You know when I first saw "Empire Strikes Back", I thought it was the most amazing film ever. Did you know that back in 1980, when the film was first released, it actually had mixed reception? In fact the movie, which is now considered the best of the "Star Wars" saga and one of the greatest films of all time, was considered a mess of a film. Yet it now stands as a masterpiece years later, showing that a film is not always bad, it's just not made at the right time.
Cause years later movies will be reevaluated and new contemporary reviews will reshape films in a different light. I look at films in a very broad sense, not just in the current atmosphere of the times, but on a universal level. How a film will, long term, be seen and is not just a "fling" that audiences are having at the time (It happens more than you think). So to me, here are several films that today are the critical wrecks that, in my opinion, will be seen as the masterpieces tomorrow.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
To call the director duo Wachowskis daring is a BIG understatement. These guys are marvelous, philosophical, risque, and clever at every turn. While this has cost them with past failures (Never saw "Speed Racer" but that's such a minor mark against them overall), the Wachowskis never try to be like anyone else. They mix special effects with daring storytelling and that was no different than when they adapted the book "Cloud Atlas", written by author David Mitchell.
Teaming up with fellow director Tom Tykwer, who co-scored the film with some of the most wonderful music I've ever heard in a film, this film sought to take a grand scale story that spans centuries and make it into a nearly three hour film. For me they succeeded largely based off the two themes they kept running through the film: Eternal love and echoes of past actions on future events.
The ripple effect is what makes this film work. From the initial adventures of Adam Ewing (Played by actor Jim Sturgess) in 1849 during a sea voyage to the dark apocalyptic future focusing on Zachry (Played by Tom Hanks), we see six different generations affect each other on a grand scale. Little does Ewing know his journal would be read by Robert Frobisher (Played by Ben Whishaw) in 1936 or Timothy Cavendish (Played by Jim Broadbent) would see his crazy time in a retirement home in 2012 be turned into an epic movie that would teach replicant Sonmi~451 (Played by Doona Bae) in 2144 about being human and, in turn, make her a revolutionary whose teachings would become a religion that Zachry and his people would worship hundreds of years later after the unknown "The Fall" that created their apocalyptic environment. Are you dizzy yet? That's only the basics.
I won't spoil anything (What I told you is almost initially presented in each section as start-off points), but the film also finds a way to be funny with actors playing multiple characters...sometimes of different sexes. Seeing actor Hugo Weaving as a woman is terrifying given he was once Mr. Smith in "The Matrix" films. The theme though is the idea of reincarnation which plays side-by-side with the eternal love theme. Who those lucky pairs are I will reserve so you can be pleasantly surprised. So we see people passing by in different lifetimes, creating a masterfully woven film with a stupendously broad range of actors from Hanks to Sturgess to Bae to other fun editions like Hugh Grant and Susan Sarandon.
The final point to see this film is the wonderfully inspiring tale of how it got made. The film couldn't find funding and apparently the Wachowskis praise actor Tom Hanks for sticking with the film as they sought to acquire funding from all over that would make the film one of the most expensive independent films ever.
Who said art is dead? This film is a masterpiece, crafted with the love of true filmmakers and actors who sought to do something not only different, but heart-wrenching. The actors will make you laugh, the music will bring tears to your eyes, and the messages/subtext will grab you by your soul. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you "Cloud Atlas"...the film whose own ripple effect will lead to a classic being remembered years later.
"The Boondock Saints" (1999)
I watch a lot of movies and have yet to see "Taxi Driver" but judging simply by the premise this feels like a modern version of that. I grant you it's not a Scorcese film, but it damn sure is amazing on it's own right. It takes the premise of "Taxi Driver" and infuses it with the fast pace, pop-cultured infused decade that was the 90's.
A simple premise to start is it follows the MacManus brothers in Boston who, after a simultaneous epiphany, decide to cleanse the streets of criminals of all kinds under the guise of religious influences. They place pennies on the dead's eyes as done in ancient Greek times for the souls of the dead to have fare to pay the boatman to get across the sea of the dead to the underworld. They speak a prayer before they kill a man. To authorities these two are maniacs, especially FBI agent Paul Smecker who is played eccentrically by Willem Dafoe in one of his most insane roles (I love every minute of his screen time).
What follows is a mash of criminal assassinations, a police chase to find them, and a web of strange characters, especially the brothers' friend and collaborator David Della Rocco...whose played by actor David Della Rocco. And let's not forget Il Duce ("The Duck"), played by actor Billy Connolly, the assassin chosen to find and kill the trio.
When the film was released, it received negative reviews and barely made $1 million. Yet, thanks largely to video sales, this film is already a cult classic, having spawned a sequel with another to follow. The Saints have become pop culture icons themselves. Maybe they can stop referencing Charles Bronsan, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood now that they themselves are legends. Every person I've ever talked to love this film. My own father, a HUGE fan of classic films over modern films, find this and its sequel to be two of his favorite gangster films. Cause really, can we not relate to the desire to go out and change the cruel world around us? That question is what is left at the end of the film, seen during the credits as people are interviewed about the Saints and if they are a good thing or bad thing in the world. The film, made by regular joe director Troy Duffy, actually ends up leaving a really interesting point about vigilantism. Is it a good thing or a bad thing? This film deserves praise and instead it got trashed...well not for long as someday "The Boondock Saints" will deal with the real criminals...critics.
"Tron Legacy" (2010)
I am honestly shocked this film doesn't get a lot of credit. Visually it's a masterpiece of course, but so little attention is given to the themes of the film that I think a lot of people just didn't notice.
The biggest theme was, as director Joseph Kosinski spoke about it, was "finding a human connection in a digital world." The film obviously deals with the legacy Kevin Flynn (Played by Jeff Bridges) wants to lay down for his son Sam (Played by Garrett Hedlund). However, the biggest thing to understand is the idea of how technology could change the human condition. That is where Quorra (Played by Olivia Wilde), comes into play as an ISO, a computer program that self-created itself. And, to note, is a program that can take damages like a human not die as a whole. That is a point presented in the film, that technology would self-evolve, no longer bound by a single piece of software.
This creates both a good and bad idea of where the future goes. It can either be a utopia like Kevin Flynn wanted or a dystopia like CLU (Played by Bridges also) wants. In a way, the film has to do with how we as a society can evolve. We can either progress naturally and expand, or we can fall prey the a sense of set principles to fall to (CLU follows his initial commands given to him by Flynn when he was created but does not expand beyond that).
This film is largely undervalued and, like it's prequel "Tron" from 1984, will become a better film to many I think years later when you have a chance to watch it again. Bridges "Steve Job" impression should help you along to get the technology philosophy they were going for in the film. Oh and let's not forget Daft Punk gave one of the best electronic-based scores around in this film. That probably will help ease the philosophical pressure you feel.
"Cowboys & Aliens" (2011)
Slight confession, I have a bit of a crush on Olivia Wilde. Also, I find her to be one of the most undervalued actresses in film. Her role in 2013's film "Rush" helps her case, but in this film we find her part of a wonderful ensemble cast including Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, and Sam Rockwell.
When I saw this film, I didn't know what to expect. The trailer was kind of a mix between high-flying fun and atmospheric darkness. Little did I know it would become one of my favorite films of 2011. Interesting to note, the acting was praised, but critics didn't seem to like the blend of science fiction and western elements. So...why didn't they like it?
Directed by Jon Favreau, the director of "Iron Man", we saw an interesting film about folks in the Old West battling aliens. In this we see an interesting parallel to gold miners as that is what the aliens are here for. They want gold and are willing to kill the natives to get it. Sound familiar? This is furthered by actor Harrison Ford who plays Colonel Woodrow Dolarhyd who killed Native Americans in his past working for the military. We see the frontiersmen become the natives and the aliens become the new frontiersmen. It's dealing with the ongoing cycle of violence that occurs. Daniel Craig, who plays Jake Lonergan, is a source of that affect of greed as him stealing gold from Dolarhyd at the beginning of the film leads to him losing much (Revealed later in flashbacks), particularly his girlfriend and his memories.
And then there is Wilde, playing Ella Swanson, who is revealed later to be more than just a mysterious beauty. She is the inbetween, the one who fuses the western characters with the science fiction aliens.
