Over / Under

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Over / Under

As usual, this ToM will remain at the top of the page for the better part of the day. New stories will appear below!

Sorry folks - I'm not intro-ing a betting function here at ScreenAnarchy but tackling another ToM, this one focused on films other folks love that I hate, and vice-versa - the classic overrated, underrated debate. We all have movies we just can't convince our friends to get behind, and we all have films we're maybe a little ashamed to admit we don't quite "get" or just can't stand. Here are six of mine - three each (of course there are plenty more, both ways). What are some of yours?


The Shining - this is the biggest head-scratcher for most people when I tell them I can't stand it. I can't stand it! Nothing. Freaking. Happens. Long, long, endlessly long shots of nothing. Every single performance, save for the great Melvin Van Peebles' mercifully understated work - skyrockets past the realm of over-the-top into gross histrionics. Was Kubrick trying to goof on the genre? Maybe. But by failing to modulate his actors' hyper work with his glacial aesthetic approach, any such underlying conceit was lost on yours truly. I've loved work by all involved elsewhere... just not this overcooked, over-loved turkey.

Solaris - I shared a great moment with my writing partner recently - we're in the process of hashing out a feature-length sci-fi script and were creating a list of films to re-visit for inspiration - when I mentioned Solaris he said, "I really don't like that film." "Hey, me neither!" I think it was the first time I had ever admitted it out loud - I've watched it twice and just can't derive any enjoyment. Soderbergh's stripped down version is more to my liking. I can't quite put my finger on what rubs me the wrong way with this title - maybe it really is about economy of storytelling in this case. It isn't Tarkovsky's style - I love Stalker - there's just something here I fail to connect with.

American Beauty - an easier target than the above two perhaps, but I'd be hard-pressed to believe anyone who's read Alan Ball's far-superior original script isn't completely outraged by the film Sam Mendes turned it into. Jaunting from saccharine to sarcastic with no regard for overall tone and cluttered with immature imagery, the picture is a complete stumble in the dark, drained of nearly all of Ball's original, biting wit. It's hard to fault the fact that the director seems to have real conviction here - and Mendes would go on to do stellar work in Road to Perdition - but Beauty rates as a manipulative, almost childish exercise in filmmaking that doesn't just lead its audience along, but yanks at its collar in case it has somehow missed the film's important points.

Man, it feels good to get those off my chest!


Dead Again - it isn't that people necessarily hate this film - it's just that most I mention it to have no idea what it is. Filled with great performances from a quirky cast and impressive stylistic and narrative flourishes, Kenneth Branagh's modern spectral noir put him on the map for mainstream audiences... and his own grandiose ego quickly removed him thanks to a run of questionable choices like his turgid, vain re-imagining of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. While Branagh later found success translating a run of Shakespeare to the big screen, his earlier, most impressive work here has been all but forgotten. If you have concerns about what the guy who staged a full reading of Hamlet for the cameras will do to Thor, check this out. You'll be surprised what he holds up his sleeve.

Jacob's Ladder - maybe we've all been jaded by 10+ years of Shyamalyan - but it seems to me there's a backlash among modern audiences against this film that simply can't be accounted for. By far the best picture in Adrian Lyne's maddeningly uneven catalog, the fusing of the central conceit in Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" with the then-culturally nascent concept of post-traumatic stress - experienced by Vietnam vet Tim Robbins in a terrifically calculated performance - results in as vivid a celluloid nightmare yours truly has experienced. Perhaps people coming to the film today really have been jaded by one too many late-game twists to fully appreciate the horrific beauty of what Lyne created here. A shame.

Undisputed - I'm a sucker for both prison and boxing pics, and perpetually underrated genre maven Walter Hill not only manages to successfully combine both here, he coaxes some career-highlight work out of two consistently misused talents - Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames. A bruising, foul-mouthed treatise on male pride and the zen of competition, Hill places his two gladiators in a corrupt penitentiary where mafia don Peter Falk (as great and craggy as ever) arranges a bout to end all bouts. Snipes, in particular, excels here. Always a better actor than he's been given credit for, he turns in strong, introspective work while taking the requisite physical pounding. Hill seems to only ever get so much love - but few filmmakers have been more consistent in delivering the goods over the last 30 years.

