Great Movies You Might Have Missed From A-Z, Part Two

Continuing my list of recommended movies you may have missed that starts with the letter…”  This time it’s the letter F thru J.

F: There are a lot of great movies that start with the letter F.  From “Fargo” to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, to “The Fugitive”, to “Ferris Buellers Day Off”, to “Forrest Gump”, to “Finding Nemo” and its sequel “Finding Dory”.  However, not many people mention this fairly recent movie

Fighting With my Family (2019) – Based on a true story, a young woman who grew up in a family full of amateur wrestlers (television wrestling, not Olympic wrestling) gets chosen to join the most famous wrestling group in the world.

This is one of the first movies written and directed by Stephen Merchant solo (he created the UK TV show “Extras” and the original UK version of “The Office” with Ricky Gervais), and one of the first leading roles for Florence Pugh.  It’s based on the true story of former WWE women’s champion “Paige” (real name: Saraya Jade Bevis – she’s currently working for another wrestling organization) who worked with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the WWE.  According to reports, he saw a documentary about her family and decided to buy the rights to make this movie.

Of course, this is a wrestling movie but it’s also about a family.  When the daughter Saraya (Florence Pugh) gets picked to join the WWE but her older brother Zak (Jack Lowden) doesn’t, the whole family – which includes father Ricky (Nick Frost) and mother Julia (Lena Headey) – is torn between being supportive of her and being upset that she has to leave her family behind to go chase her dreams.   Dwayne Johnson (playing himself) and Vice Vaughn are also very good in their roles.  Keep an eye out for a funny cameo from writer/director Stephen Merchant playing a friend of the family.  

By the way, as they say in one scene of this movie, television wrestling is NOT fake.  It’s STAGED – just like a play or a movie is staged.  They know who the winner of the match will be, there’s a lot of exaggeration, sometimes there’s overacting, sometimes there’s melodrama, often when someone hits another person they aren’t hitting them very hard.  However, the jumps, flips, and other wrestling moves are real.  Wrestlers often get injured.  In fact, the real “Paige” left the WWE for a while because she was seriously injured.

The main downside to this movie is that it’s co-produced by Dwayne Johnson and “WWE Studios” (the WWE production company), so there’s a lot of scenes showing how great and how popular the WWE is.  They frequently overdo it.

I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

G: A couple of my favorite movies of all time start with a G – “Godfather” and “Godfather Part 2” (don’t like the 3rd movie that much).  There are also other great movies starting with G such as “Goodfellas”, “Gone with the Wind”, “Gremlins”, “Grease”, “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies, “Good Will Hunting”, and “Gladiator”.  My recommendation must be the shortest movie title starting with “G”.

Go (1999) – A night of drug deals and partying told from 3 different points of view.

This movie is one of the first directed by Doug Liman for a major studio.  He directed it right after he directed “Swingers”.  It has a great cast including Sarah Polley, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Taye Diggs, Katie Holmes, Desmond Askew, and Timothy Olyphant (who I think is just 1 film away from becoming a big star).

The story is one night told from 3 different perspectives.  The first perspective is Simon (Desmond Askew) who needs someone to cover his shift at the supermarket because he’s going to Las Vegas with friends for the weekend.  When he finds out Ronna (Sarah Polley) needs money for rent, he talks her into covering his shift.  The second perspective is Ronna who is approached by Zack (Jay Mohr) and Adam (Scott Wolf) because they usually buy Ecstasy from Simon.  She tells them she can get Ecstasy to sell them.  The third perspective is Zack and Adam who were arrested by the police and forced to go into the supermarket to buy Ecstasy from their dealer while wearing a wire.  Since their usual guy isn’t around, the police officer Burke (William Fichtner) says Ronna is just as good. 

The best thing about this movie is that there’s 3 unique stories that are all connected and keep intersecting each other.  First at the supermarket, then at a rave that almost everyone visits (except Simon who is in Las Vegas), then in the morning at Todd’s apartment.  

There are some great characters in this movie including Todd (Timothy Olyphant) – Ronna and Simons drug dealer who lends Simon a credit card for his trip to Las Vegas, Claire (Katie Holmes) – a friend and co-worker of Ronna and Simon who is left at Todd’s house until Ronna can pay him back, Mannie (Nathan Bexton) – who has some very funny scenes when he’s high on Ecstasy, and watch out for a young Melissa McCarthy (before she was famous) in one quick scene.

The only problem with this movie is it came out a few years after “Pulp Fiction”, so it tries to copy that movie by showing scenes out of order.  It gets a little confusing in places.  I end up thinking, “is this before or after that other scene?”  Also, one of Simons friends on his trip to Las Vegas is a white guy named Tiny (Breckin Meyer) who acts like he’s black, an old and stupid joke.

I give it 7 out of 10.

H: When you think of movies starting with H most people automatically start with the Harry Potter movies.  There’s also “Hoosiers”, “Home Alone” movies, “Happy Gilmore”, “The Hangover” movies, and some people even name this movie.

Hot Fuzz (2007) – A by-the-book London police officer is transferred to an idyllic small village,

Directed by Edgar Wright, written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. This movie didn’t do well at first in theaters, but it has become a cult classic.  It’s the 2nd movie in a trilogy that fans call “Three Flavours Cornetto”.  The other two movies – “Shaun of the Dead”, and “The Worlds End” also have the same director, writers, and stars.

