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15 Good Recent Movies That Need To Be Reevaluated By The Audience

14 December 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Caio Coletti

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There’s a lot of talk every time critics and reviewers get a movie “wrong”. Search for lists of unsung great classics that were panned by critics and you’ll find many – but how about when the audience don’t really get the spirit of a film?

We, as spectators, are as subject to making mistakes of judgement as professional critics are. Can we admit when we’re wrong? Since evaluating a movie is such a subjective and personal thing, maybe we can’t – but here are some films that may warrant another look, if you can muster the will to try and see them in a different angle.

 

15. Oz: The Great and Powerful (Sam Raimi, 2013)

Oz The Great and Powerful

With the sequel in the works (yes, seriously), Oz the Great and Powerful is ripe for rediscovery as an enjoyable and nostalgic adventure helmed by a talented director and with phenomenal casting decisions. It’s hard to tell the “origin story” of a classic tale and not sound superfluous or (like this year’s Pan) plain wrong.

Unlike a few of the movies on this list, Oz is unapologetically a blockbuster, complete with lush visuals that owe more than a little to Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and an A-list cast top-billed by James Franco, the perfect choice to play small-time magician and crook Oz, and the story that made him the famous wizard from L. Frank Baum’s tale.

Screenwriters David Lindsay-Abaire (“Rabbit Hole”) and Mitchell Kapner (“Romeo Must Die”) approach the story with style, humor and a fresh new angle, the actors and Raimi don’t fall for that infamous cynic tone of a few “rebranding” tries made by Hollywood, and in the end the movie stands as both a fun modern adventure and a huge homage to the tone and the ingenuity of old Hollywood.

 

14. After the Dark (John Huddles, 2013)

After the Dark

The ambiguity of the ending (take that as a warning, people who don’t like open-ended stories) was crassly misunderstood in John Huddle’s very peculiar classroom drama, After the Dark. Showing a class of philosophy students from all over the world in their last class of the semester, discussing the possible outcomes and priorities in the event of a global natural disaster, the movie written and directed by Huddles is a weirdly paced and imagined parable for the confrontation of cynicism and idealism, practicality and emotion – these are fundamental philosophical question the movie poses, and though Huddles isn’t the most brilliant screenwriter to ever deal with them, he still has a lot of guts to tackle these subjects and stay true to their nature, never surrendering to the pressure of a conventional “Hollywood” ending.

That virtue in and on itself should be enough for the movie to warrant a second viewing, but there’s also an amazing young cast, led by the surprisingly great Sophie Lowe (Once Upon a Time in Wonderland), a perfect minimalist and serene opposition to James D’Arcy intensely nervous professor. Daryl Sabara, Bonnie Wright and Rhys Wakerfield (keep an eye on him) do great jobs themselves, enacting an ingenious little concoction of a movie that is definitely worth the time.

 

13. Cosmopolis (David Cronenberg, 2012)

Cosmopolis (2012)

The most recent batch of Cronenberg movies have been equally praised and panned by critics and audiences. It’s been said the director finally became more “accessible” and “digestible”, trading his (in)famous body horror for more subtle, yet still disturbing, drama.

Cosmopolis is the most enigmatic of those new movies, and the one that received the worst reviews – criticized by most as a forced and clichéd attempt at “indie movie” artistry and shallow social commentary. The truth is Cosmopolis is inciting food for thought, a provoking and shamelessly hermetic commentary on the maladies of capitalism that offers up glances of visual genius by way of Cronenberg’s restless sense of discomfort.

The actors have it hard to deliver such dense dialogue, with lead Robert Pattinson carrying the weight of sparring, alone in a car, with the likes of Juliette Binoche and Sarah Gadon. Lucky for our director, Pattinson is up to the task, building his profoundly disgusted billionaire from scratch and delivering a performance that would rather be smart and subtle than charismatic or magnetic. It’s a difficult little movie Cronenberg concocts here – but when did we stop wanting that from him?

 

12. The Water Horse (Jay Russell, 2007)

The Water Horse

Modern spectators must be losing their sense of wonder. The Water Horse wasn’t half as seen as it deserves to be, and the ones who did see it didn’t give it much credit, really.

Director Jay Russell, known for his work in My Dog Skip, knows what to show and what to hide, how to carry a narrative in a way that will enthrall both kids and adults, if they’re willing and open to it. His leading actor, Alex Etel (Millions) is an adorable presence on screen, the special effects are on point and used in the right moments, and The Water Horse has a moving little story to tell, if we’re not too cynical to appreciate it.