It was tougher to narrow the list to three here - so I focused on titles that haven't been featured in past ToMs (to my knowledge, anyway). Some difficult omissions included The Village, Big Trouble in Little China, Hulk, and First Blood.

What about you lot? What are some of your over / unders?

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J HurtadoApril 14, 2009 10:37 PM

I vehemently disagree on The Shining at least. Also, Melvin Van Peebles is in the TV version, in the Kubrick version it is Scatman Crouthers.

The VisitorApril 14, 2009 10:47 PM

Dead Again - i could see the twist coming, but i still enjoyed the movie very much.

Niels MatthijsApril 14, 2009 11:08 PM


12 Angry Men (so easy and transparent)
Barry Lyndon (*brrrr* ugly)
The Big Lebowski (loath the quotes)


Primer (right on the spot)
Diary - Mon Seung(Oxide's best)
Rubber's Lover (I like screaming Japanese people)

manglrApril 14, 2009 11:12 PM

Just as a point of order, Branaugh's run on Shakespeare adaptations started before Dead Again. After all, his Henry V drew critical acclaim 2-3 years before Dead Again. That said, I do love Dead Again...Branaugh's three pack of Henry V-Dead Again-Much Ado About Nothing made him one of the my favorites of that period.

(And yep, too bad he turned to poo after that.)

GodofJoyApril 14, 2009 11:27 PM

completly agree That Shining is not the be-all, end-all in horror film. Nicholson is terribly miscast; the only good bits are the blood filled elevator and the brief glimpse of the furry; kudo's to Kubrick for taking the material and making it his own, but it just never came together into a coherant whole.

Also agree that Ang Lee's treatment of "The Hulk" is underrated. For some reason it's everybodies punching bag and an industry example of when a comic book adaption doesn't work. I thought the cast was great, the visuals were fantastic, and it moved along at a brisk pace and was very entertaining.

other overs: Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, Primer, The English Patient, Evil Dead, Star Wars

other unders: Angel Heart, Sahara, The Cell, The 13th Warrior

abjectnuttinessApril 15, 2009 12:20 AM

Actually I'm somewhat with you on "The Shining" .

Yes I understand it's considered a masterpiece and yes, I totally agree that it is at some points. But as a whole, it's a pretty uneven movie viewing experience. While I can't say "I can't stand" the Shining, I CAN say I've never loved that movie to the degree that others have. It's acting is WAY over the top in some spots. So much so, that I found myself laughing out loud during scenes I'm pretty sure weren't supposed funny (or maybe they were, I don't know...).

I don't know, all I can say is that I've seen it several times now, the first time a LONG time ago by myself and the other times with friends, and still, I come away with that same "meh" sort of feeling.

I imagine you'll get good amount of flack for mentioning that one but kudos to you for going with it anyways.

Collin ArmstrongApril 15, 2009 12:42 AM

Nice finds, as always - SPARTAN is great, probably my favorite Mamet directorial effort. 13TH WARRIOR is another one - an odd duck, but just a whole lot of fun. I love the way they handle the transition from the tribe's native language to English - over a drunken campfire, IIRC! So good.

James DennisApril 15, 2009 1:52 AM

Under: Point Break, Alien 3 (alternate/extended cut), Last Boy Scout, Strange Days
Over: American Beauty, Slumdog Millionaire, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Big Lebowski, Speed, Ring, Revolutionary Road, The Reader, Brokeback Mountain

brettlv5506April 15, 2009 2:02 AM

over= jaws, rocky horror, die hard
under= the fountain, snake of june, shadow of the vampire

Collin ArmstrongApril 15, 2009 2:06 AM

BOONDOCK SAINTS! Yes. Eff that movie. Just absolutely terrible. Good call - honestly, wish I would've thought of it.

POINT BREAK and STRANGE DAYS are good catches too - gotta love Kathryn Bigelow.

GodofJoyApril 15, 2009 3:44 AM

other movies that deserve so much more love. "City of Lost Children" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

Afro SamuraiApril 15, 2009 4:07 AM

Code 46 is a great film that almost no one knows about. Its a fave of mine and is definitly underrated.

