Ten Underrated Movies Available To Stream Right Now
Here are ten films you maybe haven’t caught up with available on Netflix/Amazon*
Things have changed so much in terms of how we consume media over the last few years. It used to be a film like Ravenous or Strange Days would come out in cinemas, do very little business, enjoy a slight revisit on video and then become a kind of cult through showings on cable or network TV. Then of course it would become a mainstay of one of these listicles. Here and now, films like this are not even getting a theatrical release, going straight to VOD and sometimes forgoing a physical release all together. It seems like this year Netflix has just gobbled up all these titles and is the solo method of seeing them. So if something isn’t championed by critics on release, doesn’t get that midnight cult following or appreciation, then what? Well, I got you covered…
*Just FYI — When I’m saying these are available on Netflix or Amazon I’m actually talking about the UK based services. If you are in the US then your services are better than ours anyway so chances are you have these too.
The One I Love (2014) Available on Netflix
Looking at the promotional materials for this film you would be forgiven for thinking this was yet another mumblecore relationship drama. If you actually watched it then you would find a well observed fantasy piece about yearning for perfection and that mission being not all its cracked up to be. Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss play a couple who go away for a weekend, their marriage stale and without surprise. Thanks to some kind of temporal loop shenanigans they end up each encountering idealised versions of their partners in the holiday home opposite. After some saucy deceit the film them becomes about the question of the choices we make when presented with this. Director Charlie McDowell keeps things interesting with a script that keeps surprising as well as standout performances from Moss and Duplass. For Fans Of: Groundhog Day, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Finders Keepers (2015) Available on Netflix
In my day to day wanderings and commutes, I find people annoying. Everyday people tend to grate on me a bit with their misunderstandings and simplicity. It’s all too easy to get riled up at the lady shouting at a toddler in the street or the seemingly able bodied man sat on the tube ignorant of the frail or less able person looking longingly at their seat. Finders Keepers is a documentary set in small town USA which asks you to stop, take a second and look closer at these everyday folk. It’s the astounding true story of a man who lost a leg in a plane crash, decided to keep it, then lost it and found it claimed by someone years later and used for personal gain. What’s refreshing about Finders Keepers is it doesn’t judge these people, it doesn’t take a side in the small town feud,its not a channel 5 ‘on benefits’ documentary. It instead stands back and observes and says “Aren’t these people wonderful?” and the way directors J Clay Tweel and Bryan Carberry present the case is strangely heartwarming. Often hilarious and more than a little queasy, Finders Keepers is ripe for discovery. For Fans Of: Making a Murderer, King of Kong, any of the crap they show on channel 5.
He Never Died (2015) Available on Netflix
Henry Rollins is a bad ass, everyone knows this. The man goes to places like Afghanistan and North Korea and walks around for recreational purposes and yet still manages a weekly radio show, spoken word tours and acting roles. His work ethic makes us all look terrible. Aside from Wrong Turn 2, Rollins personality hasn’t really been captured on screen the way Hollywood probably intended when they cast him in Johnny Mnemonic in the mid 90’s when he was a mainstay of MTV. He Never Died is probably the best on screen use of Hank so far. Rollins plays a simple and world weary man who tries to live a normal quiet life playing bingo and yet keeps getting disturbed by local gangsters, overly friendly waitresses and an estranged daughter. To top it all off he also needs blood to maintain his seemingly invincible body. That’s all you need to know about He Never Died, part of the fun is watching it unfurl its secrets and character quirks with its graphic novel sensibility and dark humour. Rollins performance here should be more lauded along with the film itself and He Never Died is a rewarding film to watch over and over with a sequel apparently in the works. For Fans Of: Constantine, Supernatural, Dogma
Automata (2014) Available on Netflix
The closest anyone ever got to a Blade Runner follow up despite many trying and not quite getting that indefinable quality of Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. Gabe Ibanez’ film Automata got some polite notices at film festivals but nobody ever really got behind it to give it the push it deserved. Antonio Banderas plays an insurance agent for a robotics company in a run down and crowded future. The robots are armed with the usual human protection protocols but Banderas uncovers a conspiracy with the robots re-programming themselves for some possibly nefarious purpose. The plot is derivative but Automata is uniquely its own beast, the visuals conjure the future and yet there is a pleasing reliance on practical effects that somehow makes it retro. Ibanez has a real knack for storytelling and atmosphere over whizz bang thrills and would have been a good choice for this Blade Runner sequel we got coming out. For Fans Of: Blade Runner, Hardware, I Robot.