Yes, the story is about what we know as the Loch Ness monster. Yes, it’s from a book by Dick King-Smith, who wrote Babe. The surprising thing is the movie takes the legendary water creature and turns it into a vehicle to tell a boy’s growing up story, and sets it in WWII, as so many children/pre-adolescent “magical” narratives have. It’s definitely worth a second look, and it has all the makings of a family-movie classic.

 

11. Oculus (Mike Flanagan, 2013)

Oculus (2013)

On the recent horror renaissance that gave us The Babadook, It Follows, Goodnight Mommy and quite a few other frankly superior movies, it’s easy to forget all about Oculus, a horror flick released by director Mike Flanagan (Absentia) in 2013. Well, easy if you didn’t watch it, that is – Flanagan’s movie is not a jump-scare fest or a moody psychological thriller, but it still manages to be disturbing and engaging in its own way.

The MVPs here are young leads Karen Gillan (of Doctor Who fame) and Brenton Thwaites (Maleficent), 100% in the moment as two siblings who reunite to prove his innocence once and for all after he gets out of prison for a murder a supernatural mirror committed. If it sounds goofy, the movie makes it serious, with its emotional roots deeply buried in the leads’ family past and trauma.

By the third act, when director and co-writer Flanagan really starts messing with our minds, making us not really sure what’s happening and what is just an illusion, or a flashback for that matter, the threat coming from the mirror is palpable. Oculus is great because it doesn’t just show us what the mirror does – it manipulates us like the mirror manipulates its characters. We’re in there with them, and even if it’s not the scariest ride you had in the movies this past couple of years, it’s still one worth taking.

 

10. Transcendence (Wally Pfister, 2014)

Transcendence

So very rarely now we get a true science fiction movie from big studios that we may be losing our touch to recognize them. In Transcendence, science fiction is not about big battles and interplanetary wars – not to say there’s something inherently wrong with that kind of sci-fi, but there’s something inherently right about think pieces like Wally Pfister’s directional debut.

Read by many as a cautionary tale about the dangers of technology, and deemed anachronistic and backwards for that, Transcendence actually is, if you pay close attention, an appropriately bleak warning about the resistance us, as a species, tend to present against new possibilities.

Johnny Depp turns in one of his most restrained (and best) performances of late as brilliant scientist Will Caster, whose conscience is uploaded into a machine by his wife Evelyn (Rebecca Hall) soon after his death. Will’s capacities as a technological deity are explored thoroughly by newcomer Jack Paglen’s script, taking the journey with the spectator to uncover and understand this entity’s plans and intentions.

Transcendence imagines a world where man can do more, and shows us the consequences and cruel ironies of this different world – that, ladies and gentlemen, is science fiction.

 

9. Dark Places (Gilles Paquet-Brenner, 2015)

Dark Places

For a little while, when we were all basking in the glorious light of David Fincher’s Gone Girl, the next Gillian Flynn adaptation, Dark Places, was everyone’s most awaited movie project. And then everybody seemed to forget all about it, and the lukewarm reviews it received when it finally came out doomed Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s film to an undeserved limbo of 2015 flops.

That’s a shame, since Dark Places is the kind of 2-hour movie that screams for a director’s cut or a special edition – it has everything in place to be a great little neo-noir tale in the best tradition of Flynn’s other books, an engaging lead character arc, a brilliant actress playing it with extraordinary depth and discretion, and an inciting mystery that comments on the vices of the media and the Midwest-American mentality… if only it had more time to develop its moody atmosphere and its supporting players, it could be a near-perfect masterpiece.

There’s still plenty of reasons to watch Paquet-Brenner’s brainchild, though. Charlize Theron’s performance is, of course, the centerpiece of the movie, but she’s not alone: Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) delivers an affecting turn as the matriarch of the Day family, whose mysterious killing the sole survivor Libby (Theron) tries to investigate, decades after her older brother (Tye Sheridan in the flashbacks, Corey Stoll in the present day – both outstanding) was locked up for it.

 

 

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  • I can make a case for most of these films but Cosmopolis was shit. It’s David Cronenberg’s worst film and this is coming from someone that loves Cronenberg.

