Nashua is an avid film watcher, subscriber of way too many streaming services, and an aspiring film reviewer!
5) Good Time
While potentially not as under-watched or forgotten as other films that may appear on this list, I do want to bring attention to it. I watched this movie when it first came out in 2017 and I enjoyed it immensely at the time. The Safdie brothers weren't on anybody's radar as of yet, and they ended up delivering one of the most stylized and intense movies of that year, featuring a specifically fantastic performance from the lead actor. Due to their more recent film Uncut Gems coming to Netflix soon, I wanted to go back and revisit their debut. I was not let down.
Robert Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, the elder of two brothers and an all-around mischief causer. After a poorly planned bank robbery lands his younger brother Nick, played by Benny Safdie, in jail, he must navigate New York City in an attempt to figure out a way to free him.
Everything about this movie relies on Robert Pattinson and he crushes the role. I am more than tired of hearing about Twilight at this point. The man can act and he might just be one of our most talented actors working in the industry today. His commitment to his character is incredibly complex. In no way is this a character we are meant to like, yet they present him in such a way that we end up kind of rooting for him in some sort of perverse way? This film explores the underbelly of New York City really beautifully while layering in conversations about mental health and complex family dynamics.
This film is not necessarily always easy to watch. There are two scenes in particular that, upon re-watch, were deeply upsetting and threatened to take me out of the movie. It always brought me back though. The cinematography is gorgeous, with colors popping of the screen in vibrant patterns. The synth soundtrack moves through the movie like it's own character, driving it forward, working almost as the heartbeat of the movie. This movie will not be for everyone and it absolutely should not be watched by younger audiences. However, as a performance piece for Pattinson and the pre-cursor work to the incredible Uncut Gems, I would definitely recommend taking the time to watch this movie if you have not yet checked it out.
4) Mirror Mirror
Okay. I might have lost you immediately with this one. Give me a moment to explain myself though. Particularly in our current times when we are stuck at homes, some of us with small children and families, I didn't want to just list 5 hard 'R' movies that are really only for adult audiences. So I went searching for some films that the entire family could likely enjoy. In a world where there aren't many being made at a super high quality, I found that Mirror Mirror matched that description.
Released in 2012, this film stars Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, and Nathan Lane and is an updated rendition of the beloved Disney classic Snow White. Collins stars as the titular Snow White as she attempts to regain control of her kingdom from a delightfully evil Queen, played by Julia Roberts.
This movie is absolutely cheesy. I also don't think that is necessarily a bad thing when it comes to family films. When I think of the best family films, I think of those that have something for everyone. It isn't purely nonsense directed at children, yet not all the jokes are soaring over younger children's heads. Collins plays Snow White very well and provides her much more substance than the original animated version. The film actually updates itself really well overall, eliminating a lot of the most problematic aspects from the original. Julia Roberts has not played evil very often in her career, and you can tell she is absolutely having a blast here. Her interplay with Nathan Lane in particular is genuinely quite funny. Armie Hammer is also giving a totally bombastic performance and it totally works. He is considered a much more serious actor now, but I could easily see him stepping into some comedies in the future.
I'm not saying that you need to run and watch this movie right now by yourself. I just think that you might find yourself surprised by the movie overall. If you want to sit down with your kids and family to watch a movie together to have a pretty good time, I think you might be surprised what this movie has to offer.
Now, here is a movie that I had legitimately never heard of prior to a week ago when, while scrolling, it just popped up in my feed. This is exactly the type of movie that you want to find after perusing Netflix for an hour, frustrated with how many movies exist that just don't appeal to you in any way. I clicked on this movie on that basis that I had never even heard of it and it had a cast featuring some fantastic talent. Lo and behold, I was completely surprised with Bandits and ultimately fell in love with it.
Bandits was released in 2001 and features Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett. With that cast, you might be led to believe this is an intense drama, and there are elements of that, but this is much more of a silly crime comedy. Willis and Thornton play Joe Blake and Terry Collins, two men who have broken out of prison and proceed to rob a series of banks along the West Coast. Their gimmick? They go to the home of the bank manager of the bank they want to rob the night before and essentially hold them hostage until the next morning, when they all go the bank together to get the money. Along the way, they come across Kate Wheeler, played wonderfully by Blanchett, who becomes involved in more ways than one.
This movie is delightful. The premise sounds absolutely ridiculous, and it is, specifically because this could never work today. Bruce Willis, for one, is actually giving a fantastic performance here and isn't phoning anything int. His dynamic with Billy Bob Thornton is strangely great and I am a little sad we didn't get to see more comedies featuring the two of them. They both come across extremely likable, not something we can often say about either of them, and they totally commit to their characters. Thornton can verge on being annoying at times as he is playing an extra-eccentric person, but it usually works really well. Blanchett is also giving an against-type performance, particularly for this time in her career, and offers some of the biggest laughs in the movie.
I am not necessarily saying this movie is for everybody. It doesn't hold up in a lot of ways and it does require some suspension of belief. That being said, it you are looking for a solid comedy from some people who do not usually do comedy, this film might be for you. While not explicit in any way, this film would likely only land with older audiences, or those people who lived through the early 2000s. It's a good time from the depths of Netflix and I'm glad I was able to catch it.
