Posted by: themoviecheese | March 31, 2011

PART TWO: The Most Underrated Movies Of All Time, PART TWO

Thanks again to everyone who read part one of my “Most Underrated Movies” list a few days ago.

Again, most of the films in this list you may not have seen and may not have even heard of them, but ALL of them are masterful films that should be viewed by everyone

If you didn’t read part one, you can check it out here.

So without further a do, sit back, get your wallet out and get Amazon and ebay ready for your DVD purchases…because here is part two of Tom’s Most Underrated Movies Of All Time: –

21. Equilibrium (2002) dir. Kurt Wimmer

Equilibrium is the 1998 movie that rivals The Matrix in every way. It is a sci-fi film, check. It contains lots of martial arts and gun fights, check. It’s about a lack of emotion, check. It’s incredibly stylish, check. Now, even with the shortcomings of The Matrixwill admit that it is a slightly better film than Equilibrium. But only just. Written and directed by Kurt Wimmer, Equilibrium is set in a future where the government has realized the one true cause for war: emotion. On the grounds of this evidence, they decide that human emotion must be completely outlawed. That means the destruction of any and all devices and, well everything that brings out the emotion of a human being. To combat human emotion, the government release two things: first, a drug which suppresses it; and second, a team of highly trained law enforcers known as the Gramaton Cleric. The clerics are like deadly assassins trained in the art of Gun Kata, a form of martial arts that fuses traditional kung fu with gun play. Christian Bale plays one of these Clerics, who, after missing one of his medications, starts to re-experience various human emotions. Behind the insanely cool fight sequences and stylized cinematography, there is a really beautiful film to be found here. Writer/Director Kurt Wimmer has only ever directed three movies; this one, and two other disappointing movies Ultraviolet and One Tough Bastard. The scenes of Bale rediscovering forgotten beauties are amazing, with Bale using his emotional acting ability to its full extent. But it has to be said that the main appeal to the movie is just how badass it all is. Admittedly there aren’t that many fight scenes in the film and when they do happen they are fairly short, but they are also insanely cool.

22. Nothing To Lose (1997) dir. Steve Oedekerk

Writer/Director Steve Oedekerk is a bit of a mixed bag. There are times when he makes almost comedy gold (The Nutty Professor, Bruce Almighty) and there are others when the results are questionable (Jimmy Neutron, Patch Adams). Nothing To Lose is his best film in my opinion. It stars Tim Robbins as an advertising agent who catches his wife sleeping with his boss. He storms out of his house and ends up driving around random locations in Los Angeles, eventually ending up in a very rough area where he gets car-jacked by motormouth Martin Lawrence. What starts as bitter rivalry between the two quickly turns into an unorthodox friendship and they realize that the best way for Robbins to get back at his boss is to “rob his ass”. Nothing To Lose is a hilarious film that has some incredible one liners from Lawrence. His spontaneous timing is put to perfect use here, whether he’s shit-scared (“I’m in a car with a psycho freaky Jason hack-killer motherfucker!”), or angry (“Now back the fuck up before I kick you in your bitch-ass chin.”), he really is fucking hilarious and on full form. The dynamic between Robbins and Lawrence is the meat of the film. This unlikely duo create an excellent adventure on screen. Sure, by the end of the film it does get a bit too cheesy with all loose ends nicely tied up, but that’s the kind of film this is…it’s a hilarious side-splitter that also has the ability to occasionally make you go “Aaawww”.

23. Jackie Brown (1997) dir. Quentin Tarantino

Simply put: Quentin Tarantino’s best script. Jackie Brown might not have the edge of Reservoir Dogs or the insanely cool factor of Pulp Fiction, but it drifts on by deliciously, with a mature and masterly sense of poise and timing. Here is Tarantino doing his thing, unhurried and unassured, rolling out a tight, knowing crime caper by focusing on the characters and letting the story do it’s own work. Also, it’s the performances that push it from “good” to “great”: scuzzy Robert DeNiro, sinister pimp Samuel L Jackson, stand up parole guy Robert Forster, and of course there’s the smart, still beautiful blaxploitation goddess Pam Grier – all given room by Tarantino’s smooth, 70s-shaped style to make their understated presences felt. If the director’s subsequent slide into pastiche exploitation is a response to Jackie Brown’s so-so reception, then those short-sighted reviewers have derailed an incredible talent and only have themselves to blame when they proclaim things like “Death Proof is too boring” or “Kill Bill is too over the top”.

