This week signals part one of a four part feature we will be doing throughout the year. We love movies, and we watch a lot of them, and we feel there are several we love that do not get the proper respect. So for four weeks throughout the year we will talk about twelve movies, three each week, we feel are underrated.
To kick off this new segment we looked to you, our loyal readers. And the best way to do that was with the Monday Confessional. We asked you: What movie do you think is underrated? As usual ours are first, and we picked a couple we talked about before that didn’t warrant a whole post. Then we move on to the wide variety of responses we got from you guys.
Dagger: On one of our many drunken nights together, Hart and I began to talk about movies we felt didn’t get their just due. Movies that were either forgotten, or not loved enough in the first place, or lost in the shuffle, or gems that were just plain misunderstood became the main themes running through the titles we rattled off (many of which you’ll read about this year). But when I sat down to write my response for this week, a thought occurred to me that I haven’t been able to shake. When you claim something is underrated, basically all you’re saying is: “Not enough people like this movie as much as I do, and they are therefore wrong.” When you frame it that way, the whole underrated/overrated argument is just kind of a way to be a dick and assert intellectual (or perhaps just observational) superiority over other people. But that’s not entirely true either because you’re framing your argument based entirely on the perceived opinions of a mass audience which just screams insecurity.
Of course, it’s entirely possible I’m just thinking about this too much and claiming something is underrated is just another vehicle for the way we discuss stuff, so with that said, the classic underrated movie of all-time is RAD.
I don’t know what the hell happened with Tri-Star and this movie in 1986, but RAD opened on March 21 on only 286 screens meaning it never even had a chance to make an impact. Granted, it opened against that cinematic juggernaut known as Police Academy 3, so the competition was fierce, but what wasn’t to love about this movie? It’s basically a cross between Rocky and The Karate Kid, only better than both of them because it all takes place on BMX bikes.
You’ve got the guy who directed Smokey & The Bandit and Cannonball Run, so all the action scenes are top notch, great villainy in the form of veteran character actor Jack Weston, the guy from “My Favorite Martian” shoplifting all the scenes he’s in, and a rockin’ 80s soundtrack. Underdog story + exciting action + pop hit soundtrack = Smash hit, right? Apparently not, because while The Karate Kid made over $90 million, RAD only made $2 million.
I suspect someone at Tri-Star dropped the ball here because this thing should have been an absolute money printer for people our age. Only a handful of people I know have seen it, but they all gush over it like schoolgirls. I should be able to hold a conversation about this movie with anyone my age like everyone else does about The Goonies, but the problem is that now it’s too late. You can’t go back and experience something you missed as a child and have it make the same impression on you. That’s why I have tepid feelings towards The Goonies (I was 27 when I saw it the first time), and that’s why I think RAD will be perpetually underrated.
And on a serious note: If I lent my copy of RAD on VHS to anyone who reads this site, please let me know as I’m losing my mind trying to find it. It’s on an orange Kodak tape with Ski Patrol and Police Academy 3 (maybe that one was a juggernaut). If you have it, let me know and I’ll buy you a CJS t-shirt.
Hart: My undying love for the Muppets is no secret on this site, so when thinking about my answer I had to turn these felt characters. The Muppet Movie is my choice for a totally underrated movie.
Since the cast is comprised mostly of puppets it is easy for this movie to get quickly written off as nothing more than children’s fare. With the songs and the bright colors, I can see how it would get that rep. But The Muppet Movie is so much more. It is about being true to yourself, sticking to your principals, and following your dreams. The movie is about the Muppets following their dreams, but if you look deeper it is the story of how Jim Henson followed his.
I think what I like most about this movie that tends to get overlooked is how well these puppets mimic life. When we set out on our life paths and seek our own personal goals, we never really think about the people we will meet on the way. But then we wander into an unfamiliar bar, or check out a local fair and meet someone who not only enters our lives, but becomes a major part of them. This movie is a great look at friendship, and I love that.
Instilling values of sticking to principals, following dreams, and friendship. The Muppet Movie deserves to be recognized not only as a terrific family film, but a great film for everyone.
Rad and the Muppets, who saw those movies coming as our choices? Well our reader submissions are much less predictable so let’s end this little intermission and get to the films.
Lady E: The most underrated movie out there, in my opinion, is Playing by Heart.
This movie with all the stars in it should have been a Blockbuster! Here are just a few of the stars in this movie: Gillian Anderson, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Connery (!), Anthony Edwards (he was popular when this came out (Angelina Jolie, Jay Mohr, Ryan Phillippe (he too was popular when this came out), Dennis Quaid, AND John Stewart! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?
It was released January 1, 1999, and at its widest release it was only in 308 theatres.