SwarezApril 15, 2009 4:46 AM

Overrated: Big Lebowski, sure it's funny but not that "make a fucking cult live style out of it" funny. The Big Blue, just about every single fucking person I knew loooooooooooved this movie when it came out and the poster for it was like the thing to hang on your wall. Pheh! Boring pretentious crap. Ace Ventura both of them, I hate, hate, hate those movies.

Underrated: Exorcist 3, I tend to go on about how I love this film and try to convince people that just because it is called Exorcist 3 it isn't the lame cash in sequel that people think it is. I pray to the gods that Blatty will be able to one day get his preferred cut out there. The Ninth Configuration, another Blatty classic that far too few people know about. Great cast and great acting all around. Cast A Deadly Spell, probably the best H.P. Lovecraft inspired film ever, better than Re-animator and way better written.

James DennisApril 15, 2009 5:20 AM

300 is truly drivel, no-one at the time could understand my dislike of it... thankfully I'm not the only it seems to find it a painfully boring, juvenile (in the worst sense) and pretentious mess.

The VisitorApril 15, 2009 8:16 AM

yay, someone else who hates Life Is Beautiful.

not only is it sentimental shite, it's also completely WRONG. and you're right, Petcor80, people tend to stare you daggers when you say you hate it. one person i know keeps bringing up the fact that it won an Oscar and that it's Zhang Yimou's favourite film. i'm like "SO WHAT?"

PeteskiApril 15, 2009 10:08 AM


The Matrix
Obviously any Academy Award Best Picture winner from the last 30 years (literally)
+ any Speilberg film


Just watched Saturday Evening Sunday Morning. It was so good, I'm surprised I haven't heard of it earlier.

I'm going to check out some of those you guys posted, the ones I haven't seen. Thanks.

Collin ArmstrongApril 15, 2009 10:08 AM

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL... gahaha. Just painful to watch - not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination.

People have come up with some real surprises here - I'd love to see another round of this sometime.

EmmittApril 15, 2009 10:36 AM

You know what? I'm going to stick up for Life is Beautiful. It's well-acted, emotional, and preaches optimism in the face of the worst situations. But seeing as the big thing these days is Oscar-baiting Holocaust movies, I can understand the resentment some may have with it.

I'm also sticking up for Marie Antoinette.

The VisitorApril 15, 2009 12:11 PM

ah Emmitt, you may not realise it but it's quite insulting to suggest we hate Life Is Beautiful just becos it's an "Oscar-baiting Holocaust movie." :)

well, i hate it becos of the overacting, the over-sentimentality, and the fact that it's about white-washing history to protect the child from the horrifying but important truth. plus, it isn't funny at all, and all its efforts to be funny comes off as trying way too hard.

Peter CornelissenApril 15, 2009 3:42 PM

This is indeed a fun topic!
among family and at work there are few, none really, who dislike "life is beautiful" but thankfully those who know movies know better :)
thanks for the great defence of Big Lebowski Kurt, that is truly a great movie... and I even think it's fun to quote from it... but too much fans can make a man suspicious indeed.
I don't feel code 46 is underrated, just under-watched. Everyone I know who saw it loves the movie.
And 300 overrated? that movie has gotten a lot of bashing from when it came out. It has got it's fans, like me, but I don't think it's overrated in general.
I'm going to second Duck you Sucker and Bringing out the Dead for underrated.

Tuan JimApril 15, 2009 5:11 PM

Re: Boondock Saints....I feel similarly ambivalent to it at the moment. However, I also remember first hearing about it back in 2000 for the first time on a dvdtalk.com Friday evening chat - and having to track down the Canadian R1 (rather than the US blockbuster edited DVD). When I first saw it then, it was a lot of fun - and pretty funny overall - still some nice lines....but on repeated viewings since then it hasn't really held up to the same standard. It was cool to show it to friends at work back at uni., but since then it magically became a *college*/*barracks* blockbuster (probably after the 2nd US dvd release) - like Donnie Darko, etc - makes it easy to hate once everyone has seen it/thinks it's cool ;p

chris_macApril 15, 2009 6:01 PM

What a great topic for a , and what a great read the preceding comments have made. A couple have been mentioned that I wouldn't have otherwise checked out before, so thanks for that...