24. The Mist (2007) dir. Frank Darabont

If you don’t know who Frank Darabont is; he’s the guy who wrote and directed two of the greatest novel-to-film adaptions of all time: The Green Mile and, of course, The Shawshank Redemption. Both of those films were based off Stephen King novels (well, Shawshank was a short story), his latest film The Mist is also based off a Stephen King novel, but this time it’s the familiar King territory of horror. But despite the drastic shift in genre, the typical Darabont conventions that make him such a wonderous writer/director are still present: the deep religious undertones, inner turmoil, one team of character against another, the family center piece. It’s a brilliant film that would of been just as good even without all the creatures and beasties. It tells the story of a huge storm that unleashes a gang of weird creatures on a small town, along with a misty fog. A group of people hold up in a small supermarket to try and escape from the mist. Among them are protective father Tom Jane, a crazed Christian nutbag, an ignorant neighbour, a few hillbillies. Yeah, they’re all here; stereotypical horror characters. But don’t worry, the excellent dialogue and acting stops it from being too cliché. One of the best things about the film is Marcia Gay Harden as the crazy born again Christian. She’s the closest thing the movie has to a human villain and she’s fucking brilliant. By the half way point of the movie you really want her to die in the most horrible way possible, and there in lies the success in her performance. And then there’s the creatures themselves, weird and wonderful Guilermo Del Toro-style CGI creations fill the screen in some truely thrilling action sequences. The best is a giant sky-scraper size goliath that towers over the main characters in the final moments of the film. The Mist is a stern, efficient and unconventional horror film. The key is in the restraint – so little information is fed to the audience for so long that the film achieves a towering sense of dread and hopelessness. By the time the creatures do arrive en masse, the effect is almost overpowering. And then there’s THAT ending…disciplined and super-bleak – almost cruel, but just the right side of “weekend-ruining”. Most importantly though, it’s an ending that’s more interested in provoking than soothing. Cheap but gloriously nasty.

25. Dark City (1998) dir. Alex Proyas

One of my favorite sci-fi films of all time. It’s an ingenious original story that is just as thought provoking as it is exciting. John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a hotel room with no memory and wanted by the police for a series of brutal murders. Whilst trying to piece together his mysterious past in a world that seemingly has no sun, he comes across a man named Dr Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland), a group of sinister villains known as The Strangers, and a wife he never knew he had. Dark City is the kind of film that is very difficult to talk about if you (the reader) haven’t seen it. There’s so much I want to discuss but there’s also so much that I don’t want to give away on the off chance that you will watch it for the first time. The amount of twists and turns in the film are astounding. Alex Proyas brings the same gothic directorial style that he established in The Crow, emphasizing the kind of director that the likes of Tim Burton wishes they were. But as I said, there’s not really much I can talk about without giving away too much. You really do have to just watch the film yourself. So yeah, if there’s any film on this list that you absolutely must buy/download, make it Dark City.

26. Speed Racer (2008) dir. The Wachowski Siblings

If you’re wondering why I’ve called them “Siblings” and not “Brothers”, it’s because Larry Wachowski has recently changed his name to “Lana” and had a full sex change. Yeah, no shit. Anyway, moving on. Adapted from the Japanese animé of the same name, it follows Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) a young race car driver with “racing in his blood”, who joins a deadly race known as The Crucible. Speed quickly uncovers corruption within the race and teams up with martial arts experts Racer X (Lost’s Matthew Fox) and Taejo Togokahn (Ninja Assassin’s Rain) to bring down an evil corporation. Speed Racer was released two years ago to terrible box office results. People were mostly just put off by the psychedelic CGI effects. The whole film is done via blue-screen effects, ala Sin City. It wasn’t until the film came out on Blu-ray that the film got its true chance to shine. People were wowed by the special effects this time, with the big vibrant colors given a much bigger emphasis in high definition. They also saw that the movie was much more than just a “kid’s action movie”. It contains some thrillingly inventive action sequences, a deep story about family and loyalty, and (in true Wachowski style) some fantastically choreographed martial arts sequences courtesy of Matthew Fox (seriously, he kicks ass in this) and Korean star Rain.

27. Silent Hill (2006) dir. Christophe Gans

Video game adaptions get a bad rep. Admittedly, most of them are full of horse shit, but some of them do at least have a little guilty entertainment in them. Stuff like Mortal Kombat are moderately entertaining for what they are trying to achieve. Christophe Gans’ adaption of the psychological horror game Silent Hill I regard as the best video game adaption of all time. Many critics unfairly panned it for being “like watching someone play the game for 2 hours”. There is a lot more to the story than that. Like the video game it focuses on family and what we’ll do to save our loved ones. The best thing about the movie though are the creature/monster designs. There are some awesome monsters like the weird little children things, the demon nurses, and of course Pyramid Head himself; but the best one has to be the twisted bald dude that has been held captive in the toilet (in the picture). The only thing that is terrible about the movie is the performance from Sean Bean, which comes as a bit of a shock, as Sean Bean usually kicks ten thousand flavors of pure ass. The problem is that for some stupid reason he speaks with a horrible American accent. It’s terribly distracting as his Sheffield roots keep coming through the odd syllable.

