G-S-T Top 10 – Movies Off The Beaten Path…Round 2

Netflix continues to surprise and delight with its film recommendations, despite the lesser known features it often suggests, and many of the films from this list can be found in the instant queue…Sometimes a movie’s obscurity or lack of fan-fare can actually help a movie, as it will be free of hype and allow you to explore the film completely free of preconceptions. While it won’t make every unknown a winner, I must admit it helps.

As the next installment in our new series started in July, we give you Round 2 of “Movies Off the Beaten Path“.

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The Kid – While I like the action-packed Bruce Willis as much as the next person, this lighter fare is not only refreshing but incredibly fun. Nothing like Ah-nuld’s attempts at something kid friendly and genre busting, Willis shows a softer side and the chemistry between newcomer Spencer Breslin and legend Lily Tomlin makes this movie shine. Both cute and side-splitting, this movie is all heart.

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The Killing Room – A bit of a mind-warp of a movie, this story is smart, keeps you on edge, and is far more complex than you would initially imagine. A decidedly strange “mixed bag” of actors come together for a tense and taught thriller. This film has great slow reveals and just plays head games with the audience the entire way through. Not the deepest movie you’ll ever see but builds and builds to a truly unexpected ‘WOW’ ending.

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Unknown – This is like the non-gore version of Saw. I can see some elements were taken from it yet Unknown really takes the story you think you’ve seen before and charts new territory, which is refreshing. With a cast this diverse and well-known, I was amazed I had not heard of the film before. Sometimes you hear about an “ensemble cast” and the movie turns out to be crap, but not this one. This plays like a clever “who dun it?” and is worth the time to find out.

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Outpost – Both World War II and the supernatural are pretty popular themes in the film world, yet whenever they are combined to make a motion picture one might think that bizarre mix would only lead to a cult following. Well in what would certainly be labeled an anomaly, WWII and sci-fi has helped the success of Indiana Jones and Hellboy,  just to name a few famous examples. While this isn’t as great as those two, it’s surprising in that it delivers a pretty decent movie, replete with a damn effective/moody atmosphere, despite the small budget.

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K-PAX – Once in a while, a movie about an alien comes around that isn’t about lasers, space ships, or tentacles and yet, even without those special effects, makes you believe the actor is, in fact, an alien. Kevin Spacey is a truly talented actor and Jeff Bridges (who funny enough played in Starman) is also of the same caliber. They really sell this movie, and for a film supposedly about space, it is very down to earth. The story which follows one man (or is he an alien?) trying to find his way home (again like Bridges in Starman) is touching and makes you question, feel for him, and smile the whole way through…plus Edward Shearmur’s musical score is just out of this world!

