Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The best movies you've never seen, unless you've seen 'em

Over at Movies.com, columnist Joal Ryan posted a list entitled "The 25 Best Movies You've Never Seen."

I love lists like this one, although I have to confess I find this particular concept a tad presumptuous. How do you know what movies I have and haven't seen, Joal Ryan? Do you know me? Have you been with me every hour of my movie-watching life? How do you know I didn't catch one of these flicks while you were playing snap-the-towel with the fellas down at 24 Hour Fitness? (Thought I hadn't heard about that, didn't you? I have my sources.)

As it happens, I've seen roughly half the movies on Joal's list, including his top three picks. Here's what I thought:

1. Falling Down (1993). Joel Schumacher's rage-against-the-machine urban nightmare didn't impress me much the first time I saw it. I watched it again some years later, and appreciated it a little more. I still think Schumacher's POV is poorly defined — it's not until late in the film that we know where the director wants us to identify with Michael Douglas's unhinged defense worker, or be appalled by him. Given the bad turns Falling Down could have made, however, it works fairly well. I don't like it as well as some of Schumacher's other work — The Lost Boys, Flatliners, Tigerland, or more recently, Veronica Guerin — but it's worth seeing.

2. Igby Goes Down (2002). I saw this odd little teenage drama only because a lot of people whose opinions I value raved about it. I wasn't as thrilled as they were, but I still liked the movie. It reminded me of a postmodern, slightly darker John Hughes film from the '80s. And I mean that as a compliment.

3. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984). I'm surprised to see Buckaroo Banzai on this list, because with its persistent cult status now two decades old, I doubt there are all that many genre-film aficionados who haven't seen it. Of course, I think it's a classic, perhaps the best science fiction comedy ever made. (Unless that's Dark Star. But I don't believe it is.) Buckaroo is also one of cinema's most quotable movies — not a week goes by that I don't throw a line from its wacky script into everyday conversation. (But man, the recent Moonstone comic book based on the film sucked like a Dyson vacuum on overdrive. What a disappointment.)

6. The Hidden (1987). Before Twin Peaks, The Hidden was the project I thought of first whenever Kyle MacLachlan's name was mentioned. It's not an original concept by any means — think Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets V — but the rehash is handled reasonably well. I don't know why director Jack Sholder didn't become a major force in the sci-fi/horror field, because he definitely showed major chops here.

9. The Black Cat (1934). When I was a young classic-horror addict, The Black Cat — the storyline from which forms the basic outline for The Rocky Horror Picture Show — was one of my favorite films from the Universal oeuvre of the 1930s and '40s. It's been 20 years or more since I last saw it. I should get hold of the DVD and relive the good old days.

10. Breakdown (1997). Once he convinced people to stop thinking of him as the fresh-faced kid who starred in all those live-action Disney flicks like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, Kurt Russell carved himself out a nice career as a solid dramatic actor. Breakdown, which is essentially Duel meets The Vanishing, isn't a great film, but it's a fun, suspenseful, action-packed popcorn movie. Plus, any movie with such fine character actors as Kathleen Quinlan and the late J.T. Walsh in it deserves a look.

12. Gojira (1954). Most cineastes on the eastern rim of the Pacific only know Gojira as the Americanized Godzilla, King of the Monsters, starring Raymond Burr. In fact, old Perry Mason wasn't even around when the film was shot — Burr's scenes were filmed and spliced in later to make the movie more palatable to Western tastes. The original Japanese-language cut by director Ishiro Honda is much more serious than the familiar edit, and decidedly anti-American in flavor. (It's American nuclear weapons, like the A-bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that bring the giant flame-belching monster to life.) As with all films, Gojira deserves to be viewed in the form (and language) its creator intended.

14. Three O'Clock High (1987). Perhaps one of the most memorable and enjoyable teenage movies ever made. Casey Siemaszko stars as an earnest high school journalist who runs afoul of the new kid on the block — a towering, muscle-bound bully named Buddy Revell, played with deadpan menace by Richard "Don't Call Me Mike" Tyson. The resolution is predictable, but done with grace and charm.

