Thursday, 26 January 2012

Script Editor VIII: 10 Forgotten Mainstream Film Treats

This week our learned script editor revisits 10 fine mainstream films who, for various reasons, underperformed on initial release, but are well worth revisiting...

1. Breakdown (1997)

Kurt Russell plays a city slicker holidaying with his wife who, following a car breakdown, unwisely accepts a lift from a stranger.

2. Return to Oz (1985)

Yes there’s a sequel – and it’s better than you would expect. Far more sinister than its predecessor, here junior goth Fairuza Balk takes over the role of Dorothy. Rest assured there’s no singing.

3. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

A deeply troubled film and all the more powerful for it. The seed of inspiration came from Stanley Kubrick but the film was directed by Spielberg. The tense combination of these distinct imaginations makes for a rattled, mysterious film, one of enchantment and dreadful suffering.

4. One True Thing (1998)

Although chiefly remembered as another golden bead on the necklace of Meryl Streep’s Oscar nominations, this is a far more subtle and entertaining film than its lachrymose synopsis might suggest. Streep plays a mother struggling with both a cancer diagnosis and the animosity between her husband and her daughter.

5. The Village (2004)

Seriously. It may have been the first of director M Night Shyamalan’s films to give rise to the feeling that audiences were tiring of his jack-in-the-box storytelling but The Village is a far more insinuating, atmospheric film than is often credited.

6. Excalibur (1981)

Prior to TV’s recent series Camelot, nothing really competed with John Boorman’s film for its exploitation of the lurid in the mystical – or perhaps it’s the mystical in the lurid; either way Helen Mirren acts up a storm as wicked witch Morgana.

7. The Hunger (1983)

Although almost exhaustingly modish this remains one of the most electrifying cinema explorations of the vampire myth. Featuring David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve as the gilded immortals and Susan Sarandon as their quick-witted prey, the film has a clotted style and a flimsy plot. It couldn’t be more entertaining.

8. Femme Fatale (2002)

If you detest Brian De Palma give this a miss. The film could be a montage of – or homage to – his obsessions and quirks. Rebecca Romijn steals some diamonds in the most flagrant of thefts and then betrays her fellow cons. A last-second identity swap is threatened by Antonio Banderas’ leisurely paparazzo. Compellingly silly.

9. Alien 3 (1993)

True, this entry into the Alien canon has its enthusiasts – more than can be said of Alien: Resurrection – but it deserves a larger cult. Ripley is now almost too careworn to fight and the atmosphere is doom-laden. What better starting place for David Fincher’s feature film career?

10. The American (2010)

Only released in 2010, this Euro-thriller starring George Clooney already seems in danger of fading from view. Staccato dialogue, a pretty but lived-in Italian town and a plot which uncoils like a serpent makes this a small masterpiece of intensity.

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