We like to champion the underdog. The indie movie, the B-movie, the cult classic or, as in the case of the films on this list, the films that we think don’t get the love or respect they’ve earned. Here we highlight our favourite diamonds in the rough, the gems of filmmaking that we think deserve another moment in the spotlight.
The Cooler (2003)
William H. Macy has had some amazing roles in his career. Most people are probably familiar with his turn as the incompetent schemer Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo, or perhaps as Quiz Kid Donnie Smith in Magnolia. But there’s another role that he’s great in, one that somehow seems to keep getting forgotten when looking at his catalogue of work and that’s Wayne Kramer’s 2003 noir-esque romance The Cooler.
Macy plays Bernie Lootz, a man so down on his luck that he can literally change other people’s fortunes just by being around them. Casino manager Shelly (Alec Baldwin at his meanest) deploys Bernie anytime people are having just a little too much luck, making sure that their winning streaks come to an end.
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This is all well and good. The casino makes bank, Shelly is happy, Bernie stays employed and miserable… but what happens when the loser falls in love? What happens when he finds happiness with cocktail waitress Natalie (Maria Bello) and instead becomes a good luck charm? What use does a casino have for a Cooler who can’t cool tables?
Macy is just great to watch in this in one of his familiar loveable loser roles, slowly evolving from the miserable man in dark coloured, ill-fitting suits, transforming into someone confident, clothes bright and well-fitted. It’s a lovely little costuming choice to reinforce how his life has turned around. While not treading any massively new ground with its plot, Macy is charming to watch and Alec Baldwin dominates every scene he’s in. Definitely check this one out if you ever get the chance, it deserves far more recognition. – Shaun Dewhirst
Chances are if someone said Godzilla you’d either think about the current big budget Monsterverse films, or the slightly silly and campy Japanese films of guys in rubber suits beating each other up. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with either version of Godzilla these often overshadow what the franchise began as, and how the original 1954 Gojira was not a fun film, but a dark and sometimes brutal examination of the horrors of the atomic attacks on Japan.
Released less than a decade after the devastating and brutal attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Gojira was always intended to symbolise the nuclear holocaust that Japan had endured. The film even opens with the booming footsteps of the titular creature, which were designed to sound like distant bombings. The gloomy film continues on from there with its grim tone, as we see Tokyo destroyed in images reminiscent of the bombings, the monster’s atomic breath disintegrating people, the suicides of despairing characters, and even those who survive the creature facing a slow and painful death through radiation poisoning.
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Whilst the series which spawned out of this film would go on to make Godzilla into a hero of earth, protecting its people from other huge monsters and alien creatures, the monster is very much a villain in this piece, come to punish mankind for the horrors it has unleashed with the atomic bombs. It can be easy to forget how the series began, and why this story was originally told, but its inception as a way for a nation to deal with the grief of horrific events cannot be forgotten. – Amy Walker
Going to the cinema is a magical experience and perhaps no movie sums up the magic, wonder and imaginative possibilities more than Joe Dante’s Matinee. Set in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis and populated by a young cast of characters, the film isn’t just a perfectly put together snapshot of life under the threat of nuclear annihilation, but of how potent and wonderful the escapism of cinema can be.
Released into cinemas in 1993, Dante had come off the back of directing several films for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin, and Matinee has the feel of something that could have come from Spielberg’s production company. There is a sweetness to the film’s atmosphere that is quite refreshing despite being set during what was no doubt a frightening time to be growing up, and the film captures the fear and possibility of life being cut short by such a threat quite powerfully.
Despite the potential to fall into grim territory, it miraculously never does. Instead, the film is a charming tribute to the big screen 50s B-movies the likes of which have frequently inspired Dante, and features a scene-stealing John Goodman as the William Castle-esque Lawrence Woolsey. It looks like a film that should have been a sure-fire hit, but unfortunately it went underseen and made very little at the box-office.
It’s a shame. Dante captures just why movies and movie theatres are as great as they are in a manner that is undeniably charming and wonderful and it really deserved to be better regarded than it was. – Eamon Hennedy
One Night at McCools (2001)
2001 seemed to be a great year for comedies, with hits like American Pie 2, Shrek and Zoolander mixing with more cult fare like Ghost World, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and Super Troopers. But one that seems to be rarely or even never mentioned among these films is fun and fast-paced crime comedy, One Night at McCools.
Boasting a stellar cast including Liv ‘daughter of Steven’ Tyler, Matt Dillon, John Goodman, Paul Reiser and Michael Douglas, the film concerns the above males getting bewitched by Tyler’s beautiful but sneaky, more-than-meets-the-eye temptress, Jewel. We follow each man’s journey to inevitable embarrassment and heartache as they try to win over Jewel. It’s certainly an entertaining and at times very funny ride.
One Night at McCools is very well written and witty as well as being quite fast paced, jumping from one character and their desperate situation to another. But there is a connection between most of the main male characters here and it all comes together in one big action-packed and funny showdown at the end with a hilarious final shot that means you’ll want to go back and watch it again.
Maybe part of the reason it appears largely forgotten is its fast-paced script and the way it moves quite quickly not quite resonating with audiences. Whatever it was, it doesn’t take away from the fact that One Night at McCools is a clever, funny and ultimately entertaining comedy. – Adam Massingham
After Paul Anderson kicked ass and garnered some success with his take on Mortal Kombat, the director was given the opportunity to direct whatever he wanted. What he wanted was Soldier, a hyper-violent science fiction movie written by Blade Runner writer David Webb Peoples.
Soldier starred a beefed-up Kurt Russell as Sgt Todd 3465; an orphan taken by the military and raised to be an obedient killing machine who, forty years into his career, is the best of them. However, one thing leads to another and Todd’s left for dead on a planet designated for rubbish.
Finding a stranded group of people living on the planet, Todd takes it upon himself to protect this colony when the military come back to use them as training dummies for their new super-soldiers. Now, Soldier took a lot of crap when it released and was forgotten pretty fast, but the film was a ton of cheesy fun. Yet the real kicker is the shared universe that fans of this movie love to rub in the faces of detractors.
Russel’s Sgt Todd has a list of battles tattooed on his arm. Included in that list are the Shoulder of Orion and Tannhäuser Gate. Two battles mentioned by Roy Batty in his monologue in Blade Runner. Eat that, shittalkers of this cult classic! – Andew Brooker