By Anthony Cancasci
There are a lot of movies out there. And I mean a lot. And nobody, not even the most dedicated of us movie nerds, can possibly hope to see them all, no matter how hard we try and how many times we pray to Zoltar (a little Big reference for my Tom Hanks fans out there). So, I now present you with a small taste of some films that you didn't know were great, or perhaps even existed. Some just fell under the radar, some don't get enough credit, some have been lost in time, and others are just too off the wall to be considered by your average mainstream audience. Let's begin.
No, it's not a porno. Long before Robert Downey Jr. was taking the nation by storm as a sarcastic, quick-witted guy who's constantly accidentally getting hurt during insane gunplay in Iron Man, he was starring in Shane Black's modern noir comedy as a sarcastic, quick-witted guy who's constantly accidentally getting hurt during insane gunplay. Such a diverse talent. Regardless, Downey Jr. makes this film his bitch in every sense of the word. Most of you know Shane Black, if at all, as the man behind the Lethal Weapon films and Iron Man 3 (as well as this summer's The Nice Guys #shamelessplug), but it's in this often overlooked gem in which he truly shines as a writer and director. The film follows small time crook Harry Lockhart (Downey Jr.) as he is mistaken for an actor and paired up with private investigator Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) to accompany him on what soon becomes an entanglement of murder and mystery in the depths of Los Angeles. It's everything you could want in a film: effortlessly cool, with a confident bravado that tops off its own snark. It's one of those rare great films that you simply can't believe wasn't appreciated by a larger audience. Ahead of its time, I guess.
You'll Like It If You Like: Deadpool, Hot Fuzz, Tropic Thunder, Iron Man, Burn After Reading
Classic Quote: "Perry: My $2000 ceramic Vektor my mother got me as a special gift. You threw in the lake next to the car. What happens when they drag the lake? You think they'll find my pistol? Jesus. Look up "idiot" in the dictionary. You know what you'll find?
Harry: A picture of me?
Perry: No! The definition of the word idiot, which you fucking are!"
We all know Christopher Nolan is a genius matched by no other in his field. He reinvented the concept of a space travel film, he reinvented how we saw Batman on screen, he even changed the way we thought about our dreams. But before he was the megastar director he is today, he was the creator of Memento, truly one of the most scrupulously genius and irreverently energetic movies to ever warp the mold of storytelling. With an original script from Nolan, based on his brother's unpublished short story, Memento tells the story of Leonard (Guy Pierce), a man with short term memory loss who is hellbent on finding his wife's killer, keeping track of his clues largely through the use of polaroid photographs and tattoos. The story is told completely out of order, as we watch one story arch unfold in reverse through small scenes, while another arch plays out in a separate time frame, completing the gaps we've missed out on context-wise. It's a fucking insane film. When you can't remember how you started the conversation, how do you know the person you're having it with can be trusted?
You'll Like It If You Like: Inception, American Psycho, The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, The Departed
Classic Quote: "Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They're just an interpretation, they're not a record, and they're irrelevant if you have the facts."
When you think of Cameron Crowe, you think of Say Anything, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous. When you think of Tom Cruise, you think of Mission Impossible, Top Gun and probably some awful summer blockbuster I didn't bother to see. What you don't hear of is that the two collaborated is a uniquely inventive remake of a Spanish mind-bender about accidental deformity. That's right. This film follows rich playboy David Aames (Cruise) as he is disfigured in a car accident after meeting the love of his life (Penelope Cruz). His vain personality succumbs to insanity, given his predicament, and we are left to wonder why his story is being told through a conversation with a therapist (Kurt Russell) in an asylum for the criminally insane. Blend the already brilliant story structure and picture-perfect cinematic storytelling with Crowe's signature use of pop music as a score, and you're ready for one of the best films you've never seen.
You'll Like It If You Like: Minority Report, The Matrix, Inception, Ex Machina, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Classic Quote: "You can do whatever you want with your life, but one day you'll know what love truly is. It's the sour and the sweet. And I know sour, which allows me to appreciate the sweet."
I included this film not because it was widely dismissed, but because I don’t believe that it got near the recognition that it deserved. A remake of the 1981 cult classic, this film both adapted the raw, visceral in-your-face-yet-subtle style of the first while also adding its own charisma and volatile, energetic stylings, modernizing its tact for the new generation. I truly consider it the punk rock of horror films in this day and age. It respectfully handles obscene amounts of gore with beautiful cinematography that credits first time director Fede Alvarez where credit is due. You feel like you're not meant to be watching what you're watching, an instinctive sense of guilt surrounding the brilliance of witnessing a woman carve pieces of her own face off with a glass shard. Too many films these days try to make their horror feel like the type that could easily relate to the audience at home, while Evil Dead paints a vivid image of a lurking presence of evil that is not horrible to imagine, but horrible to witness. I truly believe it to be one of the best made horror films of my own generation, and one of if not the best remakes of all time.
You'll Like It If You Like: It Follows, The Cabin in the Woods, House of 1000 Corpses, Hostel, The Conjuring
Classic Quote: "You're all going to die tonight."
In the mid-1990's, music was everything. Everywhere you turned was another semi-punk/grunge band longing to be reveled by the nation's plethora of angst-ridden teenagers. And this film captured the experience of non-corporate middlemen in suburban American, peddling CD's to the masses in a local music store that seems to only have one adult working there. Mini skirts, loose cardigans, Gwar, this movie is 1995 on a silver screen platter. It's also funny, cool, and way too highly sets your expectations of a first job. Perfect for any wannabe hipster or just plain movie lover, I constantly suggest this movie to the girls I'm friends with.
You'll Like It If You Like: Dazed and Confused, Almost Famous, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Heathers, Palo Alto
Classic Quote: "You know that feeling when you get out of a warm bath... well... you make me feel like a bath?"