There are a lot of movies in the world, and you probably haven’t seen all of them. Neither have we, but don’t worry. We’ve seen enough to point you in the right direction, towards just some of the endless Hidden Gems waiting out there.
We love movies. We’ve seen many films, good and bad and terrible. For every The Prestige, there is a Timeline (may Mr. Walker rest in peace.). Movies are made for all kinds of people, in all kinds of places, for all kinds of prices. Heck, SyFy has a new one out seemingly every week (for which some of the world is eternally grateful). What often happens, then, is that really great movies get lost in the shuffle. Some get banished to notorious ‘bad’ months, with no hope of sticking in theaters – it takes a rare gem to rise above this. Others are basically taken behind the shed and disposed of, and by shed we mean straight-to-DVD or Canada. Many of these in-betweeners have all-star casts, amazing individual performances, or in general are just a ton o’ fun.
All three of the films to be discussed and recommended in this intrepid edition of Hidden Gems showcase great actors, and casts, but none of them have reached the same recognizability as many of the stars’ other works. These movies have very different plots and tones, but that’s sort of the point. These will pop up on a random channel, on a Netflix recommendation, or in a bargain bin (especially #3, worth the price). FEAR THEM NOT. There are a scary number of unwatched films lurking out there in the abyss, waiting for someone to give them some credit.
So here’s some credit.
1. Charlie Bartlett (2007)
The ’80s had Ferris Bueller, and the millennials got Charlie Bartlett, the wealthy but troubled teen who becomes a de facto psychiatrist for his classmates upon entering a public high school. Anton Yelchin, who fills the tile role, has since found fame in his role as Chekov in the Star Trek franchise, but he shows his chops as Charlie, though he was only 18 at the film’s release. The rest of the cast also shines, with Kat Dennings charming and Robert Downey Jr. hitting home as her alcoholic father/school principal. Before RDJ took over the movie world as Sherlock Holmes and Tony Stark, his comeback tour made smaller stops (i.e. the MUST-watch Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang), including this simple role, which he infuses with his familiar snark and tics. Despite a reported $12 million dollar budget, Charlie grossed only $5 million worldwide. It’s a shame that’s the case, as the movie does provide startling insight into the psyche of modern teenagers and the common misunderstandings that foster conflict between the generations of Bueller and Bartlett. Director Jon Poll brings out fascinating ideas regarding the flaws of mental health treatment and care in the modern world, and he illustrates Charlie as a neurotic but plainly relatable youth, caught between childhood and the oncoming pains of adult life. Maybe the movie evokes Rushmore as much as Bueller; regardless, take the time to get to know Charlie. Also, Drake is in it.
2. 25th Hour (2002)
This one actually performed well financially, more than quadrupling its modest budget, but it may surprise you to find a movie starring the likes of Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Rosario Dawson (and directed by Spike Lee) that you have never heard of. Norton plays a NYC drug dealer living out his final 24 hours before a lengthy jail sentence, with the film based mostly in the reflections and memories of Norton’s Monty and his friends. Not surprisingly, PSH and Barry Pepper give solid supporting performances, and Dawson provides depth to Monty’s character as his potentially snitching girlfriend. As you might expect with Lee directing, the movie focuses on criminality and the penal system as much as it does on crime itself, and the result is a grim but realistic picture of a man facing the loss of everything he has known.
3. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007)
Maybe this one isn’t quite as unsung as the previous two films, but Walk Hard remains buried beneath much of Judd Apatow’s other recent work. Apatow wrote the script with Jake Kasdan, though the movie is filled with moments clearly improvised and tinkered with by titular star John C. Reilly and supporting cast members such as Tim Meadows and Jenna Fischer. Unlike Reilly’s work with Will Ferrell, Dewey sort of flopped, bringing in fifteen million dollars less than its reported $35 million dollar budget. This baffles me. I won’t go so far as to put Walk Hard on the same level as things like Talladega Nights or Anchorman, but it does deserve recognition right alongside most of Reilly and Ferrell’s fantastic work. The movie follows Dewey as he rises from a poor boy to become a country music legend, stopping along the way to overcome wacky obstacles and spend time with famous acts like Elvis (Jack White!) and The Beatles (You owe it to yourself to watch that scene.). Meadows and Fischer lead the many actors going happily along on the ride, and the movie scores with its hilarious music and predictable plot that skewers just about every musical legend you can imagine.