Thursday, June 18, 2015

Underrated and Under Seen (So Far) in 2015 – Movies Spotlight – June 2015

A lot of great films have come out in 2015 so far. Blockbusters like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: FuryRoad and Pixar’s Inside Out, as well as a bunch of really good indie films like Ex Machina, Clouds of Sils Maria, It Follows, Love & Mercy, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Slow West, What We Do in the Shadows, Far from the Madding Crowd, Dope, While We’re Young, and ‘71. It is easy to say that all these independent films are under seen (because they are), but that is a function of availability and the economics of film distribution. One might also say that Mad Max: Fury Road is under seen relative to other big blockbusters like Jurassic World and Furious 7, both of which have greatly out-performed Mad Max at the box office but are not on the same level of critical praise (or even close – personally, I think Furious 7 is 2015’s most overrated film so far). Thus, I am going to look at two Hollywood films that had all the right elements to be hits but failed commercially and critically; when really, they are both very good films.


Film: Blackhat
Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Wei Tang, Viola Davis, Leehom Wang, Ritchie Coster, John Ortiz, and Yorick van Wageningen
Plot Summary: When a hacker’s malware triggers the meltdown of a Chinese power plant, the Chinese and American governments turn to their own computer experts to find and stop this new hacker threat.
Why You Should Give It a Chance: Writer-director Michael Mann makes dynamic dramas and sprawling crime epics. His films feature beautiful aesthetics and a gripping realism. For most of his career, his films were greeted with critical acclaim and strong box office numbers (films like Thief, The Last of the Mohicans, Heat, The Insider, and Collateral). His recent efforts, however, seem to have failed to reach their audiences (although, Miami Vice, Public Enemies and now Blackhat are all very good crime drama/thrillers that I think time and perspective will reinstate as canonized quality films). Blackhat benefits from good leading performances from Chris Hemsworth and Wei Tang, as well as Mann, cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh and production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas’s wonderful and vital aesthetics. Blachhat is a topically relevant crime thriller, playing on the scary idea of the future (or present) of cyber terrorism, but more than that it is a captivating film, not just in terms of its use of tension, but in its ability to immerse its viewer in its world and vision.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand


Director: Brad Bird
Stars: Britt Robertson, George Clooney, Raffey Cassidy, and Hugh Laurie
Plot Summary: With ambitions to make tomorrow better than today, a bright teen with scientific talent and curiosity (Casey) teams up with a jaded former wunderkind inventor (Frank) to make those ambitions a reality by finding ‘Tomorrowland’.
Why You Should Give It a Chance: Let me start with the cast. Britt Robertson and Raffey Cassidy are fantastic in the film, delivering great and strong performances (continuing 2015’s seeming attempt to promote feminism in cinema, Mad Max: Fury Road’s Imperator Furiosa as the poster-woman). George Clooney is good as well. Writer-director Brad Bird’s films generally provide a good mix of comedy, resonating drama and brilliant action (his other work includes: The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol). Tomorrowland is no different; however, what I think sets it apart and makes it something special and worthwhile is its cinematic/dramatic aspiration. Not just to enthrall, excite and entertain, it does those things too, but to inspire its viewers to once again dream. Much like last year’s Interstellar, Tomorrowland is a call to its viewers to once again look ahead with wonder and hope and not just settle for the doom and gloom malaise that seems to have overcome us as a people. We do not like to think about the future, because now the future does not seem as bright as today. But our dreams, imagination, ingenuity, and work effort can change that. This is what is at the heart of Tomorrowland.
Trailer: Here
Available on: Blu-ray and Video On-Demand

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