Little Sister (2016) Available on Netflix
Probably a good double bill with Finders Keepers, Little Sister is an indie drama that takes some time out to spend with the little people. All too often cast as the scream queen or eye candy, actress Addison Timlin plays a young woman who lives in a convent and is about to take her vows as a nun in a real eye opening performance. She is called back to her home town when her brother who has been badly burned in Iraq comes home. Once back home we learn more about her family, what lead to her choosing her life and how her brother is adapting to his new world. In a manner similar to Finders Keepers, director Zach Clark doesn’t cast a judgemental eye although it’s obvious right from the introductions how flawed all of these characters are. Little Sister captures that feeling you get when you go home for Christmas, the initial warmth is there as are the resentments under the surface. In a refreshing change though it asks the question of whether you can really go home again? and the answer this time is yes. For Fans Of: Brothers, American Beauty
Super (2011) Available on Netflix
Before he went massively mainstream with Guardians of the Galaxy, Troma graduate James Gunn followed up the box office disappointment of Slither with this low budget black comedy superhero riff. Gunn displays fleeting mental illness with a light comedic touch as Rainn Wilson’s sad sack cook Frank gets dumped by Liv Tyler when she goes off with Kevin Bacon who just happens to be a drug dealer and leads her back into the life that Frank rescued her from. Frank has a weird hentai/religious hallucination and decides to fight crime as ‘The Crimson Bolt’ who instead of powers has a wrench which he whacks people with. Despite watching a man sliding off the map in spectacular fashion, Super is frequently hilarious, well observed and has a massive helping of truth in terms of how we deal with trauma. When Frank meets unhinged Ellen Page, things snap back into focus for him and the tonal shift that Gunn deals with here seems effortless. Plus the soundtrack rocks. For Fans Of: Taxi Driver, Kick-Ass.
The Frame (2014) Available on Amazon
Filmmaker Jamin Winans has been doing his thing out of Denver completely independently and without interference for a while now, financing and releasing his work himself. The fact that 2009’s Ink was an underground hit brought about through piracy of all things enabled Winans to make this follow up. The Frame takes place in to separate realities, in one an ambulance medic watches a TV show featuring a reluctant young criminal and then the criminal’s reality where he in turn watches the medic on her show. The two meet through their TV screens and fall for each other, then the question becomes can they escape their scripted fates? The Frame has all of the visual style and inventiveness of Ink but with a heavy dose of Philip K Dick. It’s kept constantly entertaining with ideas, pacing and twists and turns. It may falter slightly at the ending but Winans commitment to his idea is admirable and why this guy isn’t enjoying the career that Richard Kelly should have had is baffling. For Fans Of: The Truman Show, Donnie Darko, Terry Gilliam.
Son of Rambow (2007) Available on Amazon
If you have ever been obsessed with anything as a child then you will recognise a lot of Son of Rambow. It captures perfectly the moment that you see something and it fires your imagination, in this case Stallone’s first outing as Rambo is witnessed by a young jehovah’s witness and along with his outcast friend they set about making their own movie. Garth Jennings Son of Rambow should have been THE breakout brit hit of the last decade and yet somehow it came and went with very little fanfare in 2007. Son of Rambow has wit, charm and perfect characterisations in every single frame and feels like one of the most personal films that has ever been made on these shores. It’s a hard heart that doesn’t weep happy tears at the end of this film. For Fans Of: Juno, Where The Wild Things Are, Stand By Me.
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (2012) Available on Amazon
Coming out opposite the latest Spider-Man movie probably isn’t the best strategy for your quirky comedy about the end of the world. The trailers however didn’t nearly do this film justice. A quirky comedy wrapping hides something much more profound beneath, namely the fallacy of the ‘one that got away’ story that seemingly everyone has. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley unite for a road trip to find Carell’s ‘one’ in Lorene Scafaria’s directorial debut which has quirk but also pathos and well observed moments of the human condition alongside the endless modern comedy cameos. Had this been released in the autumn instead of the height of summer then this would have got the credit it deserved but at the moment it feels like this wonderful secret that only a few of us are in on. If you are in the market for a rom-com then this will do the job, but it’s so much more than that and more people should know this. For Fans Of: Miracle Mile, Deep Impact, Office Space.
I Saw The Devil (2010) Available on Amazon
There are ‘movies’, there are ‘films’ and then there is ‘cinema.’ Cinema should constantly challenge and move you and sadly as the years go on there are less and less examples of this. South Korean director Kim Jee-Woon understands cinema, his films all have examples of how to pull the rug out from under audiences and keep the blood pumping. Before he stumbled with his Hollywood debut The Last Stand, Jee-Woon made I Saw The Devil, essentially a cat and mouse thriller with Lee Byung-Hun’s secret service agent seeking vengeance on Choi Min-Sik’s killer bus driver whose latest victim was his fiancée. The trick here is I Saw The Devil doesn’t compromise in any department, it’s brutal both physically and emotionally and is never an easy watch. As the ‘hero’ constantly beats the ‘villain’ almost to death and then revives him only to begin the process over and over again, you find yourself wondering what is justified in the pursuit for vengeance and what toll it takes on the seemingly righteous. Trimmed by censors in nearly every region its been released, uneasy distributors never really gave this film a push. Trust me it’s up there with South Korea’s finest exports over the last ten years and deserves an audience before the watered down Hollywood version appears any minute now. For Fans Of: Oldboy, Silence of the Lambs, Kill Bill.