  • Tata Adong

    I still don’t get it why some.people wouldn’t like Be Kind Rewind but would love other chappy homage films

    • V.C. Privitera

      It’s because the Marketing for the film made the film out to be another Jack Black comedy type of film at the time of its release.
      I honestly thought and still think it’s the film is a waste of time….heart & soul for a storyline is one thing, but when the film doesn’t just work overall, it’s quite boring and unappealing.
      It’s not to say that Michael Gondry or any of the cast are bad at what they do in their respected careers, but this flick just doesn’t stick.

      • Tata Adong

        Thank you. On the contrary though, I felt the film grows on you, and when it does, it doesn’t let go

  • jannik

    Most of these are decent, but come on. Oz was a CGI mess and Transcendence is flat out garbage – even tho the premise is cool.

  • Harris K Telemacher

    Nice list. And well written piece. Totally agree with you about Be Kind Rewind. Not so much Oz. That was awful.

  • glebsky

    Noah? Really? Then again, if you like the other works of Aronofsky, I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m sure there are also Shamayalan fans out there.

    • sailor monsoon

      I am one of them.
      Shamayalan is immensely talented.
      I won’t defend last airbender though.
      That was a straight dumpster fire

      • glebsky

        Sure. So is Roland Emmerich.

    • Rudi

      Noah is very underrated in my opinion as well, one of the better biblical movies. Very powerful and at the same time challenging. Plus, Emma Watson should have won an Oscar for her role.

      • glebsky

        Noah is a silly cartoon.

    • Mohit Kumar

      Yup! Noah is total garbage. But Shyamalan has created some quite good movies (NOT Last Airbender 😉 ) – The Sixth Sense and one little movie “Wide Awake” which I find myself to watch again and again

      • Bob Mielke

        I loved “The Zero Theorem”, but Terry Gilliam films are definitely an acquired taste. Once you crack the code for stories he likes to tell (Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and so on and so forth) it gets easier and easier to follow his future films. I’m still hoping and praying he gets to go back and make his Don Quixote film. The tale of how that fell apart is one of the most legendary about films that never got made, much like Jodorowsky’s Dune.

        • Mohit Kumar

          Twelve Monkeys is pretty great movie – one of my favourite Sci-Fi. I’ve heard many praises about Brazil and now that you recommend – I believe it’s time to finally give myself a chance to watch it 🙂

          The Zero Theorem was visually extraordinary but I think i am still very young to grasp its concept around my head

          • Lars Franssen

            You haven’t seen Brazil? Shame on you!

          • Mohit Kumar

            Ha! I finally watched Brazil two months ago. Brazil was extraordinary – the environment is pretty grim noir-like. It reminded me of Dark City at some places. Now I am looking for a chance to revisit The Zero Theorem again – hope I can understand it this time 😉

  • Ark Noel

    I would add “Dracula: Dead and Loving It” to the list. And remove “Noah” from it. We get it “Caio Coletti” you like that movie and you put it in every list of underrated movies, but judging by the comments people still don’t like it.

    • Caio

      This is my first list on ToC, so you must be tripping.

  • sailor monsoon

    I would add cloud atlas.
    What a beautiful movie

    • Miguel Valdez-Lopez

      Definitely. P.S.: Wasn’t the score amazing/moving?

      • sailor monsoon

        I’m still pissed it was nominated.
        Or editing, make up or SFX

    • Caio

      It definitely made my shortlist! Brilliant movie.

  • Rudi

    Nice list! Great to see Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Oculus (one of my alltime favourite horror movies) getting some credit. Cosmopolis was great as well, I like the Cronenberg of now way more than his old movies. Maps To The Stars was even more fantastic.

    • Caio

      Thank you!

  • Bobby Calloway

    Great list. I’m glad someone else felt the same way about Oz: The Great and Powerful. Like Pan it could have felt like a cliche storm. But it felt like they really cared about telling a good story. Besides the underdeveloped Theodora arc, it was a surprisingly creative movie. As a fan of the original Oz books, it was great to see all these little shout outs and interpretations of things the more popular adaptations leave out.

    I liked Noah too. It was an interesting way to twist the story. Since it’s such a short part of the Bible there’s not much for a film in there. Aronofsky took a different approach to it. Despite being a Bible epic, it still felt like an Aronofsky film – and I found the supporting performances from Watson and Lerman greater than I was expecting.