28. Road To Perdition (2002) dir. Sam Mendes

Easily my favorite Tom Hanks movie. It’s such a departure for the actor as well. He’s such a badass in this movie. Hanks plays Mike Sullivan, a mafia hitman who’s son witnesses one of his kills. The mafia send out another hitman (Daniel Craig) to kill Hanks’ wife and other child, and Hanks quickly goes on the run with his surviving son, all the while he is being tracked by a deadly assassin played by Jude Law. Road To Perdition is a gangster film that takes us back to the days of The Godfather and Goodfellows. And there in lies its only real flaw; Road To Perdition is just a little too familiar. Whilst watching it you get the exact same feeling watching such films as Shawshank Redemption and Miller’s Crossing. Everything in the film feels like something you’ve seen before, but that doesn’t stop the emotion being true or the odd spout of action being thrilling. It’s a beautifully shot movie with a stunning score by Thomas Newman (American Beauty, The Green Mile). The noir-style cinematography is stunning. The whole film, however, is held firmly together by its simply phenomenal performances. I’ve never been a fan of Tom Hanks, but here he is an absolute talent. A very tragic character who has never realized how to hold his family dear until they are taken away from him. Likewise the performances by Paul Newman and Jude Law are equally as enthralling. Especially Jude Law, he is fucking shit scary in this movie. Just a moving force of weird emotions and sheer brutality.

29. The Karate Kid (1984) dir. John G. Avildsen

Director of the original Rocky John G. Avildsen took his favorite “sport drama” genre into karate territory with this cult classic. Actually, it’s more than a cult classic to me. It is my ultimate childhood movie. I wouldn’t say it’s a “kids film” (after all, the uncut version remains a “15” to this day). Regardless, it is a charming, brilliant little movie about personal achievement. Pat Noriyuki Morita is simply astounding as the wise old Mr Miyagi who teaches teenager Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) the ways of Okinawan karate. What always astounds me about the Karate Kid films is that Pat Morita had absolutely no martial arts background prior to filming, and yet he does all of his own stunts/fights throughout all of the films. The entire cast is superb; Macchio may look like a bit of a weed, but he has this nice innocence about him that makes the role a beautiful contradiction. And then there’s 80s veteran Martin Kove as the sinister villain Sensei Kreese. A stern, taciturn and at times scary performance, he is very comic book. The Karate Kid is a beautiful movie that will always have a place in my heart as one of the most uplifting films of all time.

30. Ronin (1998) dir. John Frankenheimer

One of the best action movies of the 90s, late director John Frankenheimer directs with his usual breakneck style. Ronin tells the story of a crack team of mercenaries who are hired to steal a briefcase from the Russian mafia. Sounds simple? Well it’s not. Each character is entirely unique and it is this individual uniqueness that elevates Ronin above other similar action movies. We have a disgruntled ex-CIA agent (Robert De Niro), a French secret agent (the brilliant Jean Reno) who knows how to get just about anything you want, a gung-ho SAS dropout (Sean Bean), an ex-KGB spy (Stellan Starsgard) who knows about gadgets, and then there’s a young Irish woman (Natasha McElhone) who only answers to Seamus O’Rourke (Jonathan Price) an IRA boss who is in quite a bit of trouble. The character roster is pretty epic, as is the way this diverse group of people works together. There are loads of action films made today that are very inspired by Ronin’s intensity. The obvious being the Bourne movies. There is a car chase in The Bourne Supremacy that tries desperately to match Ronin’s but is just far too flashy.

31. Antz (1998) dir. Eric Darnell & Tim Johnson

Outside of Pixar, I’m not a huge fan of the CGI animation genre. I find the Shrek films totally overrated and tiresome for instance. One CGI film I absolutely love however is Antz. It’s a brilliantly original animated film that staples lead Woody Allen’s signature docu-style comedy into what is essentially a kid’s film. Its awesomeness, however, owes itself to the excellent cast ensemble. We have Allen, along with Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, Gene Hackman, Jennifer Lopez, Danny Glover, Dan Ackroyd and Christopher Walken. It’s one fucking epic cast. With a brilliant script from the writers of American Pie and About A BoyAntz is one of the most underrated animated movies of all time. It’s the kind of movie that is so easily and unfairly driven down to the single moral dilema of “Think for yourself for once in your life!” but the fantastic cast do more than an excellent job holding it together.

