Most Underrated Films of the 2000's - The Part-Time Critic

Monday, December 14, 2009

Most Underrated Films of the 2000's

Day 11: The Most Underrated Films of the 2000's

The following list catalogues what I feel to be the most underrated films of the 2000's. These are going to be films that didn't recieve a popular reception amongst the general populace or lacked praise from the critical establishment, that I felt should've recieved both. Of course, some of your most disliked films may be on this list, so take what I say with a grain of salt, it's just my opinion. Feel free to comment on anything. Did I miss a film that should be on the list? Are you surprised by the inclusion of one?

25. Unleashed (2005)
Directed by Louis Letterier
Refreshingly different than Jet Li's earlier films (Cradle 2 the Grave, Romeo Must Die, One), this one is packed with great fights, a decent story (if a little sacharine), and more subtext and symbolism than you'd expect from what is basically a fight movie. Li's other Luc Besson actioner Kiss of the Dragon is also underrated (though not nearly as much as this one) and deserves to be talked about with Unleased as Li's greatest American/European effort.

24. The International (2009)
Directed by Tom Tyker
Easy to overlook, The International actually contains a politicaly relevant plotline about globalism and banking in particular. It's suprisingly honest about what can be accomplished and it throws in one heck of a gunfight to boot. Not groundbreaking, but it's one of the best of the 'conspiracy theory' thrillers out there. Action aficionado's should talk about the Guggenheim shootout for decades to come. This one shouldn't be one ot those forgettable early spring releases.

23. Alexander (2004)
Directed by Oliver Stone
Here is a film that I have tried to justify to friends since the first time I saw it. While I disagree with the corny handling of Alexander's homosexual relationships, I respect the context in which Oliver Stone was trying to tell this story. Alexander is a film where I LOVE the overarching themes and drives of it's main character, but can't stand how the story meanders and eventually peters out. I don't think the film deserves the derision it's recieved and believe that framing Alexander's life as a quest to experience all of life, to attain everything that is possible, but only to feel the God's cursing him is truly inspired. Stone also handles several of the war sequences with excellence. Don't get me wrong, this is not a perfect movie, but if people could look past many of it's faults, they might see there are some truly insightful things this movie is saying.

22. Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
Directed by Brad Silberling
I wish this series made more money as I would love to see it explored in more depth. Carey is fantastic here, as is every aspect of the production. I've grown to love this film greatly after several viewings and now lament it's mediocre reception.

21. Running Scared (2006)
Directed by Wayne Kramer
This flm evoked a bigger visceral response in me than nearly all the films on my top 100 list. It's got it's faults, but where it lacks, it's more than made up for in suspense and emotional payoffs. Warning though, if your sensitive to strong language, this might not be the movie for you.

20. The Sum of All Fears (2002)
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
A great script and hugely entertaining film that seemed overshadowed by the bigger box office hits of 2002 and as well as the discussion of the film's handling of it's villains. I enjoy the film tremendously and applaud it for having the guts to actually detonate a nuclear bomb on American soil and explore it's aftermath.

19. Shrek the Third (2007)
Directed by Chris Miller
Since when did everyone decide that Shrek the Third was a terrible film? It's not the equal of Shrek or Shrek 2, but it's still a film that brings laughs consistently and often. For those who skipped it based on word of mouth, check this one out. It won't bowl you over, but I do think you'll enjoy it and be quite entertained.

18. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Look, I am no Brett Ratner fan, but I don't think he made a bad film here. It doesn't reach the heights of X2:United but there is plenty to be enjoyed. Certainly, a few characters are squandered and under utilized (isn't that true about all the films though?) and some sequences and plotlines are rushed. Granted. However, there are several genuinely entertaining sequences and moments to be found here. In fact, the sequence between Jean, Xavier, and Magneto where Xavier is killed is one of the best in any of the films. It may not be what people wanted, but it's great entertainment, and a film I find myself watching whenever it is on.

17. Alpha Dog (2007)
Directed by Nick Cassavetes
How did this film find it's way into the $5 bin at Wal-Mart? A tough film to watch (it is heavy on the vulgarity and sexuality), but one with great insight into the decisions and motivations of the teens caught up in a terrible situation. There are a couple truly moving sequences in this film, and watching its' tragedies unfold is at times devastating. If you can stomach it, this is one not to be overlooked.

16. Jumper (2008)
Directed by Doug Liman
A financial flop and a critical disaster. Why did I find myself enjoying this film so much? Maybe I found myself relating so much to our main character; I mean, what would I do if I discovered I had the same abilities? Liman is also a fantastic action director and there are a couple greatly creative sequences that are worth the ticket alone. Give this one a try.

15. Men in Black II (2002)
Directed by Barry Sonnenfield
Nowhere close to the lofty heights of breezy entertainment that the first film achieved, Men in Black II is still a solid follow-up with plenty of creativity and laughs. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith have excellent chemistry and despite a few faults, inhabit a good film. It's too bad this one is relegated to the bargain bins of supercenters.

14. Silent Hill (2006)
Directed by Christopher Gans
One of the best video game to film adaptations I've ever seen. Although the film can be accused of a fairly pedestrian pace, it's one of the few horror films that slowly unfold and don't jump straight to the shocking conclusions. Incredible creativity and art direction combine with an intruiging and thought provoking story about forgiveness and guilt to make one of the more underrated and overlooked horror films of the decade.

13. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)
Directed by Rob Marshall
A film that was once poised to be an Oscar contender quickly fell from grace after the first critical reviews came out. It wasn't long before it disappeared off the radar completely. It's surprising to me because I found the film to be an engrossing experience with great production values and an interesting story. It reminded me of Out of Africa in the way it slowly wrapped you up in the story of one woman's universe and though it never once bowled you over emotionally, by the end of the film you could feel the weight of the story pressing upon you.

12. Hot Rod (2007)
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
Of all the recent 'SNL' endeavors, this is the only one that doesn't deserve to just be written off. Sure, it features a couple of the same problems, but it also contains some truly funny stuf as well. Thanks to Justin Boyd for sharing this one with me, if it wasn't for him I wouldn't have given it a single thought.

11. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
Directed by Mark Waters
Another family film that I would've loved to see developed into a series. Great messages, beautiful CGI, fun characters and a couple fantastic action sequences make this into a hidden gem for those who might've missed out on it.

10. Stuck On You (2003)
Directed by the Farrelly Brothers
What might be considered a minor or forgettable entry by the Farrelly Brothers (it's not Dumb & Dumber or There's Something About Mary), is actually one of their funniest and sweetest films. It might be easy to think this is an irreverent film about siamese twins, but the brothers use it as a vehicle for exploring brotherhood, sacrifice and family. Great film.

9. Sinbad: The Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
Directed by Tim Johnson
The second straight 2003 film is also a forgotten and derided film. I watched it as part of my 2003 Awards a couple years ago and was surprised at the hand drawn animation, the great action sequences, and the adventurous and fun storyline. If you missed it, check it out.

8. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Directed by Stuart Baird
Oustide of Star Trek:Insurrection, Nemesis is typically the sole source of criticism when it comes to the Next Generation Star Trek films. I fully disagree. Despite its similarities to The Wrath of Khan (one of the more overrated films in the Star Trek canon), Nemesis stands on it's own. It's a great exploration of the nature vs. nurture argument, and I truly appreciate the insights that the Picard/Shinzon and the dual Data storylines add to the argument. Also, Nemesis features the best space battle and visual effects of any of the series (outside of the reboot). Give it another try Star Trek nerds.

7. Four Brothers (2005)
Directed by John Singleton
Despite some sacharine moments with their grandmother, this gritty and visceral film is quite an entertaining film. If you pick it up, you might be pleasantly surprised to find one of the better car chase sequences of the 2000's as well as a couple good action sequences.

6. Traitor (2008)
Directed by Jeffrey Nachmanoff
My personal favorite of all the 'Terror' related thrillers to come out since 2001. Basically dumped in the fall of 2008, Traitor (in my estimation) is the best balanced of the thrillers; knowing when to incorporate criticisms, when to ask hard questions and when to support necessary actions. A thoughtful film that doesn't sacrifice honesty, suspense and thrills for an agenda.

5. Poseidon (2006)
Directed by Wolfgang Peterson
I don't care what the critics said about this film, I find it to be a thoroughly enjoyable disaster film with flimsy characters (what else did one expect) that delivers the rewards one would expect, without forcing us to feel too stupid by the end (the downfall of 2012).

4. The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
Directed by Mark Dindal
The film might have grown to cult status since it's release, but even that isn't good enough for this gem. Its underrated because it's not considered in the same breath as many of the Disney classics. Beautiful hand drawn animation's last truly great film, and one that should be stocked on the shelves of every familys entertainment center.

3. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
Directed by the Wachowski Brothers
Underrated and misunderstood. While not genre defining like the original Matrix, the brothers delivered a solid Sci/Fi action film that builds upon and ultimately turns upside down the original premise. Aside from envelope pushing action, there are great twists and thought provoking ideas to be found here. It's taken me several viewings to appreciate the trick the Wachowski's pulled off, but I admire the film even more for it now.

2. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
Directed by McG
The sole reason I had any hope for Terminator:Salvation was the outstanding job McG did with this film. Easy to dismiss, deride and laugh at, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is acutally a fast moving, stylish, frivolty. I was shocked by how breezy yet epic this film really is, brisking between huge set pieces, big backstory productions, and location work. In fact, the dirt bike sequence editing and visual effects are a marvel for their complexity and fluidity. Everyone looks like and feels like they are having a blast making this film and that translates through the screen. This film became the butt of many jokes, but I implore you, if your looking for a quick and fun movie, watch this film.

1. Speed Racer (2008)
Directed by the Wachowski Brothers
Lampooned by both the critics and the populace alike, Speed Racer was one of the biggest flops of 2008. Several critics called it headache inducing and simply labeled it just another special effects laden film of the OCD age. To say that is to miss the originality and creativity of the film and the genius that the Wachowski brothers. On display here is a comprehensive new perspective on putting a film together; the writing, the editing, the art direction, the cinematography, and most of all the direction perfectly cohere to compose a truly unique cinematic film. Aside from the creativity, it really is an enjoyable movie with a great message about the importance of family. I hope everyone gives this film a second chance, as it's in my opinion, the most underrated film of the entire decade.

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