Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thursday Movie Picks: Movies with Ensemble Casts - Hidden Gems

It's Thursday once again, so it's time for another entry in Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme. In case you're just joining us on this little adventure, and please do, bloggers are asked to pick three movies every Thursday based on the subject she has selected. You can either go with the best (or your favorites), the worst (or least favorites), hidden gems, or take a crack at multiple categories.

This week's subject is movies with ensemble casts. As opposed to last week's meme, this one is an extremely broad topic. With so many out there, I chose to go with hidden gems. These aren't totally obscure, to be sure, but they've gotten a lot less recognition than I think they deserve. I just want to shed a little light on three pictures that have faded away with the 90s.

My hidden gems are:

The Big Hit
The Ensemble: Mark Wahlberg, Lou Diamond Phillips, Bokeem Woodbine, Antonio Sabato Jr., China Chow, Christina Applegate, Lela Rochon, Avery Brooks, Robin Dunne, Sab Shimono, Lainie Kazan, Elliott Gould
Less than a year earlier, Mark Wahlberg had his first real big hit, another ensemble cast flick by the name of Boogie Nights. When this action-comedy flick hit theaters, it opened #1 at the box office, but was quickly forgotten in subsequent weeks. I find it to be a very funny movie about a team of underappreciated team of assassins. When they take a job kidnapping a rich Japanese businessman's daughter, their star player, Wahlberg, finds himself trying to protect the girl. Much like in Boogie Nights, he's just lovably goofy. Lou Diamond Phillips is amazing, here. So, too, are most of his co-stars. Most critics dismissed it. Audiences were rather lukewarm. I had a great time watching it.

Get on the Bus
The Ensemble: Charles S. Dutton, Andre Braugher, Isaiah Washington, Hill Harper, Ossie Davis, Bernie Mac, Wendell Pierce, De'aundre Bonds, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Gabriel Casseus, Albert Hall, Steve Hall, Charles Robinson
A year earlier, Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam led The Million Man March on Washington, D.C. It was to be a day of atonement for African American men. It was well attended with many communities sending busloads of black men to the event. Spike Lee's Get on the Bus is a fictional account of one such trip. There are a broad cross-section of personalities representing all walks of life. It's a fun ride with something to say. As far as the public was concerned,  it was met with indifference. It was well reviewed, but has fell out of favor over the years. I'm not sure why. Sure, it's not one of Spike's best, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

Set it Off
The Ensemble: Jada Pinkett Smih, Vivica A. Fox, Queen Latifah, Kimberly Elise, Blair Underwood, John C. McGinley, Ella Joyce, Charles Robinson, Dr. Dre, Chaz Lamar Shepherd
It's not a list of hidden gems unless it uncovers a 'hood classic. This one follows a group of four young ladies facing some serious financial woes. What other way is there to fix your money issues than to start robbing banks? Well, maybe there are other ways, but that's what these ladies decide to do. It becomes an inner-city crime drama that tells most of its story from the bad girls' point of view. There are a number of really good performances, but the real treat here is Queen Latifah. Her character Cleo is by far the most thugged out of the crew. Everything about Cleo runs completely counter to Latifah's well crafted public persona. I don't know how well known it is outside of 'hood movie aficianados, but it did well at the box office grossing roughly four and a half times its $9 million budget. Still, it was hardly a huge crossover success. That's why I call it a hidden gem. It's an underrated heist movie that deserves more eyeballs.


  1. I am loving this week's more open topic. I don't think I've really heard about any of the the movies you pick before and now I have :)

  2. Wow, I don't think I've seen any of these.

    1. Maybe they're even more hidden than I thought.