32. Spartan (2004) dir. David Mamet

Spartan is a somewhat “under the radar” thriller that not that many people have seen but probably should. For me it’s a match made in heaven, pairing one of my favorite actors (Val Kilmer) with one of my favorite writers/directors (David Mamet). As far as attention to detail goes, you really can not beat Mamet. No matter what subject he tackles, he does it with perfection. The best example of his genius is obviously his special forces series The Unit, where he created a saga about a single American special forces unit and their families in a constant struggle to protect the world and keep their identity secret. It’s a brilliantly realistic show that fuses large amounts of action with just as much family drama and politics. In Spartan however, he tackles the subject of kidnap and government cover-ups. Val Kilmer plays Scott, a man who is hired to investigate the kidnapping of a US Government official’s daughter. The prime suspect is the girl’s ex-boyfriend, but Scott quickly realizes that all is not as it seems. Spartan falls under the category of a “thinking man’s action movie”, it’s not the kind of film that you can just whack on the DVD player on a Sunday afternoon. You have to SIT down and concentrate, but you are rewarded by the end of it. What starts as a slow-burning yet tense thriller soon escalates into a fully blown shootout.

33. Darkman (1990) dir. Sam Raimi

After his infamous “video nasty” Evil Dead, and before he was elevated to superstardom with his Spider-man trilogy, Sam Raimi made gothic superhero horror flick Darkman. It stars Liam Neeson as Dr Payton, a scientist who has discovered a way to produce synthetic skin. When a group of gangsters led by Durant (Larry Drake) torture and murder Payton, he is left with hideous burns and scars all over his body. However, he is rescued by a hospital, and soon after the accident, he realizes that many parts of his body (including his strength) have been improved, along with the ability to feel no pain what so ever. Also, thanks to his synthetic skin research, he is able to assume the identity of anybody he comes into contact with. He uses these skills to seek revenge on those who disfigured him. Originally, Raimi wanted to use his usual partner in crime Bruce Campbell, but the studio stupidly didn’t think he could handle such a role. Despite this, Neeson is pitch-perfect for the role. He mirrors Campbell’s everyman hero and likable insanity, whilst bringing his towering physical prowess to the mix. The film itself is Raimi at his best. Quirky horror, brutal yet comic violence, with scene of pure hilarity (“Take the fucking elephant!”). It’s like a comedy counterpart to Alex Proyas’ The Crow, with just as much gothic undertones and culminating in not one, but two battles – one on a helicopter, and the other atop a huge construction site.

34. Gridlock’d (1997) dir. Vondie Curtis-Hall

Despite how you feel about rap music, not one person on the planet can dispute the sheer genius of Tupac Shakur. He was an incredibly intelligent poet who was taken from this world far too soon. He was also, however, a very damn good actor. He made quite a few films during his short career, but his best is definitely Gridlock’d. He stars along side Tim Roth as two junkies who’s friend has just died from an overdose. The both of them decide to kick their drugs habit and enroll in a government detox program. Brilliantly written, the whole film is about the decadence of the junkie world. Rhythm is the key here, as the whole time you feel you’re engrossed in one massive chase sequence. The film is completely reliant however on it’s central performances; Tim Roth plays his role as a sort of James Cagney on an acid trip, whereas Shakur is a calm and somewhat collected junkie. The film is also intelligent enough to know that it can’t play too much on the junkie community, that it has to refrain from being one-sided. There’s a brilliant scene in the film where one of the health workers says “We have rules. You expect the whole world to just stop because you’ve decided to kick. Like we’ve all been waiting for this day for 10 years!”

35. The Exorcist III (1990) dir. William Peter Blatty

The third Exorcist movie is one of the most criminally overlooked movie of all time. People see it as just another pap sequel. To be fair, they can hardly be blamed. The second film, Exorcist II: The Heretic is a truly abysmal piece of work. Exorcist III however, is one of the scariest horror movies ever made. And that is an absolute fact. Every single person I have shown this film to have at first been horribly reluctant, but once they’ve watched it, they agree. It is fucking shit scaryThis is the movie that the BBFC should have cautioned, not the 1973 original. George C Scott plays police lieutenant Kinderman, who is mourning the death of his friend Father Damien Karras (yes, from the first film). He is also investigating a series of murders. What’s troubling about these murders isn’t the fact that most them feature decapitations, torture and desecration of religious icons…it’s the fact that they mirror the murders of a killer thought to have been dead for 15 years. The praise in Exorcist III comes from its direction. William Peter Blatty (writer of the original Exorcist novel and the original film’s screenwriter) directs each scene with expert precision, building up the atmosphere to uncontrollable heights. The film also contains some of the best executed jump-scares in cinema history, coupled with some truly unnerving imagery that proves you don’t need an overload of CGI to bring the scares.