This movie is a unique version of the buddy cop movie.  After annoying the other police officers in London with his regulations and by-the-book rules, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) gets transferred to the small town of Sanford.  Everything seems quiet for Angel and his new partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) until a series of murders which the other police call “unfortunate accidents”.  Nicholas clashes with the rest of the town when he tries to uncover the truth.

There’s a lot of tradition action movie quick cuts in this movie – even for normal things like buying flowers from a florist.  Thanks to Danny Butterman – a huge action movie fan – there’s also some tributes to other action movies like “Bad Boys” and “Point Break” – which Danny and Nicholas watch together one night.

The movie also has a great cast which includes Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, and Olivia Coleman.  Plus, some great cameos including Stephen Merchant, an uncredited Cate Blanchett (wearing a mask), and a blink and you’ll miss him uncredited Peter Jackson (dressed as Santa).

The only thing I didn’t really like is that there’s a little too much violence in a couple scenes.  I don’t think they needed to have so much blood.  Other action movies don’t have as much blood as this movie has.

I give it 8 out of 10.

I: When I think of movies starting with I, the first thing most people think of is the “Indiana Jones” movies, or the “Iron Man” movies, or movies such as “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Inception”, and the animated “Inside Out”.  Not many people mention my recommendation.

The Idolmaker (1980) – Based on the life of rock promoter/producer Bob Marcucci, who discovered Frankie Avalon and Fabian.

One of the first movies directed by Taylor Hackford – who went on to direct a couple other musical biographies including the Academy Award nominated “Ray”.  The music in the movie is by Jeff Barry who wrote and produced several real hit songs in the 60s and 70s for bands like The Archies, Neil Diamond, and The Monkees.

Vincent Vacarri (Ray Sharkey) is trying to break into the music business.  He’s written some songs that he’s sure will be hits with his friend and writing partner Gino Pilato (Joe Pantoliano).  However, he’s missing the one thing needed to become a hit singer in the 1950s – “the look”.  So, he finds singers to perform his songs – Tomaso DeLorusso (Paul Land) who he renames “Tommy Dee” and then Guido Bevaloqua (Peter Gallagher) who he renames Caesare – and molds them into big stars under his strict supervision.  However, once they become famous, they get courted by talent agents from major companies and they rebel against Vincent’s strict rules.

Some great acting by Ray Sharkey (who won a Golden Globe for the role), Peter Gallagher, Paul Land, and Joe Pantoliano.  I believe it is the very first movie role for everyone except Ray Sharkey.  Maureen McCormick (Marsha from the TV show “The Brady Bunch”) has a small part in this movie and so does Olympia Dukakis.  The musical performances in the movie are filmed and choreographed very well and I believe all the songs are actually sung by the actors.

However, the story occasionally falters.  In some scenes, it looks like they’re trying to copy scenes from “Saturday Night Fever” and in other scenes it looks like they’re trying to copy scenes from “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” (both movies came out right before this movie was made).  Plus, the movie says Cesare (Peter Gallagher) is 16 years old in the movie.  He looks like he’s at least 20 years old (he was actually 24 when the movie was made).  

One note of warning: The movie is rated PG but if this movie was released today, it would probably get an R rating.  There’s adult language, drug use, drunk driving, and adult situations including a scene with an attempted statutory rape. 

I give it a 7 out of 10

J: When you think of movies that start with the letter J the first movie for a lot of people would be “Jaws”.  Some people might also think of the Jurassic Park/World movies, JFK, Jerry Maguire, Juno, or the John Wick movies.  My movie would probably not be mentioned by many people.

Jexi (2019) – A man develops a relationship with a Siri like voice on his phone named “Jexi”.

Written and directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who are the guys who wrote “The Hangover” movies and wrote and directed the “Bad Moms” movies.

Phil (Adam Devine) doesn’t have much of a life.  When he’s not working for his mean boss Kai (Michael Pena), he’s usually at home alone using his phone to order food and watch movies.  He develops a relationship with the new voice on his new cellphone named Jexi (voice by Rose Byrne).  Jexi helps improve his life by making him do things he doesn’t usually do like going out with his co-workers Craig and Elaine (Ron Funches and Charlyne Yi) and calling a woman he’s interested in – Cate (Alexandra Shipp) – and then doesn’t let him hang up by moving the hang-up button all over the screen.

There have been a few other movies that have had a similar storyline such as “Her” and a subplot in “Blade Runner 2049”, but none of the previous movies did it as an adult comedy like this movie does.  There are some funny scenes in the movie such as when Jexi orders healthy food instead of his usual junk food, loudly insults his boss during a staff meeting, and refuses to send a picture of Phil’s junk to Cate.  Then, the movie gets much funnier after Jexi gets mad at Phil because he leaves the cellphone behind when he goes on a date with Cate.  The next morning, Jexi doesn’t ring the alarm, tells him the incorrect weather, tells him the fastest route to his work will take 3 days and goes through 2 other states, and then sends the picture of Phil’s junk to EVERYONE in his office.  

However, there are also some really unfunny bits.  For example: there’s a sex scene which involves plugging and unplugging the power cord on the cellphone repeatedly.  The sex scene is not funny, however the screen on the cellphone at the end of it is very funny.  I wouldn’t be surprised if someone makes that a real screen on cellphones that people can play after having sex.  Without getting too graphic, there’s a “good sex” screen and a “bad sex” screen.

I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

The other letters of the alphabet will be coming. I still need to find movies for some letters.  “Q” is a really hard one for me so far.