It’s that time of year again. It’s list making time! You know, The Best of, The Worst of and all that jazz. Well since I don’t like doing what everyone else does, I’m giving you the Best Under the Radar Films of 2016. I’ve done this a few times on other sites in past years so it’s time to do one for my own site. Plus assistant editor Rocky Maxwell might have a pick or two on the list as well.
I’m separating the picks into two categories. The first is the more mainstream movies with big name casts, “Hollywood Indies” I like to call them. For whatever reason they didn’t get big releases or did the VOD route. Second is the real Indie, straight to DVD, nobody has heard of type films. All of these films will get repeated plays for years to come at my house and if you haven‘t seen them, you should. In no particular order.
Everybody Wants Some!! – Richard Linklater’s soul-spirited unofficial sequel to Dazed & Confused captures early 1980’s life perfectly. With fantastic music, terrible clothing and characters you can relate to, it’s equal parts sports movie, college party movie and coming of age story. I loved it.
Don’t Think Twice – Mike Birbiglia made a film that I’m pretty sure was made for me. It’s a look at the lives of improv comedians at various stages in their lives. His character is a mid to late 30s guy still trying to get his big break. It’s funny, charming, emotional and brilliant.
Sing Street – Director John Carney goes back to Ireland to tell the story of 1980’s Irish kids putting a band together. The music is catchy. The characters are human. The brother storyline hits way too close to home. You’ll be singing and smiling throughout the movie.
The Lobster – The darkest comedy of the year is also one of the funniest. I literally laughed out loud throughout the movie. A completely absurd film, Colin Farrell, John C. Reilly and Rachel Weisz deadpan an entire film. The dancing, eating, the actual premise of the movie is completely over the top and I totally enjoyed it.
Swiss Army Man – Known as the farting corpse movie starring Daniel Radcliffe and Paul Dano, I call it the Harry Potter Penis Compass Movie. It’s another completely absurd movie, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Radcliffe continues to impress me and distances himself from Harry Potter. The score is fantastic. The direction is fantastic and you never quite know what it is you’re watching.
Midnight Special – To talk about the film might spoil it, but it’s one of the better sci-fi dramas in years. Michael Shannon continues to be one of the best American actors in the game, but it’s the young actor playing his son in the film that shines and steals the movie. Writer/director Jeff Nichols adds another fantastic film to his resume.
Morris from America – One of the most authentic, grounded, realistic, and honest films you’ll see this year. Markees Christmas, who plays Morris, nails teen angst, nails wanting to fit in, nails having a crush on a girl and not understand girls. Craig Robinson is fantastic as the dad and there’s a scene towards the end when he has a heart to heart with Morris about girls and how he met his mother that was a perfect father/son conversation.
Hello, My Name is Doris – One of the nicest surprises of the year. Sally Field is absolutely adorable and hilarious in this hidden gem. I was expecting them to really mock older people and sure there’s some Facebook and not understanding today’s world jokes in it, but it’s more sweet than mean.
Now for some films you might not be familiar with.
Range 15 – If you’ve followed my career, and let’s be honest, odds are you haven’t, you’d know that Ross Patterson has made this list every year since I started it. Patterson directed this record-breaking TUGG film made by military vets for military vets. The zombie film is a favorite of myself and asst. editor Rocky Maxwell as well. It’s violent and offensive and completely politically incorrect and I loved it.
Blessid – A nice little indie drama with good visuals and style. It has strong performances from its leads Rachel Kerbs and Rick Montgomery Jr. I liked the look and feel of the film and it has a big reveal that doesn’t feel forced or out-of-place. Just a solid little movie with quality acting and feel.
The Suffering – A taut little thriller that has a strong performance from its lead and it never fully unravels its secrets until the end. Nick Apostolides holds your attention throughout the film and you never quite know if what he’s seeing is real or if he’s imagining it. It’s just a solid indie thriller with a strong lead.
Sexsquatch 2 – It’s as bad yet good as the first one plus the crew goes super meta with it. The filmmakers obviously read reviews of the first movie because they refer to themselves as more than just one dimensional characters in this one. It’s everything I want in an intentionally bad movie.
Vigilante Diaries – A pretty solid action flick written by and starring Paul Sloan who I’m keeping on my radar. He’s been around for a while, but with films like this and I Am Wrath, another film he wrote and stars in, Sloan could become a big name in lower budget action videos. The action is solid, the visuals are cool, everything I want in a film like this. I also liked I Am Wrath so do a doubleheader with that and this film.
Beta Test – Rocky Maxwell thought it was probably one of the better low-budget/indie action films (or really films in general) he’s seen especially recently. The plot isn’t anything groundbreaking, but the movie doesn’t feel like the same old thing either. There are several great action sequences in the film including a really good long take action sequence.
Crazed – Rocky Maxwell greatly enjoyed the movie. It was very over-the-top and violent. You can see the graphic novel influence, especially in some of the aesthetics, like in the city landscape shots, and the scenes where the characters are driving. Some of the characters are also the type you are more likely to see in a graphic novel.