The point is this film was a wonderful, action packed story with great character arcs. It showed that Craig could be more than James Bond and that Ford can still rock a six-shooter. And the themes are indeed there, but you have to pay attention. If you do, you'll love this film even more with all it's goodies present...not least of which is Wilde with those icy, beautiful eyes. Yes I have a crush on an actress, sue me.
John Carter (2012)
To say "John Carter" got crap was an understatement. The film barely made back it's budget, got mixed reviews, and was seen as just a mash of other classics. I respectfully disagree.
This film could have served as a prequel to "Cowboys & Aliens as it takes place during the time soldiers were fighting with Apache Indians. Led by actor Taylor Kitsch, who plays the titular character John Carter, we see a former civil war veteran transported to Mars. Here he finds a society at war between two opposing nations. Because of his different bone density and the planet's low gravity, Carter is able to jump high and has increased strength. He befriends a martian Tars Tarkas, played by Willem Dafoe, who takes him as a pet. After escaping he runs into Dejah Thori, played by Lynn Collins, princess of the city Helium. Together they battle over Carter finding his way home and Dejah saving her people from Sab Than, ruler of the mobile scavenger city of Zodanga who has been at war with Helium for a thousand years.
Now keep in mind, this film as a lot to do with the "Star Wars" theory of connecting unrelated science fiction ideas to our world through action. On Mars, which is called by the locals Barsoom, we see warring nations, reflecting on Carter who survived the civil war. While afraid to be part of it at first, he sees himself drawn into fighting to prevent the same destruction on Helium he saw on people on Earth. There is a supreme amount of history thrown into this, also having an interesting side note of war profiteering as shown by the Therns, immortal beings on Mars who seek to control the flow of history on the planet. Led by Matai Shang, played by Mark Strong, Carter comes into direct conflict with their plans.
I'll never understand the hate for this movie. Part of the reason it didn't sell was they only started marketing it a couple months before it came out in March, which is already considered a tough time to sell a big movie. With better marketing, the film could have become a modern sci-fi classic immediately, with it's blend of swordplay, political undertones, and sweeping romance. When you think of this film and Disney, that points to the other hated film and the last on my article.
"The Lone Ranger" (2013)
To accept this film we all have to admit one thing to ourselves...most of you didn't want to see this film because Johnny Depp was playing an Indian and reminded you too much of Jack Sparrow. Let me assure you, his character Tonto was NOTHING like Sparrow aside from the eccentric look and how he ran.
Tonto serves as the narrator of the story as he tells the story of John Reid aka The Lone Ranger who evolves from a lawyer in San Francisco to a masked hero in the old West. The film, like "Cowboys & Aliens" and "John Carter", has a civil war/Native American background to it although this one is more direct in its story. And it is there that it oddly succeeds with Depp whose backstory as Tonto shows his motivation. He causes his tribe to be killed, wearing a dead bird at the scene as a badge of guilt, and tries to use Reid to stop it from happening again.
The story can have silly moments at time but the spontaneous storytelling and acting makes up for it. The parallels and the haunting scenes of the death valley of Native Americans makes you root for these characters to succeed. If there is anything director Gore Verbanski succeeds at its it the action scenes. The choreography of the final train battle is stupendous and intricate, with the classic "Lone Ranger" score playing in the background to set the tune for a rip-roaring finale you won't forget.
And the final part that did it was Tonto's final scene years later as he finishes telling the story to a young boy. The idea of the messages of the past affecting us now leave you in tears if you are willing to listen. Unfortunately, people were too busy getting on a white guy playing a Native American.
The film ends on a resonating and wonderful feeling that stories of heroes influence us today, as shown by the little boy who listens to Tonto's tale throughout the film. The only problem with the film was the pacing and some editing issues, but such a small thing that can be fixed by watching the movie again and getting the rhythm of the film down. I'm glad Verbanski went from "Pirates of the Caribbean" to "The Lone Ranger".
Bottom Line - Reviews MEAN SHIT
You guys know Alfred Hitchcock. Kind is considered the Master of Suspense. He made the film "Vertigo" which was mixed in its reception...now it's number one the AFI 100 Greatest Movies. Reviews mean nothing on how good a film is. You all know that, but more importantly you know that great films are films that extend beyond a single moment in history. These films are only some of the more high-profile ones but you could name a few. So how about it guys? What critically bashed films do you think will become classics years from now?