Somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 films are released in North America every year. Generally, I go to see a film once or twice a week, which I am told is a lot, and I guess that’s probably right. But that means I’m barely hitting 10% of the films put out every annum, and though that’s almost a week of my life every year in time, it’s clearly barely scratching the surface.
This is all a long way of saying that there’s a lot of films out there which are really pretty good that no one ever gets to see. For every The Avengers, there’s 10-20 other films that get shoved to the side and ignored.
Why is this?
It’s incredibly expensive to fully market and promote a film, for one. Lets take The Avengers, for example. The film had a $220 million budget. In order to fully market a film, it’s generally assumed that the marketing budget will be the same as the production budget, so figure at least another $220 million in marketing. Then, there’s a whole host of ancillary costs around the film, which – you guessed it – is the same as the production budget again.
Yep – The Avengers had to make more than $660 million in order to make a profit. Luckily for Disney and Joss Whedon, it did. But many don’t. (John Carter, anyone?)
If you’re looking for something to watch this coming weekend, here’s a list of small films that never hit the mainstream which I have really enjoyed. I’ve also included their descriptions from third-party websites, so keep things as objective(!) as possible.
Green Street Hooligans
Amazon.com – Elijah Wood plays journalism student Matt Buckner. In the prologue, he’s expelled from Harvard when his over-privileged roommate sets him up to take the fall for his own misdeeds. With nowhere to go, Matt decides to visit his sister, Shannon (Claire Forlani), in London. He’s already got a chip on his shoulder when he falls under the sway of Shannon’s brother-in-law, Pete (Charlie Hunnam), head of West Ham’s football “firm,” the Green Street Elite. Matt soon gets caught up in their thuggish antics—to tragic effect.
Amazon.com – When golden boy Neil Oliver is granted one wish by a mystical character, he sets off on the road trip of a lifetime. On a highway that doesn’t exist, Neil steps into an adventure where anything is possible: a woman who never says no, a town with free drugs, a mysterious killer and the girl of his dreams. Stars James Marsden, Gary Oldman, Amy Smart, Christopher Lloyd and Chris Cooper.
The Motorcycle Diaries
Amazon.com – Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna. After crossing South America on a motorcycle with his friend, a young Argentinean medical student makes the determination to become a revolutionary. His name was Che Guevara, and he would go on to have a powerful impact on the future of several nations.
The Boys are Back
Amazon.com – Clive Owen delivers a critically acclaimed performance in THE BOYS ARE BACK, the heartwarming and uplifting drama about a man who is suddenly thrust into the role of single parent. Successful sportswriter Joe Warr (Owen) finds himself completely unprepared to raise his rambunctious 6-year-old son Artie and juggle the challenges of a demanding job, running a household and the possibility of romance. Determined to bring joy back into their lives, he develops a revolutionary approach to parenting no rules, no chores. It’s a home fi lled with love and chaos and then Joe’s estranged teenage son comes for a visit. Inspired by a true story and filled with emotional honesty, this poignant film will touch your heart and lift your spirits.
A Shot at Glory
Amazon.com – Robert Duvall, Michael Keaton, Brian Cox. A soccer team coach must overcome pressure from the owner, a new superstar player and finally turn the team’s fortunes around in order to keep the franchise from moving away from its fiercely loyal fans.
A Good Year
Amazon.com – A feel-good movie that highlights the beauty of France as much as it does its stars, A Good Year provides a languid, gorgeous viewing experience. Director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe–who first worked together on the Academy Award-winning Gladiator–are reunited in this romantic film, which is based on Peter Mayle’s book A Year in Provence. Crowe plays Max, a workaholic London bonds trader who doesn’t know the meaning of vacation. When his uncle dies, leaving him a picturesque estate in the south of France, Max views it as an opportunity to cash in the vinery and pocket the profits. The film is reminiscent of Diane Lane’s Under the Tuscan Sun in the way the scenery plays as much of a role in the film as its characters. The lush village and streaming sunlight portray Provence as an idyllic, magical place. Even Max falls under its spell. While not a particularly likeable character, especially in the early part of the film, Max also isn’t a bad guy. When he gets the chance to live life at a less manic pace than which he is used to, he finds that a good year isn’t dependant on a financial windfall. Though Scott tries to drum up some suspense in the film (Is the beautiful visitor really Max’s illegitimate cousin? Will Max fall in love with the feisty local woman he trades quips with?) nothing that happens comes as much of a surprise. Still, while the film doesn’t fully utilize Crowe’s range of skills, the actor is charming in his role and A Good Year provides a fine time in the cinemas.
Amazon.com – “Bottle shock” describes what can happen to wine as it travels from place to place. Set in 1976, Randall Miller’s widescreen docudrama concerns the real-life showdown between California’s wineries and their French counterparts. Napa Valley’s Jim Barrett (Lost Highway’s Bill Pullman) has been plugging away for years with minimal success. A former attorney, Barrett runs Chateau Montelena with his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine, the Star Trek prequel’s Captain Kirk), who would rather do anything than assist his stern father. Bo’s co-workers include Gustavo (Six Feet Under’s Freddy Rodríguez) and Sam (Transformers’ Rachael Taylor), who long to produce the perfect chardonnay. Naturally, the young men compete for the favors of the beautiful blonde (the movie’s least interesting angle). Across the Atlantic, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) struggles to keep his Parisian wine shop going (cheapskate American Dennis Farina is his only regular customer). Then Spurrier conceives a contest to attract customers; surely, his beloved French growers will put those upstart Yanks in their place. He flies to Napa to look around, and persuades the Barretts to compete. Miller and his wife, screenwriter Jody Savin, previously worked with Pullman and Rickman on Nobel Son, but decided to release Bottle Shock first.
Lord of War
Amazon.com – Nicolas Cage, Ethan Hawke. A shrewd Ukranian immigrant living in Brooklyn is really a dangerous international arms dealer who has successfully avoided capture by an unwavering Interpol agent for over 20 years but lately has been unsuccessful at avoiding his own conscience.
The Shipping News
Amazon.com – An award-winning cast featuring Kevin Spacey (Casino Jack), Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood), Judi Dench (Nine) and Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right) stars in this deeply moving motion picture from the director of Chocolat and The Cider House Rules. After tragedy strikes, Quoyle (Spacey) moves with his daughter from upstate New York to his ancestral home in a small Newfoundland fishing village. With a job at the local newspaper and a developing romance with a woman (Moore) who lives with her own demons, Quoyle is transformed by this place of magic, beauty and hardship. In a compelling story based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Quoyle’s past melds with his present in an inspirational journey of self-discovery and second chances.
Amazon.com – Academy Award winner Robert Duvall (1983, Best Actor, Tender Mercies) is Felix Bush, the “Hermit of Caleb County,” a man so haunted by his secrets that he has lived in quiet desolation in the Tennessee backwoods for over 40 years. Realizing that he is near his own mortality, Bush decides to have a “living funeral party,” inviting people to tell their stories about him. Enlisting the help of Frank Quinn (Golden Globe winner Bill Murray, 2004, Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Lost in Translation) and Buddy Robinson (Lucas Black, Legion), Bush goes through a process of self-discovery, allowing him to deal with his past secrets, including ones involving old flame (and new widow) Mattie (Academy Award® winner Sissy Spacek, 1980, Best Actress, Coal Miner’s Daughter).