36. Pitch Black (2000) dir. David Twohy

Vin Diesel’s breakthrough film is the perfect example of science fiction being put across as a pure story telling medium. It tells the story of a small space vessel that crash lands on a strange sun-scorched planet. Among the survivors is bounty hunter Johns (Cole Hauser), who is transporting a dangerous criminal by the name of Riddick (Vin Diesel). The survivors soon find themselves hunted by the dangerous creatures who only come out at night in the shadows (which happens every 22 years). However, the survivors also find that their best hope for survival actually lies in the criminal Riddick, you see he has had his eyes surgically polished to allow him to see clearly in the dark – now how’s that for a fucking plot? Pitch Black remains both Vin Diesel’s best film and his best performance. The entire thing moves at a totally breakneck pace, and Diesel’s gravelly attitude and natural ability to play a fucking awesome anti-hero shines through. Twohy’s direction is classic sci-fi, taking us back to the days of Ridley Scott’s original Alien. The rest of the cast is also brilliant, Cole Hauser is an incredibly underrated actor who doesn’t get enough work. And the actions scene are brilliant. Tense, thrilling, and tremendously atmospheric.

37. Red Belt (2008) dir. David Mamet

As you can see, I’m quite the David Mamet fan. Another Mamet film and this time he tackles the subject of Mixed Martial Arts tournaments and greedy, corrupt corporations. Awesome British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (you may remember him as the badguy from Joss Whedon’s Serenity) plays Mike Terry, a jujitsu instructor who is struggling to make ends meet. Late one night, Mike rescues a movie actor in a fistfight in a bar. In return, the actor offers Mike a job on his new film as a fight coordinator. But then, the shady people involved with the actor steal Mike’s “fighting handicap” idea, and in order to win back both this and his self respect he is forced to enter the ring in an organized Mixed Martial Arts tournament. As I said before, no matter what subject Mamet tackles he does so with brilliant care. He had studied Brazilian jujitsu for 6 years prior to making this movie. In fact, during filming he actually engaged Ejiofor in “friendly combat” and kicked Ejiofor’s ass. Not bad for a 63 year old. Mamet is badass. And Red Belt is one badass movie. It’s not a big sparkly martial arts extravaganza though. It’s a very grounded movie that is more “sports drama” than “kung fu action”. Ejiofor is brilliant as the lead, evoking a real passion for martial arts in his many epic lines (example: “The hands are not the issue, the fight is the issue. The battle is the issue. He who imposes the terms of the battle will impose the terms of the peace”). That’s not to say that the film is without some epic fight scenes though. Choreographed by the likes of the legendary Dan Inosanto and UFC Champion Randy Couture, the film’s fight scene – while short- are incredibly grounded and realistic. There’s no flashy spin kicks or stylish choreography, just hard hitting quick takedowns and furious grapples. Absolutely any martial arts enthusiast needs to check this movie out. It’s the Karate Kid for the 21st Century.

38. Frequency (2000) dir. Gregory Hoblit

ADon’t you just love it when you switch on the TV to find a movie you’ve never even heard of that ends up being totally immense? That’s exactly what happened with me and Frequency. It tells the story of a freak radio frequency that allows a New York City firefighter (Dennis Quaid) to communicate with his son (Jim Caveizel) 30 years into the future. The son uses this ability to warn his father of his impending death in a blazing fire, and manages to save his life. This is drastic consequences though and it triggers a series of other tragic events, including the murder of his mother. The father and son must now work together – 30 years apart – to find the killer before he can strike so they can change history. Frequency is a brilliantly tense movie. It’s the kind of film where there is always something happening. Quaid and Caveizel are brilliant in the two lead roles. The amount of twists keep the plot suitably engaging, and it is competently written. Again, Frequency was a movie I stumbled upon years ago completely by accident.

And that’s about it for now. I will probably think of more later and will compose another list.

Again, if you’re a movie lover and there are any movies in this list (or the “part one” list) that you haven’t seen then you should definitely check them out. If you’re sat at your laptop/PC bored and want a movie to watch, just crack open your bitTorrent client and download these badboys.

As always, feel free to leave any comments below whether you agree/disagree with anything in this list…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: