It’s the long awaited return of our classic series, “Add It To Your Queue.” When you’ve watched Jaws, Back to the Future and The Matrix too many times. When you’ve gone through the list of Oscar winners, and new releases, we’ve got something else for you. Something off the beaten path. Something that maybe didn’t make as big of a splash as it should have, didn’t make a lot of money or garner a lot of awards, or maybe it did, but has gotten a little lost in the passing years. Clear your Netflix queue (or iTunes or Apple TV or Amazon or Hulu or wherever you stream) and make some room for a few of these overlooked gems, all comedies, that come from unlikely directors.
Martin Scorsese is best known for the hard hitting dramas such as Mean Streets, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. But after Raging Bull’s success, Scorsese would helm two of the greatest dark comedies ever made. He would team up with DeNiro for the wonderful creepy and satirical The King Of Comedy, which would feature a dynamic return to form performance by Jerry Lewis and a career-making turn by Sandra Bernhard. After Hours perfectly captures 1980s New York with Griffin Dunne turning in a pitch perfect performance as a computer data-entry worker whose attempt to hook with a woman he met at a local cafe (Rosanna Arquette) turns into a nightmarish attempt to get out of a SoHo that is far removed what it is today. Both films underperformed at the box office and is generally passed over when mentioning Scorsese’s best work. But when viewed with fresh eyes, it will give the viewer a newfound appreciation for the range of material Scorsese is willing to tackle.
You can rent both movies on most On Demand services or watch After Hours on Hulu with a subscription.
Bill Murray’s string of hits in the 80s and 90s goes without saying. But wedged between Scrooged, Ghostbusters 2 (yes, it was a hit), What About Bob and Groundhog Day, there’s this 1990 comedy, which, to date, is the only film Murray has ever directed. He stars as Grimm, a disgruntled city worker who, along with his girlfriend (Geena Davis) and best friend (Randy Quaid) successfully rob a bank. The robbery goes off flawlessly. It’s when they actually try to leave the city is when the delicate fabric of their plan falls apart. Murray is in classic form as the jaded Grimm, dealing with every New Yorkers nightmare associated with that time: gangsters, muggers, rude bus drivers, cabbies who don’t speak English, getting lost in Brooklyn, and, of course, the cops. He also shows himself to be a solid director, using New York City as a perfect canvas for the comedic mayhem. In addition to Davis and Quaid, the strong cast also includes Hollywood legend Jason Robards, Stanley Tucci, Phil Hartman, Tony Shalhoub, and comedy legend Bob Elliot. Despite solid reviews, the film bombed upon its initial release, and didn’t get a proper DVD release until 2006. But its the one overlooked Bill Murray comedy that deserves another look.
Available free to stream on Vudu or rent on demand from Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play and more.
With dynamic performances in such dramas as Lillies In The Field, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and In The Heat Of The Night, Sidney Poitier is easily in the conversation as one of cinema’s greatest dramatic actors. But he also made a considerable mark as a director, helming a series of successful comedies in the 70s. With the success of blaxploitation films such as Shaft, Coffy and Superfly, Poitier was given the green light to direct the 1974 film, Uptown Saturday Night. He co-stars with Bill Cosby as two friends who have to wade the criminal underworld to retrieve their stolen lottery ticket. Unhappy with the racial and sexual caricatures of Black men and women that were present in blaxploitation films, the two time Academy Award winner was able to prove that you can deliver a solid comedy without resorting to stereotype. He also was able to bring in some serious star power by having two of the biggest comedic talents at the time – Richard Pryor and Flip Wilson – appear in supporting roles. Though it was a big hit with black audiences, Uptown Saturday Night was only able to break even on its initial budget. But it did establish Poitier’s reputation as a director, laying the groundwork for his most critically acclaimed and commercial films in the director’s chair: Let’s Do It Again (which paired him again with Cosby) and the Richard Pryor-Gene Wilder hit, Stir Crazy. But it was Uptown Saturday Night that laid a vital blueprint for that success.
Available to rent on demand on Prime, iTunes, Youtube, Google Play and more.
The birth of pro football – and the early compromises it made to achieve national footing – was the basis of George Clooney’s directorial follow up to the Oscar-nominated Good Night, And Good Luck. Clooney stars as Jimmy ‘Dodge’ Connelly, captain of the fledgling Duluth Bulldogs. Hoping to give the team – and the league – a financial shot in the arm, Dodge signs World War I war hero and former Princeton college football star Carter ‘The Bullet’ Rutherford (John Krasinski). Carter’s superior athleticism and good looks quickly makes him the face of the league, drawing the attention of Chicago Tribune writer Lexie Littleton (Renee Zellweger). It also draws the interest of the Congressional appointed new league commissioner, who institutes new rules that take away most of the game’s more entertaining improvisational aspects. Carter and Dodge are both attracted to Lexie, who, unbeknownst to both, is working on a story that will expose the truth about his war exploits. All of this plays out on the field as Carter, who has switched to rival Chicago and Dodge play against one another. Clooney, who based the film on the now defunct NFL team, The Duluth Eskimos, captures the loose, anything goes style of play, along with the flow and feel of the Roaring Twenties (Having Randy Newman doing the score doesn’t hurt either). The interplay between him, Krasinski and Zellweger is playful, sharp and fun. Leatherheads underperformed at the box office, but its a film that works as a comedy and sports movie, with political undertones bubbling under the surface.
Available Free on Hulu (with Subscription), Rent on YouTube, itunes, Google Play, Prime, Vudu and More.
Warren Beatty’s political satire barely broke even when it was released in 1998, but given the current political landscape, this film does for politics what Network did for the state of TV news. Beatty wrote, directed, produced and stars as Jay Bulworth, a once liberal California Senator who has now adopted more conservative stances and has no problems accepting corporate donations. Unhappy with his life, he puts out a contract on himself to be assassinated within two days so his daughter can receive 10 million dollars In life insurance money. Knowing he’s going to die, Bulworth gets drunk, stoned, and begins to speak – and freestyle rap – freely at re-election events with no filter. He also becomes close to Nina (Hallie Berry), a young Black activist following his campaign. But instead of being the final nail in his coffin, Bulworth becomes a media darling, adding a much needed spark to his campaign and making him re-consider the assassination plans. Beatty goes all in the lead role, with a transformation from political sellout to take no prisoners truth teller that is both shocking and hilarious. Berry, as the around the way girl whose much more politically savvy that she gives off, is just as good. Beatty, as always, assembles a killer supporting cast, including long time collaborator Jack Warden, Don Cheadle, the always lethal Christine Baranski (as Bulworth’s long suffering wife), and Oliver Platt as Bulworth’s exasperated campaign manager. Beatty will never be compared to Tupac, but the brutal truths in his raps about health care, dark money, and how the Black vote repeatedly gets taken for granted, ring more true today than they did 22 years ago. It’s a film in the Beatty canon that seriously needs to be rediscovered.
Available to rent on demand on YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes and more.