Great call on Slumdog Millionaire, Reservoir Dogs, Boondock Saints being overrated.

Also, well done to those who brought up Spartan, Code 46 and Exorcist 3 for the underrated list.

for me...

Withnail & I
Most overrated film of all time... It may be that being Scottish I'm naturally predisposed to hate a film about 2 middle class english twats, but I just did not find it funny... "Oh look, he's drunk!!!! how funny!!!".... "The fat man!! he's gay!!!! Hilarious!!!"... "Look at the size of that joint!!! it's huge!!! How amusing!!!!" Terrible, terrible comedy.

The Village
I get the feeling I'm gonna get slammed for this one. I never saw the 'twist' coming... really. And I think it's tremendously well paced and plotted, and William Hurt is awesome.

ChevalierAguilaApril 15, 2009 9:13 PM

Solaris is a bore, then again, most "artsy" cinema is a bore as well. That's why labels are so pointless.

My over list? It will be too damn long, but anyway:

Kill Bill
Fight Club
Requiem for a Dream

Maybe those are a bit easy, and they're mostly loved by hipsters and the likes. But boy are those such a waste of film that hardly deserve any word of praise at all.

As for under:

The Great Silence
The Bird People in China

Collin ArmstrongApril 15, 2009 10:39 PM

Oh, and you're in for a serious treat with THE GREAT SILENCE. Wow... helluva movie there.

Kurt HalfyardApril 16, 2009 2:09 AM

Quartet4. Prestige is UNDERRATED. That movie is a perfect film in my book and totally written off by the mainstream.

I've never seen Sorcerer, but I'm a huge lover of WAGES OF FEAR, of which Sorcerer is a remake.

Further flicks in the Underrated department: 28 Weeks Later... , Storytelling, ExistenZ, Innocent Blood, Bob Roberts, WayDownTown, Croupier,

deathwithabeardApril 16, 2009 3:02 AM

When I first read over the thread, I sat at the computer for a while trying to think of what titles should be listed as overrated or underrated. I glanced over to the movie shelf and saw The Return on there, and I do agree that it doesn't get as much attention as I would've liked (and for movies I do love, I must admit, everything becomes underappreciated in my eyes--it's a complex!), but the film was well-liked critically when it came out a few years ago.

I heard the director's second film Banishment was panned when it was released on the festival circuit. So I'm eager to see that one, hoping that it may be very underrated and all that.

Greg ChristieApril 16, 2009 3:06 AM

I didn't know the director of The Return had a follow up. Youtubing the trailer for that right now.

quartet4April 16, 2009 3:47 AM

"The Prestige" is ranked #83 on IMDB with 150,000+ votes. Everyone loves that movie. I don't think it was as written off. Maybe it wasn't as successful at the box office but I remember most critics giving it very good reviews.

Wages of Fear is a fantastic film and I can't wait for the Criterion blu-ray that comes out next week!

Kurt HalfyardApril 16, 2009 5:20 AM

Indiemaker, I caught the follow up film to THE RETURN, "The Banishment" at TIFF in 2007. It's pretty good, not as 'lean' as THE RETURN, as the film is well over 2 hours. It stars the same lead, and has a lot of interesting things to chew on, particularly on the Domestic front. And it is gorgeous to look at. I want to see it again actually.

Wow, I never knew how much THE PRESTIGE was loved. Doesn't change my opinion on it though. Fabulous and smart blockbuster-ish filmmaking.

six stringApril 16, 2009 7:17 AM

"The Great Silence" - Next to Four of the Apocalypse and maybe a few others that I have yet to see ..TGS is probably the most unorthodox Spaghetti Western ever made. Brilliant film!

I'd like to throw out a little Korean film starring Kyung-gu Sol (of Public Enemy fame) called "Cruel Winter Blues". Never do I hear of it. Essentially about the redemption of a highly unsavory joPok (gangster). Very good development and excellent cast interaction between Sol and the mother of his next hit.

dman99April 16, 2009 9:51 PM



rustdogApril 16, 2009 10:10 PM

John Boorman's Emerald Forest is extremely underrated.

GozanApril 19, 2009 8:05 PM

Diary - Mon Seung(Oxide’s best)"

Yes - it's also much scarier than any of their "real" horror movies.