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The Best and the Brightest –    It wasn’t hard to miss the 2010 release of The Best and The Brightest, if it did happen to be playing in your city the overly negative reviews likely persuaded you to steer clear, but allow us a moment to play devil’s advocate here. The premise, a story about a mid-western couple who move to New York and quickly find that trying to get their five-year-old into kindergarten is equivalent to trying to get her into Harvard, is what drew me in, and while the film enters some strange territory about half way through, the beginning was engaging enough to keep me interested until the end. Most of the critiques go something like this: the film’s vulgar humor isn’t funny enough to keep it from being offensive…followed by some comment about how Neil Patrick Harris (purposely) downplays his role. It’s like they are apologizing for the one big name comedian actor in the film by insinuating that he obviously knew how terrible the film was before it was even finished. Whether that’s true or not isn’t the point. The point is, the film is a satire on the elite New Yorker class, and it’s funny. At times ridiculous, yes, but if you enjoy a good laugh there’s really nothing to lose.
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Blue State – After John Kerry loses to George Bush in the 2004 election, aspiring political blogger, John Louge (Brecklin Meyer), discovers that the promise he made to move to Canada if Bush got re-elected was caught on camera, and his fellow Democratic campaigners, friends and even some strangers, are keeping him to that promise. After committing to the trip, John decides he’ll need a partner for the long drive, and that’s when he meets Chloe (Anna Paquin), a seemingly care-free, pseudo-liberal with a big secret. The film takes several stereotypes to an almost absurdist extreme, with John’s father kicking him out of his house for questioning the war in Iraq, and the portrayal of  Canadians as a bunch sex crazed, hippies who hate America, but the overall message these things lead to in the end is worth holding out for.
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Brief Interviews with Hideous Men – based on the short story of the same name, by the legendary novelist, essayist and short story writer, David Foster Wallace, this film consists of several different men’s stories based on their interviews with a young, female graduate student in psychology. These interviews are intertwined with the evolution of her own romantic relationship, from the couple’s first encounter, to a brutally candid post-break up revelation from her ex. It’s a sometimes disturbing, yet poignantly honest look at the way men think, and despite the often, strange characters it never stops feeling authentic in it’s depiction.
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Ira & Abby – This quirky, independent, rom-com tests the boundaries on the rules of courtship when a couple decides to get married after only six hours of knowing each other. After his analyst of 12 years calls it quits on him due to his lack of progress, Ira Black (Chris Messina), is at a loss for what to do next. By chance, he spots a gym and decides a membership is just the thing he needs to get his life back on track. Abby (played by the film’s screenwriter, Jennifer Westfeldt) is a quirky, laid back, fast-food eating, sales rep for the gym, and she immediately takes Ira under her wing, as she does all of her clients. When Ira (who is also a doctorate student in psychology) later psycho-analyzes Abby, she abruptly asks him to marry her, and the rest of the film follows the two through their roller coaster of a relationship, presenting interesting questions about monogamy and the possibility of a sustainable love.
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Mercy – Novelist, Johnny Ryan (Scott Caan), is a reckless, womanizer who also happens to write best-selling romance novels. He is the guy you love to hate. Handsome and utterly charming, yet self-serving to a fault. At a party celebrating his new book, Jonny attempts to win Mercy (Wendy Glenn) over with his usual tricks, and after failing miserably, calls it a night without a second thought about the rejection. That is until he finds out that Mercy Bennet is also a literary critic, and the only one to write a negative review of his novel. When he goes to confront her, the two quickly fall for one. Structured in ‘before’ and ‘after’ chapters, the film travels between these two places in time, weaving together a tragic love story.
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As we said in our  July post, we’ll be doing this series once a month so keep an eye of for the next installment. Anything on this list appeal to you? Have you seen or are you a fan of any of these more obscure films? Have any suggestions for flicks we should check out?? Love to hear you thoughts…

Comments

  1. Nice list Jessica. Haven’t seen any of these flicks! 🙂 I’m most intrigued by Outpost. I”ll give it a rental.

  2. RidgeRacer4 says

    Wow, The Kid is one that I just love to death and K-Pax is just awesome. Also, if anyone hasn’t seen The Killing Room, they’re in for a mind trip. But I’m looking forward to Blue State and I’m really interested in Mercy. Great list Jess:)

    • Jessica Tomberlin says

      Thanks, glad you found some you’re interested in watching. Let me know what you think!

  3. Andrew Crump says

    Well, you’ve got me beat this time, Jessica. I haven’t heard of the majority of these, and those that I HAVE heard of I’m really not fond of (particularly Brief Interviews).

    I REALLY want to check out Outpost, though! Sounds pretty awesome.

    • Jessica Tomberlin says

      Ok…I have to know your beaf with Brief Interviews? I’m interested in a guys perspective in general, and I also felt a little biased already because David Foster Wallace (the writer of the short story the film is based on) is one of my favorites.

      • Andrew Crump says

        It’s a series of monologues, and while a number of them work– notably those of Meloni, Cooper, and Messina, if you ask me– there’s one inherent problem with building a movie out of monologues: it becomes incredibly plodding and dull after a while. The other big problem I have is with the way the film de-fangs the book, though I admit it’s been a long time since I’ve read the novel.