G-S-T Top 10 – Movies Off The Beaten Path – Round 4

After a two-month hiatus, we’re back with the next installment of “Movies off the Beaten Path”. Movies, and the entertainment business, can be highly hit or miss because of ranging tastes in film and how people approach the medium. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you hear about a movie and have no desire to see it and don’t. You may even avoid it at all costs. In other cases you have no idea the film exists until someone points it out to you, years after its original release.

The following entries in our series of Top 10 lists are films I happened to stumble upon or that were recommended to me. Whether these films are underrated, quasi-unknown or both, I think these flicks deserve a little attention (click any photo below to view the trailer). Continuing the series, I give you the 4th Round of “Movies Off the Beaten Path“…

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The Machinst – Aside from Johnny Depp (and maybe Val Kilmer) I can’t recall an actor who would go to farther lengths for his craft than Christian Bale. Not only was his shocking weight drop something to marvel at, this story was a fascinating morality tale. Set in an almost ethereal atmosphere, all elements teetered on a fine line between reality and fantasy. It feels as though you’re watching Seven mixed with splashes of The Usual Suspects. It’s odd and unsettling at times but there’s never a dull minute.

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I Heart Huckabees – All the Oscar hype over David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, compelled me to return to his not so well received philosophical comedy. They typical complaint from viewers seems to be a lack of connectedness, but what does one expect from an existentialist narrative? Chaos exists in the film as it does in life, and while it offers no easy solutions to the problems of the world,  it presents some harsh realities about the state of things with a Stephen Colbert like mentality that offers a sort of painful truth mixed with comic relief. Marc did a glowing Off the Shelf review a while back, check it out here.

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Safety Not Guaranteed – A mumblecore comedy produced by and starring Mark Duplass, about an unusual classified ad involving a time machine that sparks the attention of a group of Seattle journalists, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year, and won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. True to mumblecore form, the dialog is full of sarcasm and wit, but with just enough heart, and Aubrey Plaza’s performance as the slightly disgruntled, mostly misunderstood intern, Darius, is so brilliant you’ll be looking her up on IMDb before the film is halfway through, just to make note of where else you can see her display her incredibly captivating skills as an actress. The film is now on DVD, so if you missed it during the theatrical release this summer, now’s your chance to see this wonderfully touching and hilarious film.

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The Lie – Joshua Leonard’s dark comedy based on the 2008 short story by T.C. Boyle, opened last year to limited release, and is now on Netflix for your viewing pleasure. Twenty-something Lonnie (Joshua Lenard) is an aspiring musician turned editor who longs for something more than the life he and his wife Clover, along with their new baby, have somehow fallen into. Unable to face another day at the office doing a job he despises, Lonnie tells a lie so great it cannot be taken back, and as the lie begins to grow his entire life is taken over by this one untruth. The Lie offers a refreshingly candid look at the realities of growing up.

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Grand CanyonLawrence Kasdan loves an epic. The time, the place, the content is irrelevant, he just has a way of telling a story with gripping plot, interesting characters and an interwoven story set amongst a vista of either landscapes emotions or both. While this has more in common with The Big Chill than with Silverado, his stories are grand but are always tied to that most important element: the human interaction. The movie feels a little dated but the message will outlast the styles and look of the film for sure.

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Bicentennial Man –  Robin Williams sure has taken some wild, off the wall, and dynamic roles in the past. None of them has him playing a robot, to say nothing about a robot on a quest to become human. From writer/director Chris Columbus (Gremlins, Home Alone) his affinity for “cute with a message” makes this film both witty and emotional, as well as something for kids and adults. While this did hit theaters many people I know stayed away, perceiving it as uninteresting. Well, looks can be deceiving, and this movie was well done in terms of both visuals and the storyline.

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Timer – This sci-fi romantic comedy combination takes a look at what life would be like if we were all able to know in advance the exact day we were to meet our soul mate. Think about that for a minute. What if your timer is blank, meaning your “one” hasn’t yet gotten a timer for himself; what if you’re pushing mid-thrities and your timer says you’ve still got over five thousand days to go, or what if on your fourteenth birthday, the age one must reach before having the option to get a timer, you find out you are to meet your soul mate in five days time. Would you really want to know?  This is the question the film ponders as it introduces the audience to these different scenarios of “knowing,” and how the characters deal with the frustrations that come along with that knowledge.

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The Go-Getter –  Oregan teenager Mercer White, played by the lovely Lou Taylor Pucci, steals a car and sets out to find his half-brother after the death of their mother. Realizing her cell is still in the car, the owner, played by the adorable Zooey Deschanel, calls it and  Mercer, surprisingly, picks up. She decides to go along with him (via telephone) on his journey and the two form an unexpected bond. This heart-warming road movie will have you enchanted until the very end.

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Tigerland – Both the spring-board for Colin Farrell and the redeeming film for Joel Schumacher, I was impressed with how gritty, slow-paced and yet engaging this film was. Thanks in large part to Farrell and his stellar breakout performance; if this film had starred anyone else it probably would have been ignored. It’s one of the most gritty and intimate stories of a man’s journey in the Vietnam era since Platoon.

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Bait – Kind of following the same equal parts humor/action formula that Michael Bay has used in Bad Boys, this is actually a pretty enjoyable film, mainly, scratch that, entirely because of Jamie Foxx. Budget is a little low but Foxx sells this in the way Will Smith sold Enemy of the State, all the while saving the nearly weak plot from the $3.00 DVD bin at your local supermarket. In films like this and Any Given Sunday, you can see how he was on his way to earning that Oscar for Ray.

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Many of these titles can be streamed instantly but some are really worthy of a physical spot on your shelves. But while these are older titles you can find newer releases on DVD from Tesco. If you’ve seen any of these on the list, or if our post has inspired you to take a look at some of the films, we’d love to know what you think. See you in Round 5!

Comments

  1. I liked “I heart Huckabees”, but could not stand “Safety not Gaurenteed”. ‘Tigerland’ surprised me to be very good especially from Joel Schumacher. I will check out “The Go Getter” later this week because of my attraction to Zooey Deschanel.

    • RidgeRacer4 says

      After hearing the hype about “Guaranteed” I found it did not live up to it one bit. Quirky and moderately funny at times it was mostly unremarkable and rather bland. It was a short film concept that did not stretch out to feature length.

  2. RidgeRacer4 says

    Nice call on Grand Canyon Jess! Love that movie especially for the interactions between the characters…also James Newton Howard’s score is one of his better efforts.

  3. Andrew Crump says

    This might be my favorite batch of picks so far. Always happy to see some Tigerland love, but I’m also pleased to see Timer mentioned given how little-seen that one is. It’s solid and deserves more of an audience than it has.

    And of course The Machinist and Huckabees are both great, particularly the latter, which I watched very recently in the wake of Silver Linings Playbook. Weird to see Russell go from making a really subversive rom-com to making one that’s much more formulaic.