As we get closer to ending 2014 you’ll see an endless amount of lists, Best of, Worst of, Biggest Stories, etc., but the past few years I’ve done a Best Under the Radar DVD/VOD list and people seem to dig it so I’m doing it again this year. I tried to stick with mainly straight to DVD or VOD titles, but some films here did get a smaller theatrical release. Those are films I thought deserved some more recognition or just didn’t get seen throughout the entire US. Below are my picks (unless noted differently) for The Best Under the Radar DVDs/VODs of 2014.
Run & Jump – I first saw it at the Boston Irish Film Festival and later on DVD. It played 3 theaters in the US and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Will Forte proves Nebraska was no fluke and that he can be a really good dramatic actor. The Irish film has heart, comedy, and a touching story with one of the best Irish Mom characters in years.
Cuban Fury – I have no idea why this didn’t get a bigger release in the States. Nick Frost plays a dumpy, out of luck guy trying to impress his new American boss (Rashida Jones). The much underrated Chris O’Dowd is his nemesis and there’s plenty of Salsa dancing. Frost dances and gets big laughs in a lead role that will surprise people who only think of him as Simon Pegg’s sidekick.
$50k and a Call Girl – Ross Patterson has made the list the past 2 years and with this documentary, he makes 2014 as well. The film is about a young guy finding out he is dying and travels the country with his brother crossing off things on his bucket list (called something else in the film!). I don’t want to spoil too much of the film because you are better off just watching it which you can for FREE here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/663052
The Grand Seduction – One of the bigger banking films on the list, I really enjoyed this Taylor Kitsch/Brendan Gleeson flick. Gleeson plays a small Canadian fisherman who convinces the town folk into trying to trick Kitsch into living in their town. They need a local doctor in order to get a factory to supply jobs and Kitsch is a doctor in some legal troubles. It’s funny, has heart and Kitsch & Gleeson are great together.
The Art of the Steal – A funny, slick, art heist film out of Canada starring Kurt Russell. Russell plays an aging motorcycle daredevil and thief and the film has an array of characters in it. Matt Dillon, Jay Baruchel, Chris Diamantopoulos, Terence Stamp and the beautiful Katheryn Winnick also star in this fun crime caper.
The Sacrament – Editor Mike Spring thought the film was stunning. He has liked previous Ti West films, but this one finally lived up to his full potential. Mike called it a masterpiece of tension!
The Human Race – A great indie horror/sci-fi piece from director Paul Hough. If you liked The Hunger Games or Battle Royale definitely look into it. Eighty people must race or die. Follow the rules or die. Get lapped and die! Tons of great deaths that put big budget films to shame. Plus it stars the one legged ass kicker Eddie McGee who shows just how deadly crutches can be in the right hands!
Stretch – After watching the film, writer Rocky Maxwell had no idea how Joe Carnahan’s latest didn’t get a theatrical release. If you follow Carnahan on Twitter you know how the studio screwed the film over and forced it to VOD & Netflix. Maxwell says it has a great cast, has solid performances and is highly entertaining.
Someone Marry Barry – It’s no big secret we here at IWM2$ love Tyler Labine and I completely enjoyed this comedy. It’s a genuinely funny romantic comedy which is a genre that usually disappoints me. The supporting cast of Damon Wayans Jr., Hayes MacArthur, Thomas Middleditch and Frankie Shaw are good, but it’s Labine and the train wreck that is Lucy Punch that make the film. You can watch it with your buddies or with a date!
Favor – The classic “How far would you go for a friend?” angle has been used many times before, but this indie handles it with a much more dark twist. Maybe that should say twists because there are quite a few. Patrick Day as the “friend” steals the film and his character Marvin goes on a rollercoaster of a ride that Day just completely crushes as an actor. It never tries to outsmart itself and the ending is yet another twist.
Welcome to the Jungle – A ridiculous comedy, but man it’s a lot of fun. Jean Claude Van Damme seems to be having a blast playing a character that is like a combination of all his former movies. Adam Brody is a normal, every day type trying to deal with co-workers on a company retreat. Megan Boone as a love interest is always a smart idea. Plus Rob Huebel seems to be playing a 1980s douche bag bad guy ala William Zabka.
Snowpiercer – Probably the biggest film on the list, it was actually released on VOD the same day as theaters so I’m loopholing it. It’s also on the list because it’s one of my favorite films of the year regardless of platform. Chris Evans shows he is much more than Captain America. Another film similar to Battle Royale, Evans leads a revolution on a train and man is it violent, intense and thought provoking.
Cheap Thrills – Probably the darkest comedy of the year, David Koechner is pretty amazing in it. It’s demented and makes you question how far you’ll go for money. Pat Healy and Ethan Embry play a crazy game of Fear Factor with Koechner as puppet master. Plus it has a nice twist ending.
Locke – Another “bigger” film on the list, it had a limited release at theaters and it’s another that’s one of my favorites of 2014. The film is pretty much Tom Hardy in a car talking on the phone, but man Hardy is top notch. It shouldn’t work, but Hardy grabs your attention and holds it the entire movie. It’s somehow intense and captivating and Hardy shows he’s much more than Bane.
By the Gun – Just recently released on VOD (and with a limited theatrical release), Ben Barnes takes on a gritty, Boston gangster role that he actually pulls off. The big surprise though is rapper/actor Slaine who surprised the hell out of me. Fans of Boston crime drama films will surely like it.
The One I Love – For some reason I thought this film was more mainstream than it was. I completely adored it. Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass are great together. It has a twist you won’t see coming and I found it very entertaining.
Are You Here – I have no idea why this movie is THIS bad. Owen Wilson, Zach Galifianakis and Amy Poehler star in a film from Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner yet it’s pretty bad. It’s not funny. It’s not that entertaining and I can’t figure out how all this talent produced this bad of a movie!
Space Station 76 – Another film that should have been a home run, slam dunk of a cult classic yet it’s more a head scratcher than entertaining. I’m a big fan of Patrick Wilson, Matt Bomer and Liv Tyler and I’m a huge sci-fi fan yet this did nothing for me. It’s sort of a spoof/dark comedy and homage of older science fiction films yet when I finally watched it, I didn’t understand why it was taken so seriously. It should have been a campy fun time!
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