Listen, I'm not trying to be like those proclaimed hipsters who are completely into the sub culture you've never heard of and think they are better than anyone else. That's not what I'm here to do. What I really do want though, is to bring to light some of films most underappreciated movies, that you've probably never heard of, so that you can go home and have something intelligent to watch. You can thank me now. =]
Chopper, 2001 ($246,000) — Before Eric Bana was Eric Bana, he was an Australian actor little known in America until his brilliant depiction of Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read gained him great acclaim and attention from American critics and filmmakers. Chopper Read is a fascinating Australian criminal (and bestselling crime author), who is as menacing as he is full of sh*t. Between the ages of 20 and 38, he only spent 13 months outside of prison, but it was inside the clink where he arguably gained the most notoriety, starting a prison gang war that got so out of hand that Chopper’s best friend would end up stabbing him, costing him several feet of intestine (note, too, that Chopper was only in prison because he stabbed the judge that put his best friend in prison). Killing between four and 19 people (depending on the account you believe), Chopper, as depicted by Bana, is equal parts charming and terrifying, and wholly psychotic: The kind of guy that would play a prank on you, tell you he was just kidding, and then blow your brains out, and somehow, remain a weirdly amiable character.
Braindead, 1992 ($242,000) We sometimes forget that before the sweeping, ostentatious epics, Peter Jackson cut his teeth on low-budget, tongue-in-cheek horror. His magnum opus in the field of hyper-gory craziness is the beautifully insane Braindead, aka Dead Alive. Part love story, part poignant family drama, part moral allegory, part horrific zombie mutant monster splatterhouse picture, it’s quite literally one of my favorite movies ever. It’s got plague-rat-on-tree-monkey rape, overbearing mothers, the greatest use of a lawnmower in cinematic history and a kung-fu priest who — and I’m not using hyperbole here — delivers the greatest line ever committed to celluloid. All of this for the bargain price of $3 million.
Coffee and Cigarettes, 2001 ($2.1 million) Here’s another one of those quirky, minimalistic, and meandering Jim Jarmusch indie flicks that always fail to gain commercial traction but play very well at home in the DVD player. This movie has Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Cate Blanchett, and the White Stripes, among others, kicking the shit around in separate black-and-white vignettes while they partake of the titular twin vices.
Starter for 10, 2006 ($216,000) You’ve probably never seen Starter for 10, even though you probably know everyone who’s in it: James McAvoy and Benedict Cumberbatch have been the biggest breakouts, though Rebecca Hall, Dominic Cooper, and Alice Eve are likely recognizable faces to a lot of viewers, too. (E.g, Hall was Ben Affleck’s love interest in The Town, and Cooper played Tony Stark’s father in Captain America: The First Avenger).
Headhunters, 2012 ($1.02 million) Headhunters is one of those wonderful films one should go into knowing as little as possible, the better to be violently thrown from your comfy living room expectations. It’s a genius little thriller that makes you think you know where it’s going, but at every gut punch, realize you don’t. You might even feel underwhelmed when first introduced to “Norway’s most successful headhunter,” Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie), but as the story begins to move faster and ferociously forward, you’ll change your mind.
MirrorMask, 2005 ($866,000) MirrorMask is a lovely little fairytale. Based on a screenplay by Neil Gaiman, in what’s a thematic precursor to (the admittedly superior) Coraline, the film focuses on Helena, the daughter of a circus family who begrudgingly works in said circus.
Wristcutters: A Love Story, 2006 ($446,165) Something about the title just doesn’t quite sit right. But if you can look past it, the story of Zia (Patrick Fugit) who, along with two other suicide victims Mikal and Eugene (a surprisingly great Shannyn Sossamon and “Boardwalk Empire’s” Shea Wigham) search Purgatory for Zia’s lost love.
Sweet Land, 2006, ($1.7 million)
Featuring a cast almost entirely comprised of “hey, it’s that guy!”s — with the notable exceptions of Alex Kingston (River!), Alan Cumming and one or two others — Ali Selim’s simply stunning (in that it is both simple and visually stunning) tribute to love, land and post-World War I Americana tells the story of Inge and Olaf: a German mail-order bride and her newly American farmer/husband-to-be.
Sound of My Voice, 2012 ($408,000) — They say that the root of laughter is in our brain making a connection it had never made before. It’s why jokes are less funny each subsequent time we hear them. It’s also why often our first instinct when we have an epiphany is to erupt into laughter. Sound of My Voice, like much good science fiction works on this principle. It draws your brain into connections you did not know you were supposed to consider.
Tideland, 2006 ($66,453) — With a budget of $12 million that domestic box office is nano-sized, and it’s total take including international ticket sales only amounts to about $566,000. Financially, this is decidedly Terry Gilliam’s biggest failure; including the continuously aborted Don Quixote adaptation, itself the subject of a fairly successful documentary. For many who have seen Tideland; especially the critics that collectively gave the movie a 27.5% average rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic — that failure is entirely reasonable.
The Trip, 2011 ($2.03 million) — A look at the nature of fame and friendship, even when it’s not quite so friendly. Playing thinly veiled fictional versions of themselves, actors and comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon set out on a restaurant tour of Northern England as Coogan deals with his failing relationship.