10 Great Overlooked Movies: Fall Redbox Roundup

by | Oct 10th, 2011 | 7:20PM | Filed under: DVD Reviews, Movie Lists, Movies, Weekly redbox Picks

As a film writer, you hear a lot of “They don’t make good movies anymore” or “I’ve seen all the big, new movies and I’m looking for something different.”

As an antidote to that attitude and a nudge off the beaten path, regular redblog readers know that every few weeks I round up smaller, lesser-known, interesting titles for my Picks. And every few months I like to focus on some of the Best of the Overlooked movies currently available at redbox. This time I have a very strong, impressive crop for you–some of these are easily among my favorite films of the year.

Win Win

A few films below appeal to narrow, niche audiences–I love ‘em, but I understand not everyone will. But that is very much not the case with Win Win. Aside from some R-rated language, this is a film almost everyone can enjoy. A heartwarming, uplifting story, it’s not about phony, “inspirational” movie characters, but well-meaning, flawed, and very funny folks. The tremendous Paul Giamatti is a small-town lawyer, high school wrestling coach, and all-around decent, loving family guy who–through a somewhat unethical series of circumstances–ends up taking in a young champion wrestler (stunningly authentic and endearing newcomer Alex Shaffer). Though it revolves somewhat around wrestling, Win Win is no rah-rah sports movie. And while it features families struggling with real-life issues, it’s anything but a dreary downer. So what is Win Win? Just one of the best films of the year.

Jane Eyre

In director Cary Fukunaga’s un-fussy, naturalistic Jane Eyre, Mia Wasikowska brings willowy fortitude to Charlotte Bronte’s literary heroine and Michael Fassbender glowers and glares ruggedly as a terrific Mr. Rochester. The two actors shine off each other’s reflected talent, and Fukunaga finds pulsing texture in the mist and mud as well as the candlelight and pale daylight. The result doesn’t feel taken down and dusted off from a book shelf–neither overlong nor overstuffed, it also doesn’t skimp on the important themes or emotional heft of the novel or let style replace story. The result is a great film and a Jane Eyre everyone who appreciates terrific acting and filmmaking can embrace.

Barney’s Version

Barney’s Version has slowly crept up and on repeated viewings become one of my favorite overlooked films of the year. This rollicking tale of humor and heartbreak is boosted by fine performances from Rosamund Pike and Dustin Hoffman, but it’s Paul Giamatti (again!) at his most lovably prickly who makes it all soar. Barney’s an aging, oft-married scoundrel looking back and trying to justify his life and his questionable choices–to tell, as best he can, in the best light he can muster, the complicated story of his life.

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The Beaver

I normally don’t pay attention to tabloid celebrity news, and if I do, I try hard to leave it outside the theater. But there’s no getting around the fact that The Beaver hums off the dark, self-destructive energy surrounding Mel Gibson’s real-life personal issues. As a depressed, suicidal alcoholic father who learns to cope and heal through a hand puppet (a metaphor for acting?), Gibson gives one of his best performances in decades. Funnier and more touching that it may sound, for Gibson director Jodi Foster’s film can’t help but feel like therapy–and perhaps some sort of first step toward redemption. But it also benefits from a strong supporting cast that includes Anton Yelchin, Jennifer Lawrence, and Foster herself.

Cedar Rapids

It’s both a blessing and a curse that more and more I find myself drawn to films that defy easy description and categorization. (A curse because too often that same uniqueness means they tank and vanish at the box office.) Is the comedy Cedar Rapids raunchy or soft-hearted? Silly or subtle? Satiric or sincere? How about all of the above? The terrific Ed Helms and John C. Reilly co-star in this wonderfully bawdy and heartfelt tale that follows a guileless, naive insurance salesman from a small Wisconsin town who journeys to the title metropolis for an industry conference. Even though I hail from the same corner of Eastern Iowa being played for good-natured (R-rated) laughs, for all its silliness Cedar Rapids feels more like an ode to the heartland than a joke at its expense.

