Within some of our favourite films, there will undoubtedly be a personal favourite that we consider as under-appreciated by fellow critics and moviegoers. As our new magazine celebrates guilty-pleasures, our writers pick their favourite films that have been under-appreciated and are worth defending.
After Earth (2013), dir. M. Night Shyamalan
M.Night Shyamalan has received more than his fair share of criticism as a director, and After Earth might be his most hated film alongside The Last Airbender. The vitriol towards After Earth has always been a little confusing – both stars Will and Jaden Smith seem to be magnets for criticism, just as Shyamalan has been since 2000’s Unbreakable – but in the last few years, it seems that a growing number of moviegoers are starting to come around to After Earth a little more. It’s undoubtedly an odd awry piece of sci-fi, but there is something genuinely elegant at its core which overtakes the film’s flaws completely. The tagline “Fear is a choice” emphasises the story’s focus on overcoming anxiety and although it might strike as insensitive, the way how Shyamalan articulates it visually is genuinely beautiful and arguably reminiscent of Werner Herzog’s war epic Rescue Dawn. Although typical in Shyamalan’s work, After Earth handles it in a unique manner that actually uses its action to navigate the steps towards recovery. It’s not a perfect film but it’s far, far better than many have allowed.
The Lone Ranger (2013), dir. Gore Verbinski
Back when Disney was daring with its live action project, the company pumped an enormous budget into what would become a gigantic box office flop: The Lone Ranger. Unfairly hammered by critics, this blockbuster Western deserves a lot more love. Pairing up Johnny Depp and director Gore Verbinski together for the fifth time, The Lone Ranger has all the smooth camera work, narrative propulsion and ridiculous humour that made Pirates of the Caribbean such a hit. It is a mighty 150 minutes in length and is not without any flaws, but what critics missed was the palpable sense of fun that everyone involved was having. Quentin Tarantino is one of the few authorities who has praised it, in particular its bombastic climax which, set to the Hans Zimmer’s refining of the William Tell Overture, stages one of the most impressive train-orientated action sequences ever. It’s a shame bad publicity around the film’s budget led to audiences turning away, and it is an even mightier shame that critics forgot to have some fun at the cinema. Perhaps Disney’s stale slate of current live action films is due to the backfired risk of making this splendidly enjoyable and different film.
Crossroads (2002), dir. Tamra Davis
Crossroads on release received countless negative reviews across the critic spectrum, however I beg to argue that it isn’t as bad as it seems. To begin with, it stars Britney Spears and features her covering ‘I Love Rock & Roll’ by the Arrows, which is arguably one of the best covers of all time and never would have existed without Crossroads. As for the film itself, it’s about the power of friendship as three former friends, who drifted apart during high school, reunite to open up their ‘wish box’ and follow the dreams they had made when they were only six years old. In hindsight may seem bad to others actually tackles issues like sexual assault, growing up and finding your own place in the wider world. It has cringy elements that are expected from a 2002 teen flick, but is still fantastic nonetheless especially since it used Britney Spears’s stardom as a huge platform to discuss important issues like sexual assault. It may be a little cringy to some, but it’s still a very under-appreciated movie that got more hate than it deserved.
Brassed Off, dir. Mark Herman
Nestled within the catalogue of 90s British classics like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Trainspotting, Mark Herman’s Brassed Off is a name that probably won’t leap out when mentioned. At face value, it’s a sentimental comedy-drama about the colliery brass band of Grimley as they attempt to reach the National Final at the Royal Albert Hall. But underpinning this tale is a brutal reminder of Thatcherist Britain as Grimley’s struggle to keep their pit open reflects a difficult moment in British history where jobs were lost, and entire working-class communities were wiped out overnight. There are notable subplots including a budding romance between Ewan McGregor and Tara Fitzgerald but at the very centre is an outstanding turn by Pete Postlethwaite as the band’s conductor Danny. It’s a performance that wears its heart on its sleeve and watching him nobly conduct the band to Joaquín Rodrigo’s ‘Concerto de Aranjuez’ as they’re on the verge of losing their jobs always leaves me in tears. In recent years, it’s gained a cult following within the brass band community but nonetheless, it’s still one of the most overlooked British films of the 90s that deserves more love and respect.