5. The Glass Castle (RT – 51%)
Destin Daniel Cretton first made a name for himself back in 2013 with his exceptional sophomore effort Short Term 12. The film, which focused on a young counsellor at a foster-care facility for at-risk teenagers was received with rave reviews due to its incredibly deep storyline and heartbreakingly powerful performances. After audiences could see what Cretton could do, eyes were all over him to see if he could match the same brilliance with his next film The Glass Castle.
Whilst it may not reach the same heights as Short Term 12, The Glass Castle is still a tremendous entry into Cretton’s catalogue. The film is a delicate, multi-layered triumph, based on a true story that grips you tight from the very opening scene and doesn’t let go until the end credits. Many critics dismissed the film as they believed the tone jumped too recklessly between quirky family drama and dark narrative of abuse without ever finding the proper balance.
However; it is this uneven tone that validly apprehends the films central storyline about the experience of growing up in a dysfunctional family. Both Woody Harrelson and Brie Larson give one of the best performances of their careers, whilst the rest of the cast bring an impressive flair to their supporting roles. The Glass Castle might not be a masterpiece, but it’s definitely a great film and one that deserves more than a lousy 51%.
4. Saw (RT – 49%)
Back in 2003, Australian director James Wan released a short film titled Saw. Due to its success and appeal, a year later Wan turned it into a low budget feature that took the horror genre by storm.
Whilst shocking and disturbing, Saw is also a compact, story-driven film that is shrouded in mystery, with twists and turns around every corner, keeping us guessing till the very end. Its grittiness is often compared to Fincher’s Se7en which is understandable, however; Saw stands on its own original two feet and provides the genre with a master class in budget filmmaking.
The performances can be questionable at times and the script can get a little clumsy when it comes to the characterisations, however; these are only minor setbacks in an otherwise thrilling debut feature. Some critics claimed that the film was nothing more than an exercise in repulsiveness.
Whilst it’s easy to wonder why one would think that, there is no denying that Saw is a well structured and majestically executed independent horror gem. If Hostel can manage to score a fresh rating than it makes absolutely no sense that Saw should receive a rotten one, especially as it seems that it provided inspiration for the violence and gore we see in Hostel.
3. The Sandlot (RT – 57%)
We’ve definitely had our fair share of childhood coming-of-age films over the years with the number one spot undoubtedly going to Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me. Others have tried to reach this same level of charm and nostalgia but ultimately fail. There is, however; one film that comes closest and that’s David Mickey Evans 1993 classic The Sandlot.
Set in 1962, The Sandlot is on paper, a film about baseball, but we all know it’s so much more than that. It’s a story about childhood friendship, about those Summer days that you never wanted to end, but most of all, it’s a story about wanting to be a part of something.
The Sandlot is filled with classic, quotable lines, it has great humour that the whole family can enjoy, and it hasn’t aged one bit. The whole cast is on point; with nine child actors you could forgive the film for having a few weak links, however; everyone does a great job here (Patrick Renna as ‘ham’ is a clear favourite).
This ultimately all comes down to the charming and humorous script from Evans and Robert Gunter. The Sandlot may be a less edgy version of Stand by Me, however; that shouldn’t hold it back from reaching ‘great film’ status. A beautifully sweet, coming-of-age adventure, that deserves to be certified fresh.
2. Dead Man’s Shoes (RT – 56%)
Dead Man’s Shoes isn’t just a great film, it’s an excellent, ghastly, disturbing piece of brilliance. A harrowing story of revenge and retribution that will stick with you long after viewing. Unfortunately, most critics didn’t share this same view, the film was banished for its supposedly careless pacing and fractured story structure.
However; like nearly every film on this list, you’ll find that audiences largely disagreed with what the critics had to say and instead commended Shaun Meadows’ ability to pace the film perfectly whilst subtly unfolding the plot until the emotional and unexpected end.
The film also boasts some great performances with each character bringing something special to the table. But ultimately, it’s Paddy Considine who provides the most depth with his intriguing portrayal of Richard, his presence is incredibly distressing. It’s a real shame that Dead Man’s Shoes not only has a rotten score but is also a film that is largely looked over. Director Shane Meadows’ ability to bring a sense of realism to the screen is absolutely frightening.
Through the use of unrelenting violence and deep emotion, he’s managed to create a raw, low-budget, British revenge knockout. With an audience score of 91%, it seems as though the critics got this one drastically wrong.
1. Die Hard: With A Vengeance (RT – 52%)
It should go without saying that Die Hard is the greatest action movie franchise ever made. Yes, things start to get a bit tiresome in the newer installments but nobody can take anything away from the first three which are tremendously entertaining. In saying that, Die Hard 2 is the weakest link of the first three and this certainly comes down to John McTiernan not being at the helms.
But when he returned for Die Hard: With A Vengeance he managed to do what many filmmakers have failed to do in the past, which is, create a third installment that is better than its predecessors. Yes, Die Hard: With a Vengeance is the best in the franchise and it’s outrageously mind-boggling that it has a rotten score.
What’s not to like? Brilliant performances, claustrophobic cinematography, suspenseful soundtrack, hilarious dialogue, and spectacular set pieces, it’s the perfect recipe for an explosive action blockbuster. If that’s not enough the film also handles cultural commentary to a tee and its interesting and robust storyline allows this accomplished sequel to reach new heights in an already highly regarded franchise.
It’s a travesty that Die Hard: With a Vengeance doesn’t receive the same acclaim as its previous installments and the fact that its rating is rotten whilst Live Free or Die Hard is certified fresh just doesn’t feel right. One thing that is for sure, John McClane is and always will be the greatest action hero to ever grace our screens, Yippee-Ki-Yay, Motherfucker.