It is a great ensemble cast that all work really well together, and while it takes a while you start to see how all of these individual stories all work together. I think it is fitting that this is one of my favorite movies and it the most underrated movie, and that we are talking about this now, because in a few days the same people who did this movie are releasing Valentines Day with: Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Beil, Bradley Cooper, Patrick Dempsey, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner (Jacob from Twilight), Taylor Swift, Julia & Emma Roberts (Emma is Julia’s niece, in case you didn’t know or wanted to know), and Shirley MacLaine. PHEW! So, go rent Playing by Heart and then go see Valentine’s Day, because if it is HALF as good as Playing by Heart, it is going to be amazing
Cliff: Primer. One of the best, most mind blowing plots I’ve ever seen. Great acting by a generally unknown cast, and EXCELLENT quality for the amount of money put into it. Unfortunately, those two things make it great and unknown. Nobody I know has seen it unless I showed it to them, or they showed it to me.
That’s all I have to say about that.
Gutter: The movie that I feel is very underrated and not very well known is the movie Poolhall Junkies. This movie is probably in my Top 10 of all time, and features two great actors, Christopher Walken and Chazz Palminteri (From Analyze This and A Bronx Tale). I challenge anyone to name a movie that Christopher Walken is in that sucks, I am sure there is one out there but it is damn hard to find. Anyway, this movie is no exception to that rule, as it stars unknown actors with Walken and Palminteri filling in the supporting cast brilliantly like they do so often. After watching this movie you will have the urge to head to your local bar or pool hall and try a variety of trick shots that were done in the movie, I know my college roommates and I did it countless times when shooting pool at the bar. It’s a great movie with some great quotes, neat trick shots and a good story to follow along as well. I would definitely recommend it to anyone even if you don’t find the game of pool all that great.
Dzayson: For years, I’ve annoyed my parents by recommending movies to them that they wind up hating. My mom and I rarely argue about anything, but I showed her Magnolia during a visit home in my college years and things got testy afterwards when I tried to argue my case for its brilliance with her. I wonder if my parents secretly regret having sent me to college (and thus funding my growing appreciation for non-mainstream/indie films) because of my countless enthusiastic recommendations of movies that subsequently bored them to tears and wasted hours of their lives. However, there is a movie right now that I am begging them- and the devoted readers of this wonderful website- to check out immediately. And this time, I have a good feeling that they will actually like it.
The Hurt Locker is my favorite movie of the past year. It is one of the most gripping action movies I’ve ever seen. I myself was reluctant to check it out, based on its undesirable setting. I’m not the only one in this regard; this kick-ass masterpiece has only made a lousy $16 million so far. But here’s one of its greatest assets: it’s completely non-political in its approach to an utterly divisive war. It doesn’t complicate the story with preachiness. This way, anyone from Keith Olbermann to Dubya himself can enjoy and appreciate the film. It tells its story cleanly and is utterly gripping for the entire ride.
I’m sure film geeks reading this might say, “Underrated, Dzayson? Really? It’s won Best Picture from tons of critics groups and will definitely get a slew of Oscar nominations in a week or so!” And it’s a valid point. My argument is that this movie should have been a monster hit. If more people got past the trepidation of seeing an Iraq war movie, it would build great word-of-mouth and rake in Saving Private Ryan cash. Instead, most people who watched the Golden Globes last week probably had no clue that the film even existed. I’ve been bothering all my friends to see this movie and none have regretted it. Some have even admitted that they wanted to dislike it just because I was so annoying in my insistence that they check it out. It’s just an awesome, awesome flick. If it’s playing anywhere near you, I’d strongly urge you to see it on the big screen while you can. Even if it means driving across town to the crappy independent theater (in the trendy “gay hipster neighborhood,” no less) with no stadium seating and a pretentious name like Chez Artiste. Once the film starts, you’ll see what I mean. And you won’t regret your decision.
That was quite the collection of underrated movies we have gathered. Underrated movies can be a lot of fun because it is like having a secret. And it can be a lot of fun to share that secret with a friend. If you haven’t seen one on this list, go check it out, and be sure to find out what other movies we find underrated with our CJS Quarterly Underrated Movies.
Checking out these movies might be a good idea for a date night and with Valentine’s Day right around the corner a date is probably on a lot of people’s minds. Someone decorated the CJS offices for the holiday so we’re in the spirit and we want you to be too. We’ll lead up to the love holiday with a question brought on by cupid himself. Last year we asked you to tell us about your worst date experience. This year we flip it around (and hit it from the back door). We want to know what was the most unexpectedly awesome thing to ever happen on a date for you?
We want to know more about all our readers. So don’t hold back. If you haven’t confessed, or it’s been awhile, or even if you did it last week, we want to hear from you. Don’t be shy and send us your response, along with your posting name to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll put them up next week.
Hart & Dagger
01 Feb 2010 CJS Staff