List

Hidden Gems 3.0

By Cecilia Cygnar

Craving more unsung films? Try these!

  • Triage

    2010

    The saying “war is hell” applies not only to the front lines but also to the home front. What the soldiers see during war makes it impossible to forget and move on to lead normal, fulfilling lives once they arrive back home. In Triage, Colin Farrell plays a frontline photojournalist who is known for capturing some of the most gritty war footage out there. He seems to thrive on the blood and the gore, at first. Nothing seems to faze him. Or does it? Colin Farrell here is top-notch…some of his best work ever. Trying to convey bottled up emotions can be harder than behaving like an emotional mess, and Farrell does the job well. Not for the faint of heart, but a must-see for anyone who likes powerful, riveting dramas.

    Get this item
  • Nothing but the Truth

    2009

    A small film with great performances by a strong cast gets lost in the DVD shuffle. But, please, seek this one out! Loosely based on the true tale of a Washington political reporter, the script perfectly captures the right tone--not too weepy or too harpy--which could have easily been done here. And the cast takes that intensity from the page and adds power and subtlety and depth. Kate Beckinsale, best known for the Underworld action series, gives a strong, charismatic performance. The supporting cast, including Alan Alda, Angela Bassett, Matt Dillon, and David Schwimmer, is strong as well, making this a stellar effort by all involved and an all-around excellent film.

    Get this item
  • Incendiary

    2009

    A London terrorist attack destroys the life of a working-class mom. Michelle Williams plays a London mother and wife, and the opening scenes capture her closeness with her 4-year-old son and distance from her husband. She meets Jasper Black, played by Ewan McGregor, and sees a chance to escape some of the dullness of her marriage. When her son and husband head to a local soccer match, she takes a chance to get together with Black. While she's with him, a terrorist bomb explodes at the soccer stadium and her son and husband are among the dead. She runs through the gamut of emotions: sadness, of course; relief, that her mundane marriage is over; guilt, that she was betraying her husband at the moment of his death; hatred, for the terrorists responsible for the loss of her beloved son. She tries to find some understanding by befriending the suspected bomber’s son, but this just leaves her more disillusioned. It sounds like a bleak movie with little hope, although some optimism does sneak in.

    Get this item
  • Robot & Frank

    2013

    This quirky, sweet film is set in the near future, about an older man progressively losing his memory. His son buys him a robot companion to help him with odd chores around the house. The robot becomes a partner for Frank, in both companionship and housework, and with burglary. As they work more and more together, Frank’s reliance on the robot begins to border on the unhealthy, but the film stays sweet and endearing.

    Get this item
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

    2012

    This is a well-meaning film cursed with a bad title. Part romance, part drama, part comedy, all heart, the film finds the good in all people. Scotsman Ewan McGregor stars as a cog in the British Government’s fish and wildlife department who gets stuck with the project of kowtowing to a Yemeni sheik who loves fishing in Scotland. Emily Blunt, who plays a representative for the sheik, at first enrages McGregor’s character as someone unrealistic and flighty concerning the obstacles ahead, but as the project is pushed forward because of its positive Middle East spin, McGregor and Blunt must find a way to not only make their relationship work, but a way to get thousands of fish from Scotland to Yemen. Much of the appeal here is due to McGregor and Blunt, who play their characters with the right level of both charm and delight. Some of it has to do with director Lasse Hallström. But, most of the appeal is due to an engaging story that all should enjoy.

    Get this item
  • Mary and Max

    2010

    Mary and Max are both endearing characters that will stay with you for a long time. When the movie begins, Mary Daisy Dinkle (just the name alone is GREAT!) is an 8-year-old who lives in Australia and has a father who spends most of his time on his taxidermy and a mother who ignores her daughter. Desperate for companionship, she happens upon a New York City phone book, where she randomly selects the name of Max Jerry Horowitz to write to. Max is an obese 44-year-old who has severe problems with panic attacks and overeating. He finds Mary’s plea interesting, so he writes back, thereby beginning a life-long pen-pal friendship. Each turns out to be the only friend the other has. As Mary grows up, Max is always there for her to turn to, and they remain each other’s best (and only true) friend. The ending is quite bittersweet and really tugs at the heartstrings--a treasure that needs to be savored.