15. Brannigan (1975). If you've ever wanted to know what Dirty Harry would have been like with an over-the-hill John Wayne instead of Clint Eastwood, and set in London instead of San Francisco, this is the flick for you. The best thing about Brannigan is Judy Geeson, because Judy Geeson paying her monthly bills would be delightful to watch. The Duke as a Harry Callahan ripoff? Not so much.

19. Time After Time (1979). I saw this movie on its premiere weekend, in a jam-packed theater in Westwood (near UCLA, for the non-Californians in the room) with a gaggle of other college kids. All of us loved it. Malcolm McDowell oozes a kind of nerdy charm as science fiction writer H.G. Wells, and Mary Steenbergen is sweet as the modern-day San Franciscan with whom Wells falls in love while he's chasing Jack the Ripper through time. (I know, I know — it sounds loopy. You just have to see the film.)

21. Girl 6 (1996). This isn't one of my favorite Spike Lee films, but since I'm a major Spike Lee fan, I'll give Girl 6 its props. Theresa Randle (she played Martin Lawrence's long-suffering wife in the two Bad Boys films, and Michael Jordan's wife in Space Jam) captivates as a young woman who takes a job as an "operator" at a phone-sex company. Madonna plays one of Randle's employers, and her coworkers include Debi Mazar and Gretchen Mol. Pleasant, lightweight comedy involving a subject only Spike Lee would think of building a film around.

24. The Boondock Saints (1999). A strangely compelling film about two brothers who anoint themselves avengers against the underworld and start assassinating gangsters in and around Boston. Willem Dafoe plays the FBI agent who's trying (rather reluctantly, given the character of the victims) to catch them. If you like Dafoe here, I recommend that you check out what is perhaps his best-ever performance, as a conflicted drug dealer in Light Sleeper.)

25. Heavenly Creatures (1994). Now here's a truly brilliant film. Peter Jackson (yes, the Lord of the Rings and King Kong guy) cowrote and directed this unforgettable real-life psychological drama about the bizarre, ultimately murderous relationship between two teenage girls in New Zealand. Kate Winslet (before she exploded into stardom in Sense and Sensibility and Titanic) and Melanie Lynskey (one of my favorite contemporary actresses, and one who should be a much bigger star) are both incredible here, creating characters we feel for and believe in, even when their actions raise the hairs on the backs of our necks. Of all of the films on this list, Heavenly Creatures is the one you should seek out if you've never seen it.

3 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Blogger Mr. Fabulous offered these pearls of wisdom...

Ah, Buckaroo Banzai, one of my all time faves.

And Falling Down and The Boondock Saints aren't too shabby either.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Janet offered these pearls of wisdom...

Hey Brannigan made it! I never saw it, but since we sorta share a name, I have to give a shout out.:) I really liked Idiocracy. It walked the line of being idiotic and genius at the same time. I hated Bubble Boy though. A few others on there don't seem like such gems either. Grace of My Heart has a good soundtrack. God Gave Me Strength is still one of my favorite songs of heartbreak.

3:19 PM  
Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

Oh this looks like fun; I may tackle this later in the week.

I've seen Falling Down TWICE in the theater, because BOTH times the projector broke on the last reel. Each time the theater gave us tickets to a free show, but after the second time I let it go and it was years before how I knew the movie ended. It's still one of my favorites and I'm always amazed to find out stuff like that or Lost Boys that I enjoyed when I was younger were Schumacher's, because I tend to think of him as the Man who Ruined the Bat.

it's funny that Igby Goes Down shows up; I JUST saw it. For some reason that and The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys both popped up on my Netflix queue; I must have added them at the same time a year ago when someone was recommending Kieran Culkin flicks. You nailed it by calling it a dark John Hughes movie; best way to describe it.

Buckaroo Bonzai; also a classic with an amazing cast. What geek wouldn't love a campy sci fi flick with Robocop, M.A.N.T.I.S. and the Fly?

I vaguely remember seeing Breakdown in the theater and not caring for it. I'll have to check out some of these others.

9:29 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home