    I loved Into The Woods too. Obviously the main problem with it is the switch between the two acts. It works fine on the stage but it’s difficult to make it work in a film. Besides that, the cast did a really good job. The music came together really well and the overall atmosphere looked really nice. Emily Blunt and Chris Pine were the real surprises for me. Who knew they had it in them? And I was shocked to find out that Blunt was five months pregnant while filming. They did the pregnancy very convincingly

    • Caio

      Thank you! You’re the first commenter to not object to the inclusion of Oz on the list. I really think it’s a fun old-fashioned fantasy-adventure, and feel it more strongly everytime I watch it.

  • FlixtheCat

    Oz and Transcendence? You must be shrooming.

    • Ivan Galić

      Those two.. BIG fail…

    • Lars Franssen

      Some might call Depp’s performance restrained. I call it lackluster.

  • Miguel Valdez-Lopez

    I’d add:
    Escobar: Paradise Lost (2014)
    Jupiter Ascending (2015)
    Odd Thomas (2013)
    Young Ones (2015)

    …just out of actually being entertained / having fun watching those movies.

    • Caio

      I was also entertained by Jupiter Ascending, but didn’t find enough arguments to warrant a place on the list. But just Redmayne’s sneering, whispering, shouting villain already got me having loads of fun.

  • Jason Summers

    Oz: The Great and Powerful sucks Ass

  • Corps I Am

    “Maybe Noah’s sin is that it isn’t, really, such a different take on the biblical story of the man that build the ark under orders from God himself…”

    That was not the problem for the non-religious who disliked it. Noah, his sons, and his sons “wives” boarded the Ark. By presenting the story without the wives, Aronofsky gave himself license to do far more than present his interpretation. He altered the story into one with a stow-away villain, which negated the entire premise of why Noah had built the Arc. Without the “wives,” a son was allowed to be jealous of another brother and move towards patricide. Of course, then Noah was portrayed as actually seeking to murder his grandchild, again, negating the entire premise of why God chose Noah.

    It was as if watching a Lord of the Rings where the new writer/director omitted Gandalf so that he could give us his “interpretation” of the Hobbits’ journey. The story is the story. There is plenty for interpretation, without omitting the little bit of material that is actually there.

  • Mike

    I thank you for taking the time to write this article. You are making your beliefs known to the world, and that is a brave thing.

    However, unfortunately, you chose some of the worst movies in American cinema history. I stopped reading after the first sentence of Oz and briefly glimpsed at the rest of the movies on your list. THIS is exactly why Hollywood is dying.

    Please stop.

  • V.C. Privitera

    Prometheus – I only say this cause for some reason people HATE this film like its the worst thing ever….really!?
    I can understand that expectations were maybe too high for the film since it’s being helmed by Ridley Scott, and while I do recall all the back & forth conversations on whether this was or is a “Prequel” of sorts to the Alien Franchise…..I didn’t care about any of that….I went into the film just wanting to be entertained period and as a cinema lover that’s not much into Sci-Fi, I thought the film worked quite well overall. I did see some of the cliché aspects of the film and sure the story isn’t anything completely original, but I felt it was/is a great start to whatever we are hopefully getting next with the feature’s sequel Alien: Covenant.
    It’s extremely hard to take on a very popular but yet dying franchise, especially if you’re the Filmmaker whom had launched the series to begin with, but I think Ridley Scott did an excellent job at accomplishing what most couldn’t even attempt to do. Great Performances and Outstanding Special Effects along with an Interesting Plot and Thrilling Sequences, that’s what I wanted with Prometheus and that’s what I got and I can’t wait to see what Alien: Covenant has in-store.

    • Mohit Kumar

      I agree! Prometheus is very different than the Aliens movies. It’s environment is breath-taking and some of the scenes really give goosebumps. It didn’t work because everybody expected it to be Aliens-esque. Same thing that happens with every prequel stories in Hollywood – “Star Wars”, “The Hobbit” & soon to be released “Fantastic Beasts and Where to find them” (I guarantee it)

  • DimKartrashian

    Noah? That movie was boring and unremarkable.

  • Patrick Hill

    Transcendence, not. No redeeming value.

  • Brandon Thompson

    High-Rise is a great movie but unfortunately most people don’t think so.

  • Bruno

    The excellent casting of Dowd in Compliance was negated by the horrid casting elsewhere. The young lady in real life was mousy and unattractive, and here she’s played by a cute model-type who seems like she couldn’t care less what’s happening to her. One of the worst performances I’ve seen in recent years, alongside a very good one from Dowd.