20 Hidden DVD Gems to Seek Out: Vol. 2: Part One

The videostore these days constantly becomes flooded with direct-to-video titles starring actors we thought were dead or stopped making films. The box covers can be deceiving as they are always interesting to look at but the film inside isn’t worthy of your time.

I took my time and found 20 more interesting and over-looked films. There is a reason why films like these end up being lost in videostores. One of the reasons is the layout of a videostore. You have a shelving unit that can have 30 or 40 movies on it and they are all in competition for your attention. You have to base your decision on the fancy and often ambiguous box covers.

Can you imagine if a movie theatre was set-up this way?

Another is that the films released direct-to-video are often either recycled TV movies, US cable movies, movies made specially for video or independent movies that couldn’t generate enough money for a theatrical release. The latter two are the ones people should try to avoid if they can.

The films on this list fit into one of the categories above and were able to enthrall and shine even with those constraints. So on with the list:

1. Bad Influence (1990)

(Thriller) James Spader plays Michael Boll, a wimpy executive who has watched as life has pushed him aside. It all changes when Michael meets the enigmatic Alex (Rob Lowe) who shows him a part of life Michael has been missing. What is Alex all about and does Michael like what he has become?

This little film was a bench-mark for a lot of disenfranchised youth in the early 90s. This film left a mark like the classic “Less than Zero” did for the 80s.

The film was hinged on incredible performances by Spader and Lowe. Also the direction by then unknown director Curtis Hanson (“8 Mile”) made the film stylish and enthralling. Looking back at it now there are a lot of signs of it being dated and trapped in the confines of the 90s but it’s the performances that people should acknowledge. (99 mins) (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

2. Below (2002)

(Drama) After the Tiger Shark submarine, U.S.S. Manta mysteriously lost her captain, Lt. Richard Brice must pull his crew together and unravel an eerie mystery to get his crew home alive.

“Below” is one of those films that got lost in the shuffle of theatrical release. Headlined by sci-fi director David Twohy (Pitch Black), “Below” is one of those films that plays with your mind until the final frame.

It is utterly amazing how involved you can get with this film. Twohy also uses a lot of interesting camera angles to accent the confinement of being in a sub. Twohy also has a lot of support from character actors Bruce Greenwood and Olivia Williams. “Below” is definitely a gem lost in the sea of video. (105 mins) (4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

3. Beyond Suspicion (2000)

(Drama) Also known as “Auggie Rose”, this film stars Jeff Goldblum as John Nolan, a bored insurance salesman who assumes the identity of dead con-man Auggie Rose when he unexpectedly dies in his arms. Nolan must now unravel dead Auggie’s life without his fractured girlfriend, Lucy (Anne Heche), finding out

“Beyond Suspicion” shocked me. It is one of those films that starts off really slow and really doesn’t impress till it makes your jaw drop. What made the film so involving was the relationship between Heche and Goldblum. This is a very awkwardly thrown together couple.

The film loves to plant doubt in the viewer and that makes the characters very engrossing. It reminded me that no matter how bad the first act of a film is you may just have a jewel staring back by the third. (109 mins) (3.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

4.  Castle in the Sky (1986)

(Animated-Fantasy) Hayao Miyazaki’s “Castle in the Sky” chronicles the story of a young boy, Pazu (James Van Der Beek) and young girl Sheeta (Anna Paquin) who hold a mysterious crystal that could unlock the secrets of a deserted floating city. Standing in their way are pirates and some ruthless foreign secret agents.

In the vein of the Academy Award winning “Spirited Away”, “Castle in the Sky” perfectly blends the power of human emotion with that of an engrossing fantasy filled world. Miyazaki miraculously brings so many aspects into his films.

From the music to the breathtaking landscapes there is so much to herald in this film. This is a film for all families or just for the kid in all of us. It is a jewel to be cherished.

(124 mins) (4.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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