes the experience something enriching, cathartic, even uplifting. As a Barcelona street hustler with terminal cancer, Bardem gives an Oscar-nominated performance that’s heartbreaking and raw but also so nuanced and honest it seems to single-handedly reflect and define our collective fragile, damaged humanity. Biutiful asks us to sympathize with a character it would be easy to blame or ignore, and to see humanity and beauty in a world and life that too often feels dauntingly ugly.

The Company Men

Ben Affleck gives a solid performance alongside terrific work from Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, and Kevin Costner in writer-director John Wells’ examination of the (painfully) changing face of American industry and its workforce. Affleck, Jones, and Cooper play three corporate big wigs experiencing different kinds of unemployment, and reacting differently. At first it’s hard to feel sorry for guys who have to cancel their country-club memberships and tropical vacations, but Wells is painting a larger picture of the shifting American economy and its effect on workers (and their families) at every level. It’s not depressing, but ultimately roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-back-to-work inspiring.

Get Low

Robert Duvall and Bill Murray circle each other in Get Low, a semi-true Depression-era dramedy about a backwoods hermit who wants to attend his own funeral. With his usual stunning authenticity, Duvall vanishes inside what feels like a real, living, breathing human being. And Murray dryly outfits his usual sleepy sardonics with the mustache and suit of a ‘30s car salesman—once again the opportunistic angler tricked into doing the right thing. Get Low is in no hurry, but it’s a charming tale nicely told that knows where it’s going. A bemusing, folksy yarn that under its surface guards a bellowing, burning heart.

Now how about you? Any smaller films you’ve seen lately you want to share with others in the comments below?

 


9 Responses to “Might Have Missed ‘Em? 10 More Overlooked Movies at Redbox”

  1. moviegoer123
    Posted on June 20, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I had seen It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Get Low. I liked the films. Get Low is very depressing however the performances and story made the film enjoyable to watch. It’s Kind of a Funny Story: I thought it was very realistic and very enjoyable yet again it has a little bit a depressing story. Both the films are deeply emotional and the characters I cared for. I would give Get Low a B and It’s Kind of a Funny Story a B-.

  2. Mimi Schoonover
    Posted on June 21, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    I need to know if the movies Have sub-titles for a non hearing person

  3. Locke Peterseim
    Locke Peterseim
    Posted on June 21, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    Mimi, almost all of them do, accessed either through the DVD player’s “subtitles” function or your television‘s CC feature. I’m sorry, but I don‘t have time to go check each of these ten films to make sure. Are there particular titles on this list you’re interested in? If I can, I’ll check those for you.

  4. kathleen howard
    Posted on June 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    I REALLY WANTED TO SEE YHE MOVIE BURLESQUE

  5. Fiirvoen
    Posted on June 23, 2011 at 10:36 am

    It’s Kind of a Funny Story was the best movie I’ve seen all year. It was deeply moving and very very funny.

    • Currently 3/5 Stars
    CreoleBluecloud
    Posted on July 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    If you haven’t seen “Chicago Overcoat” do so. In the crime drama category it get three stars from me. Also in the same mafioso vein, I highly recommend “Kill The Irishman”.

    • Currently 1/5 Stars
    Janiemae
    Posted on July 23, 2011 at 6:32 am

    I rented Somewhere last night.What a waste of a dollar .No dialog, Instead of Somewhere it could of been called Nowhere !

  6. Amy G.
    Posted on September 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    I really enjoyed ‘Stone’. It was more of a psychological thriller to me- so many twists & turns! I don‘t remember even seeing this advertised for theatres, which is a shame. I think it could’ve definitely been one of the years best.

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