I was originally going to entitle this "10 Severely Underrated Movies," but to do so would be somewhat inaccurate. These aren't necessarily good movies. The qualms people have with them are, for the most part, accurate - these movies are not, objectively speaking, good. But I am not speaking objectively, and I am not writing about movies that are good. I am writing about movies that I like.
Quick note: You'll notice that these movies are, for the most part, modern movies. I watch plenty of older films. But older films are generally regarded as being much better (personally, I think this is because, nowadays, we can only remember the good ones). Further, The older films I've seen are films that are well-known, and they are usually well-known because they're either very good, or horrendously bad. I'm writing about films that are largely disliked (not merely unknown), but I enjoy (meaning they aren't necessarily good). These aren't guilty pleasures, because I don't feel guilty for liking them - rather, they are movies with large, visible flaws, but which I simply enjoy too much to mind said flaws.
10. The Matrix Prequels.
No, Reloaded and Revolutions are not as good as the original. Yes, the Wachowski Brothers got too philosophical. But these movies aren't exactly bad - just not as good. And, let's face it, the original was not perfect. The effects are clearly dated. The choreography was just as lacking. Only four of the characters actually had personalities. And, come one, the concept "What if Our World Was Actually a Computer Simulation" is hardly groundbreaking philosophical material. I'm not saying it was old at the time - it had been done before, though not as well - merely that it's, well, silly. There is a Simulation Hypothesis which actually makes a pretty good argument for this theory. I don't believe it, but I can respect it. The Matrix does not make this argument. That is not to say the film is bad - just that it's not infinitely better than the sequels, as many claim. The primary reason people prefer the original is that the best, most memorable part of the series is the atmosphere, and the original introduced that atmosphere, whereas the sequels merely used it.
Quick note: many people make jokes about what would happen if Neo took both pills. It's really quite simple. One pill took him out of the Matrix and allowed him to wake up in the real world. The other erased his memory of the night and allowed him to live his false life without any knowledge of the meeting. Presumably, then, if he took both, his would lose his memory of the night and be enabled to leave the matrix - but he never would, because he would have no knowledge of it.
9. Sucker Punch
Once the credits rolled, I knew people were going to hate Sucker Punch. How? The audience cheered. And not in a heart-warming way, as with Miracle on 34th Street, or because the film's ending deserved a cheer, as with The Dark Knight. No, this was the sort of drunken, stupid cheering you hear from frat boys when a girl flashes them. I was ashamed to be among them (not cheering, but enjoying the film). I liked to think of myself as above these people. They probably cheered at Transformers, for chrissakes. Now, there's a movie that deserves every ounce of hate it gets.
But I enjoyed it. Because it was not the same type of big-budget box-office schlock you saw that summer. It was not a Michael Bay movie. Yes, Sucker Punch consisted primarily of CGI-driven action scenes, but there's a difference - these were damn good CGI-driven action scenes. What I liked about them is that they were almost strategic - in most fight scenes nowadays, fighters A and B will hit/shoot at one another until eventually one of them wins because the script says so. In Sucker Punch, you can tell exactly what happens in each fight and what effect it's going to have - the lead character is using a katana and a pistol against a large statue with a gatling gun, so she is going to hide behind this pillar and hide behind it until he is shooting at that location, at which point she can leap out at a certain angle to land atop him.
Further, the film feels tactile. When you see a gun go off, you can feel the recoil, and when someone strikes a lighter, you are made hyper-aware of the flint striking the steel, and of the impending fire. I like that. There's a shit-ton of CGI that goes into making the movie feel this way, but it severs a purpose - all of Snyder's films exist in some sort of alternate universe where every action and every detail is magnified by a power of ten. The whole thing is blown to obscene levels of camp. But it works. Snyder is way behind Guillermo del Toro, but he's clearly going after the same sort of feel.
Snyder is frequently criticised for relying on a technique whereby action will slow down and then suddenly speed up. He does this a lot. I'm not denying that. But it serves a purpose. We need to know who is doing what in these fights. In most movies (Transformers) things are happening really, really quickly and the audience is left with no clue of what's happening. This issue is generally exacerbated by the fact that some directors (Bay) have trouble keeping the camera running for longer than two seconds. Snyder does not do this. Snyder knows better.
There are a lot of things this film does that I wish others would do - the CGI here is used to make things look nicer, as opposed to making them look ruined. Yes, the girls are all unrealistically portrayed - but if you're going for an action film, you want to make a film that is fun to look at. You want it to be aesthetically pleasing. I'd rather watch attractive, perfect people in bright, happy, stylized environments than people covered in grim and rolling around in the same stretch of gray ruins for two hours. I really enjoyed the ending, because SPOILERS: the main character is forced to stay behind and provide a distraction while a secondary character runs off freely. I loved that. Because The main character was legitimately insane - most of the movie is her hallucination! She should be in a mental institution. The one who runs free is sane, and does not deserve to be there. She only came to the asylum to watch over her mentally-unstable sister.