    Get this item
  • Pirate Radio

    2010

    The story is based in the 1960s when Britain had bans on rock radio stations. So, to get around the law, tons of pirate stations popped up all over, most on the waters surrounding the small island. Not that the politicians couldn't find them, but the bureaucracy just had no grounds to shut these little stations down until now. But, being a character-driven story, this film is less about what happens and much more about who it happens to. Mostly told from the point-of-view of Young Carl, a young man whose been sequestered on this ship in the middle of the North Sea by his mother in order to learn a lesson. All of the characters become equally dear to us...we love some, we hate some, we empathize with some, we are jealous of some. Make sure you check out this little gem of a film that is part romance, part drama, part comedy, part historical, all fun!

    Get this item
  • Welcome to the Rileys

    2011

    A sweet look at a father-daughter-like relationship and an examination of an older couple and how they learn to come back together after a tragedy. The Sopranos’ James Gandolfini plays Doug, a businessman who travels to New Orleans for work and while there, stumbles across a very young stripper/prostitute. Having lost a daughter in her teens, Doug is immediately drawn to this troubled young woman, in a completely nonsexual way. In no way is this film predictable. It does not have a “Hollywood” ending, meaning not everything is all smiles and perfection at the end. The characters are troubled when the film begins and troubled at the end. The relationship between Mallory and Doug is fabulously convincing. He never sees her as a sexual being. He is deeply moved by Mallory’s desperation and only wants to help her. In helping her, he helps himself heal the death of his daughter and the scarred relationship with his wife, Lois. This is a strong, well-made and very well-acted film about three people who might survive by relying on each other.

    Get this item
  • Lars and the Real Girl

    2008

    I loved this quirky and silly and sweet and innocent and charming and disturbing movie! In the vein of films like The Straight Story, this one relies on its uniqueness to reel you in. But, unlike other quirky films, the charming qualities of the characters kick in and win you over completely, just like "Bianca" wins over the hearts of all of the townspeople of the small, Northern town. Ryan Gosling plays Lars perfect here, and it’s a tough role to tackle. He has to be low-key and expressionless at times when others aren't. He has to completely "buy" into what he's selling, no matter what. But, he has to avoid going too far in the opposite direction with the low-key behavior. Basically, Gosling becomes Lars here, just as the supporting players come to embody their personas as well. You might cry, you might laugh, but most definitely you will smile at this lovely film.

    Get this item
  • Cairo Time

    2010

    One of the most adult, intelligent, and realistic films about love in ages. This film takes its time with everything: the story, the characters, and the attraction between one married person and one single yet emotionally scarred person. We get to know the characters and fall in love with them as they are falling in love with each other. Clarkson plays a wife who travels to Cairo to visit her husband, who works in Gaza in the Palestinian Territories. After she arrives, she finds out her husband’s work is keeping him in Gaza longer than anticipated, so a coworker of her husband becomes her tour guide and chauffeur while waiting. The way the wife and the coworker fall for each other is so subtle and innocent, it’s almost as innocuous as a grammar school crush at first. Then, the two begin spending more and more time together and they can feel themselves growing closer and closer. Nothing rushed, nothing rash, just an adult, well-defined story with mature, smart characters. Beautifully shot and lushly set in Cairo, nothing is held back in this film–not the truth of the characters, not the pain of the loss of love, not the reality of the betrayal. Cairo Time is honest and clever from start to finish.

    Get this item
  • Rory O'Shea Was Here

    2005

    This touching, heartfelt film does a perfect job of not being too sappy or weepy. All of the emotions are sincere and come from the remarkable performances and the delicately tuned script. The story is basically about two men: Michael is content in a home for the disabled until Rory comes to live there. The two men teach each other much about life and love and respect. They are good and bad for each other at the same time. The independence Michael develops and the (platonic) love he feels for Rory teaches him so much about life, things he never would have learned by just staying in the home. Even though some of these lessons lead to heartache, they enrich both Rory’s and Michael’s lives immensely. This is a hard film to watch without feeling that emotional roller coaster, but the ride is realistic and worth it.

    Get this item