Gruffalo

This is a truly rich and delightful Oscar-nominated short that features voice work from genuine thespians like Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, John Hurt, and Robbie Coltrane. It’s a simple but fanciful survival fable about a mouse in the forest, but it unfolds with a quiet, steady pace and wry humor that’s always welcome in the go-go world of hyperactive kids movies. And being British, The Gruffalo also has a sweet dusting of light melancholy in the end. That and its stellar voice cast make it a highly recommended (and very Pooh-like) grace note for viewers of any age.

Hesher

Starring the excellent Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Hesher is a heavy metal parable about a profane homeless dude who aims his middle-finger chaos at a mourning boy and his family. But Hesher also provides a funny and oddly moving path to grace and healing. Hesher (Gordon-Levitt) is a bare-chested, long-haired, tattooed, homeless stranger who loves smoking pot and blowing stuff up, and spouts lewd, inappropriate parables about Life. And yet, underneath the profane dark-comedy silliness, the film’s a funny, very R-rated, and weirdly warmhearted delight. Hesher feels like the darkest, most twisted Afterschool Special ever, but if you hang around, you’ll find it wears its earnest heart and humanity on its tattooed forearm.

Everything Must Go

A sneakily touching study in serio-comic inertia, Everything Must Go is the story of an alcoholic whose life and belongings are spread out for all to see on his and his estranged wife’s lawn. Crying-on-the-inside clown Will Ferrell plays it mostly straight without walls—or buffoonish humor—to hide behind. The film is darker and more serious than the usual Ferrell fare, but thanks to the actor’s hurting presence and a healing-minded script, it’s not lost in despair. Instead, Everything Must Go carefully finds its way into something like the redemption Nick doesn’t know he’s seeking.

Submarine

This British coming-of-age film from writer-director Richard Ayoade follows a 15-year-old student who’s too existential film-smart and art-house cool for his own good. Dealing with a dauntingly aloof and rebellious girlfriend, and cope with increasing marital inertia between his parents, young Oliver Tate casts himself as an antihero outsider in the New Wave film of his own life. The oh-so-dry, oh-so-wry, deadpan tone is probably best tuned for hard-core Anglophiles, but the solid cast includes young Craig Roberts (also in Jane Eyre) and Yasmin Paige, as well as older vets Noah Taylor, Sally Hawkins, and a hilarious Paddy Considine.

Ceremony

A slice of amusingly twee irony in the Wes Anderson mold (similar recent entries include The Romantics and The Extra Man), this slight rom-dramedy pleases thanks to the light-but-sharp-edged touch of writer-director Max (Henry’s son) Winkler and the off-kilter chemistry between Michael Angarano (Gentlemen Broncos) as a wedding-crashing writer and Uma Thurman as the friend and bride-to-be he hopes to woo away from the altar. The Great Lee Pace plays the typically self-absorbed, arrogant, A-hole groom, and Reece Thompson is Angarano’s pal. But the name and face to watch is The New Girl and No Strings Attacheds Jake M. Johnson–as Thurman’s inappropriate brother, Johnson gives an attention-grabbing serio-comic performance that could signal a big career ahead.


2 Responses to “10 Great Overlooked Movies: Fall Redbox Roundup”

  1. Trevor L
    Posted on October 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Only seen Hesher and Jane Eyre, but they were both better than pretty much any other movie I’ve seen this year.

  2. moviegoer123
    Posted on October 12, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    I had seen Win Win, The Beaver, and most of Jane Eyre.

    The Beaver was a weird movie and it doesn’t seem realistic however Mel Gibson seems like he’s playing himself since I hear a lot about him in gossip magazines doing this and that.

    Win Win was an okay movie but not one I would get on DVD. It’s well worth one dollar plus tax. The film felt like it dragged on and on but it did have meaning no doubt about that.

    Jane Eyre was intriguing however I skipped the spooky parts since I don’t want to freak out like I did with the film Insidious. I really liked the performances and the insight.