People say that there was not enough of a connection between the real world and either of the two levels of hallucinations - I agree. That's pretty much my only complaint about the film. But, to be fair, there are eighteen minutes that were removed from the film to give it a PG-13 rating. I think it's safe to assume, given the undertones of rape, that the eighteen minutes in question show a lot more of the real world. I haven't seen the full version yet, but I have the feeling it's a much better movie.
8. Lady in the Water
Firstly: Yes, the film is self-indulgent. I know. Lady in the Water is blatant masturbation. But when I first saw the film, I had no idea who M. Night Shyamalan was, or why he would paint himself as a brilliant visionary speaking to an uneducated public. I do now. But my opinion of the film was formed before I learned of the real-world parallels, and the movie hasn't changed - only my knowledge. When I first saw the movie, I liked it, and I haven't noticed any flaws or holes in the movie itself - only the context surrounding it.
And when I first saw it, it was really good; I liked the fact that some secondary character, rather than the main one, served as The Guardian, and I liked that the fantasy was very subtle - it was clearly about a small number of fantastic creatures in a large world that was very much real. Yes, Shyamalan's newer stuff is balls. Yes, The Last Airbender was a massive shit on my second-favorite TV show. But Lady in the Water? Not bad.
7. Music and Lyrics
What can I say? I like Hugh Grant, I like the music, and I like the cheese. As far as romantic comedies go, I thought it was pretty good. This is not a serious movie. It doesn't have to be. It's something better than a serious movie: a good movie. I mean, it's no Love Actually, to be sure, but it's a hell of a lot better than, say, A Walk to Remember. It's not supposed to be a deep story, it's not supposed to make any insightful comments about the nature of true love, it's not supposed to be iconic or revolutionary - it's supposed to entertain you for a while. I'm not saying that you should lower your cinematic standards with such movies, by any means, but a movie doesn't have to be serious to be good.
6. The Star Wars Prequels
Once again: no, they are not as good (though, frankly, I would say that Return of the Jedi - between the Ewoks and the nonsensical "choice" with which the Emperor "tempts" Luke - comes pretty close to being on their level). But they are not as good for a different reason. The Star Wars prequels have been absolutely vivisected by Red Letter Media. I agree with most of what he has to say. But the issue is, the flaws he describes are not the makings of a bad movie - they are the makings of an average movie. Unlike with the Matrix, I'm not going to posit that the prequels are as good as A New Hope or Empire. Or even Jedi. That's just silly.
But the sequels are not bad. They are merely generic. If someone were to make the most generic movie possible, it would likely be the Star Wars prequels. The acting isn't wooden - that's something of an unfair accusation - the acting is merely there. The acting simply exists. It doesn't draw you out of the film, but it doesn't bring you into it, either. The editing is, as Plinkett said, practically automated. Everything is shot the same way, all the time. That's generally referred to as continuity editing - it doesn't do anything artistic, but it gets the job done. It shows you what is happening. Bad editing is when you can't follow a film because you can't adequately see what's going on, and the effect serves only to make you more aware that you are watching a movie, as opposed to experiencing a story. The editing is bad in The Room. The editing is good in 127 Hours. The editing is average in the Star Wars prequels.
Ultimately, the only big problem with these movies is that they didn't capture the magic of Star Wars. They didn't make you feel happy, or sad, or anything, really. And that's a problem. It's a big problem. But they are, at the very least, engaging, and I enjoyed watching them. They weren't great. They weren't even good, really. But they weren't bad. They were just disappointing. They were average. Compared to good movies, they are bad, and compared to bad movies, they are good. They had their good parts - Naboo and Coruscant look awesome; the lightsaber duels were great; John Williams is truly God's gift to music; the march on the Jedi Temple was legitimately chilling - and they had their bad parts - Jar-Jar Binks; Hayden Christensen; putting in a goddamn eleven-year-old.
Quick Note: Han shot first. In fact, Greedo didn't shoot at all. Because he was too busy being dead. On account of Han shooting him.
Other Note: Don't even get me started on adolescents in movies. From Short-Round, to John Connor, to Anakin Skywalker, the kids from War of the Worlds, and fucking Shia LaBeouf in every single fucking role he's ever been in, even as a goddamn 25-year-old! Shortly put, they suck and I hate them.
I'll post Part 2 tomorrow, or maybe the next day, depending on how little sleep I get between now and my first class in 2 and a half hours.