Between the movies that we want to see and the movies that we have to see and the movies that our friends drag us to, there’s just never enough time to sit down and watch something new: the little guys that nobody ever seems to have time to get around to seeing. They might look interesting or have that one actor you love in it — or maybe that one guy at the office can’t stop going on about how great it is — but when you come home from a long day and need some time to decompress, “interesting and new” too often gets shoved aside for the familiar things we love.
And while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, it does mean that a lot of great movies too often get left behind. 2016 — a year where the biggest money makers were often equally disappointments — seemed especially prone to it. So here’s one for the little guys: the great, under-seen movies of the last year that deserve a second chance on DVD.
The BFG — Of all the movies that next to nobody went to see last year, The BFG was the biggest head-scratcher. It was based on a celebrated children’s book that was required reading when I was in elementary school, from one of the all-time great children’s authors whose works have been successfully adapted to the big screen for decades. The movie was directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, whose bread-and-butter is this exact kind of wholesome fantasy. Throw in a great cast, a memorable John Williams score and breathtaking special effects and this should have been one of the biggest money-makers of the summer.
I don’t know if Roald Dahl just isn’t the childhood standard he used to be — or if every successfully kids movie needs to be animated these days — but this one released not with a bang, but a whimper. Despite seeing it opening weekend, I had absolute run of an empty theater. Look for this heartwarming movie wherever you get your movies from; it’s bound to become a childhood classic when the next generation actually gets to see it.
Blood Father — August is a weird month for movies. Although it’s still technically summer, most schools are already back in session, most blockbusters have already come and gone and most movie-goers are waiting for the awards season movies to finally kick in. For every Guardians of the Galaxy, there’s a dozen other equally-deserving movies that get passed over in this dead-end month.
Those who actually saw Blood Father were treated to the kind of action movie most genre fans complain that we don’t get anymore: a visceral, hard-R roller coaster with a grisly 1980’s star in the lead. This is the non-comic fan’s Logan and an absolute must-see for anybody who can stomach Mel Gibson knocking off Nazis and Cartel enforcers.
Hush — I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Netflix. As a streaming service, their top-notch library of movies and tv series is second to none. As a content-producer, series like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage put most cable networks to shame. But as a first-run distributor for third-party films, their relatively limited distribution network and lack of theatrical-quality notice means that great movies they clearly have an investment fail to get the notice they deserve.
Hush is a perfect example of this. In a year full to the brim with great horror movies, Hush was one of the best: a lean, satisfying home invasion story about a deaf woman being targeted by a serial killer in her secluded home in the woods. It had a great gimmick in its protagonist’s infirmity, a tightly written script that kept the focus on the predatory relationship between her and her assailant and Mike Flanagan — the man who somehow made the Ouija prequel good — behind the camera. If you have Netflix and could use a good scare, this is one of the best titles available to you.
The Neon Demon — While most of the other movies on this list are fascinating case studies in the corner cases that lead to great movies being missed by general audiences, there is no such mystery when it comes to Nicholas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon. This is not the kind of movie that most people enjoy. It’s weird, inaccessible and wasn’t made by anybody that mainstream movie-goers are likely to have heard about.
While hardly for just anybody, those who are willing to work a little harder for their horror movies are in for a real treat with The Neon Demon. It is a fascinating take-down of the modeling industry that succeeds at being both beautiful and grotesque at the same time: essentially the feminine foil to Refn’s more popular Drive. Even if the movie’s drifting focus loses you, stick with it through its ending. It’s like nothing you’re likely to have seen before.
Sing Street — I can only blame the distributors for this one. I had never heard about this Irish music-drama before getting into a random conversation with a man who saw it three times in its opening weekend. He kept going on about a great, personal drama that truly gets what it’s like to be a kid trying to get by in high school. And, my God, the music was incredible. So I made a point to see it the next weekend, only to find out that it had already been pulled from the theater.
After seeing it on DVD, though, I got what the big deal was. Essentially “Footloose, but with a garage band,” Sing Street is an exceptional coming-of-age story about a poor Irish shlub whose life is upended when his divorcing parents transfer him to a less expensive high school to try to keep their heads above water. The kid does his best to fit in at his new school (hint: it doesn’t work out so well for him) and tries to woo the girl of his dreams by forming a makeshift band with his friends. The songs are endlessly catchy — running the full gamut of 1980’s pop rock — and it includes some of the most memorably imaginative sequences from the past decade of movies. And if that doesn’t convince you, it’s worth it just to see Game of Thrones‘ Petyr Baelish as an average, work-a-day Joe.
Tell us what's wrong with this post? How could we improve it? :)
Let us improve this post!