Friday, November 14, 2003

Oh, yeah, THAT movie!

Here are a few films that I've always liked, and yet I don't see mentioned all that often in various forums or in real-life. They're the kinds of movies that sit on the shelves at Blockbuster, unloved, or tucked away a safe distance from the "New Releases" at your local Media Play. They might even be in the bargain bins....but they're actually really good movies that deserve to be seen more than they are.

:: Real Genius. The ultimate "Science nerds in college" movie, with some of the best dialogue I've ever heard. It features Val Kilmer before he became a really big name as a brilliant college physics student who has slacked off into eccentricism, top secret government defense schemes, gonzo practical jokes that only the Physics Nerds could come up with (such as using a quarter-sized slice of frozen nitrogen to get pop out of the vending machine), and more.

:: Top Secret! Another early Val Kilmer movie, made by the producers of the Airplane and Naked Gun movies. You can't dislike a movie that lampoons World War II espionage flicks and includes a cameo by Peter Cushing as a Swedish bookseller with a horribly misshapen eye.

:: Dead Again. A thriller with supernatural overtones, a witty script, and a half-dozen "Gotcha!" revelations along the way. It's also one of those thrillers that's fun to immediately watch again after you see it the first time, so you can reinterpret all of the early stuff in the light of the secrets unveiled later on. This is my favorite Kenneth Branagh movie. (Patrick Doyle's score is a barnburner, too.)

:: Grand Canyon. This is a powerful drama about a circle of people from disparate walks of life in Los Angeles. Their lives intersect in surprising ways, and each person in their own way feels that not-uncommon modern sense of life spinning out of control.

:: The Man Without a Face. Since I keep getting hits for people looking for explanations of Dead Poets Society, allow me to plug this film again, which is a far better movie about the student-teacher dynamic. Leave the "Robin Williams angling for an Oscar" movie on the shelves and watch this one instead.

:: Broadcast News. I haven't seen this one in far too long. I have no idea how accurate its portrayal of TV news may be (although Aaron might -- care to weigh in?), but I really dig the interplay of the lead characters. To this day, the line "A lot of alliteration from anxious anchormen placed in powerful posts!" is one of my favorite lines in a movie of all time.

:: Far and Away. OK, this may qualify more as a "guilty pleasure" than an actual good movie. It's the kind of story you'll find in numerous versions in the Romance section at Borders, but so what? It's engaging and fun, and it's got one of John Williams's most underappreciated filmscores.

:: Hear My Song. Here's a movie about a shady Liverpool concert promoter. How shady is he? Well, he spreads the word that Frank Cinnatra will be playing his club. (Hey, it's not his fault if it sounds the same as the other guy!) And he constantly appeals to older Brits for help by saying things like, "I grew up in peacetime. I haven't seen what you've seen!" Anyway, this guy ends up going in search of a legendary singer who fled England for tax reasons. I really can't describe the plot any farther than that, except to say that this is one of those movies that leaves you totally satisfied. You have British humor, Irish singing, con games, and two tender love stories. Next time you're looking for a "date movie", check this one out. Trust me. (Trivia note: the lead is played by Adrian Dunbar, who would later play Senator Bail Organa in The Phantom Menace -- but his scenes were either cut or not filmed, and the role was recast for Jimmy Smits in Attack of the Clones and, presumably, Episode III.

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