2) The Death of Stalin
This might just be the most criminally under-seen movie on the list. I recall seeing some things about this movie in 2017 when it came out, but I was never able to catch it in theaters, and it seemed to come and go very quickly with very little impact on the cultural zeitgeist. Having recently caught it on Netflix, I can now state that this was a glaring miss of what was easily one of the best comedies of 2017, and possibly of the past decade.
The Death of Stalin is a comedy, at times a dark comedy, set in 1953 directly after Joseph Stalin's death. It is predominantly focused around the men that made up Stalin's Council of Power as they all attempt to figure out what to do in the coming days of the Soviet Union.
This movie is downright hilarious. While the events that take place are largely historically accurate, the actions and dialogue that take place are a complete farce. To begin with, the cast is made up almost entirely of actors from the United Kingdom and the United States. Actors such as Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Jason Isaacs are portraying real life Soviets and it could not be more funny. Additionally, the portrayals of these people are pushed to the absolute extreme. The movie toes the line of parody at times, however it never really feels like a mockery of Russia or the Soviet Union in any way. If anything, the creators tried really hard to be as sensitive as possible. They just happened to be incredibly interested in this chaotic time in Russian history and found a way to mine wonderful comedy from it.
I can definitely understand why this movie was difficult to market and why it never found a huge audience. It doesn't go as far as a movie like Airplane, but it also is doing something similarly challenging and different that other comedies. This movie somehow manages to include legitimate and accurate history, all the while making you laugh out loud as these men try valiantly to one-up one another to gain power. It just goes to show that even in the silliest comedies, there is a great amount of care and thought put into how to actually deliver. This movie nails it.
Since watching this for the first time, I have already watched to twice more with others as a recommendation, and most everybody came away loving it. Once again, this movie is rated 'R' and should definitely be viewed only by older audiences, but I really feel that just about anybody could find something fun here. If you want a great movie to watch with others, I would look no further than The Death of Stalin.
1) The Rainmaker
In terms of movies most likely to have been forgotten to time on this list, this movie might take the crown. I had seen this movie on Netflix for some time, but for some reason it never really grabbed me enough to start watching. I had never heard very much about the movie as a whole, and just assumed it was just like any other courtroom drama. However, after getting curious about the movie one day and doing a little research, I was actually blown away from the talent involved here and decided to check it out.
The Rainmaker was released in 1997 and stars Matt Damon, Danny DeVito, and Claire Danes. Several other incredibly talented people pop up in this movie too, including Jon Voight, Danny Glover, and Mickey Rourke. All the while, the movie is directed by none other than Francis Ford Coppola. The Francis Ford Coppola. Of all the talent involved with this project, I was most blown away by this. Coppola has made some of the best films of all time, and here is a project of his that has flown so completely under the radar that I barely knew it existed.
The Rainmaker does end up being a courtroom drama through portions of the movie, however it is much more than that. There are elements of comedy and thriller also woven thoughout this story. While the movie is based on a John Grisham novel by the same name, you can definitely feel Coppola's influence on the screenplay. The characters come alive with a different intensity than other courtroom movies. They feel fully realized and complete while somehow being larger than life.
Damon plays Rudy Baylor, a freshly graduated law student who goes out onto his own looking to make his way in the world of law. After some bumps and bruises along the way, Baylor ends up working for a couple whose son is slowly dying from leukemia. They are locked in a legal battle with their insurance company who denied coverage of a treatment that could save their sons life.
This movie is kinetic as all get out. Movies set around the practice of law and courtrooms always have a certain allure to them, however a large majority of the time, they end up feeling similar to others or ultimately unrealistic. This movie feels like genuine research was performed and the events could likely have taken place, for the most part. There are some scenes involving Danny DeVito that are played for laughs, very well I might add, that may be embellished, but ultimately the movie is paying homage to the practice of law quite nicely.
The performances in this movie are absolutely fantastic. I am blown away by how good Matt Damon was as an actor from very early in his career. Obviously he had his star-making role in Good Will Hunting, however this showed a very different side of him as an actor. He is a subtle actor, making certain decisions carefully but very effectively. There are moments when he is clearly under-experienced and outmatched by his opposing council, played by the ever menacing Jon Voight, yet Damon holds his own. It's pure magic to watch on-screen. The movie also balances and paces itself really well with a few ongoing cases. The A-story is the insurance case, but Rudy Baylor has other clients and issues he is dealing with. Coppola does well in making each story feel important in how it connects to the larger whole.
I was blown away by this movie. It might not be perfect, but it took me by complete surprise and I think it is absolutely worth being remembered in the future. In the pantheon of courtroom films, I feel this easily could be in the top tier. I am super glad I was able to catch this movie. I do not want it to be forgotten to time, because while it might not be among Coppola's best, it's also still a very good Coppola movie featuring some phenomenal writing and acting. Be sure to check this one out before is disappears from Netflix. I do not think you will be disappointed.