Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Six Most Underrated Movies of 2011

6. The Green Hornet: 

Unlike a few of the other films on this list, I can actually sort of see why someone wouldn’t take to The Green Hornet. For one thing, it’s comedic style isn’t exactly for everyone, and at the end of the day, you’re either a Seth Rogen fan or you’re not. I personally happen to adore the guy, and found that his frat-boy comedy style translated splendidly with the trappings of the typical comic book movie. 
What can I say, I loved pretty much everything about this movie, from Jay Chou as Kato, to Christoph Waltz as the villain, to the action-finale set at the newspaper, to the film’s irreverent and slightly sloppy edge. No, it wasn’t exactly as deep or innovative as The Dark Knight or even Spider-Man 2...but as pop entertainment, I found it quite fun.

5. Scream 4: 
Again, another movie that I can kind of see why someone wouldn’t go for. The phrase ‘long-in-the-tooth’ was invented for series entries such as this one, and I’d be lying if I said that the film’s self-satire and meta-ness was as inventive as it was back in 1996. Heads up, guys: including web cameras in your movie doesn’t make you hip.
But despite its problems, I still thought there was a lot to like about Scream 4. I appreciated the way that it integrated the old cast with a newer band of actors. And true to their nature, director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson showed that they still know how to play with and stomp on audience’s expectations. Add in the way that the film cleverly brings the franchise’s narrative full-circle back to the original film, and you’ve got a pretty decent capper to a more than decent horror franchise. Just please: no Scream 5
                                                                                                                  4. Apollo 18: 

I’ll admit it: I’m an unabashed fan of the ‘found footage’ genre. I love its gritty realness, and I love the way that it draws the audience in through not scary music or horror cliche, but simple camera trickery. Films such as The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, REC and Paranormal Activity have all excelled at creating compelling words with compellingly horrifying threats, and for every slip-shod effort like Quarantine or The Tunnel, there’s an Evil Things or Home Video to help patch the wound. And Apollo 18, for my money, is no less strong an effort than the latter two titles.

The environment is the most important aspect when crafting a found footage film–it needs to be unique enough not to be inspire tedium, while simultaneously being appropriately desolate and/or ripe for terror. In a sense, it needs to be a character unto itself, and truthfully, it’s hard to think of a more desolate environment to set a found-footage feature on than the moon. The film’s plot itself isn’t exactly novel, but neither is its ambitions–Apollo 18 never aspires to be anything other than a low budget, found footage creep machine. And even if the film’s ultimate payoff isn’t as completely satisfying as its buildup, there’s still more than enough in the film to warrant recommendation.

3. The Hangover: Part II: 
The primary complaint critics lobbied against The Hangover: Part II was that it was a lazy cash grab, a bland retread of the same territory generated simply to gobble up cash. And you know what? They’re exactly right. This is Hollywood regurgitation of the worst kind, self-aggrandizing and smug without ever even attempting to be remotely innovative or clever. 
But guess what? It was funny. Damn funny. Stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zack Galifinagis still make for a dream comedic team, and director Todd Phillips still knows how to milk a gag for all the comedic value it’s worth. The movie might be shamelessly uninspired...but it’s equally shameless in its laughs. And for me, that was (barely) enough.
                                                                          2. 30 Minutes or Less: 
I wonder if this is a case of a movie being unfairly maligned so much as it is simply being underseen. Released in August, wedged directly after Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Help, director Ruben Fleisher’s followup to 2009’s Zombieland really didn’t stand a chance box-office wise. That’s a shame, because 30 Minutes or Less is, for my money, just as inspired a comedic effort. 

Stars Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari prove to be a fun odd couple, as do Danny McBride and Nick Swardson. The jokes are funny; the plot is inventive; and the action is (surprisingly) exciting. Do yourself a favor: catch up with this one.

1. Cowboys and Aliens: 
What is wrong with this movie? I don’t ask that in a condescending or accusatory manner, but simply out of genuine beffudlement: what is wrong with it? Why is it, as Miami Herald critic Rene Rodriguez writes, "a spectacular, disastrous flame-out?" What is so awful about it? What is so painful?
For my money, this is the biggest bafflement of the year. The movie delivers exactly what the title promises–director Jon Favreau delivers several great action sequences, all of which are more thrilling and inventive than anything in either of his Iron Man films. Stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford play off each other well enough, with the former ably combining John Wayne-coolness with modern action hero sensibilities, and the latter repeating the ‘grumpy ol’ coot’ prototype that we’ve all come to know and love. Olivia Wilde is hot; the aliens are appropriately nasty; co-stars Sam Rockwell, Clancy Brown and Paul Dano are all good fun; and to top it all off, there’s Indians. I don’t know what critics or audiences were expecting out of Cowboys and Aliens, but for my money, it delivered exactly what it was supposed to. No more, no less.

What movies did you think were underrated? Feel free to comment below.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree with your question "What is wrong with this movie?" I have been conflicted myself, and even chose NOT to review "Cowboys and Aliens" because I doubted my own ability to properly, objectively critique...because I REALLY LIKED it and thought I was missing something after reading so many tepid reviews. Glad I'm not the only one.