Hollywood has been known for great hits and even greater misses. But, that is based on every critic in the country. I call them the 'box-office killers', as they are paid to bring down or build up a movie for the sake of their jobs rather than the public. I remember when Roger Ebert (*RIP) made a comment in Entertainment Weekly many years ago when they had asked the critics what they had felt was the best picture of the year. That was back in 1994, with The Last Seduction with Linda Fiorentino and Bill Pullman. I had never even heard of this one, and it wasn't even in any of the local theaters in the small city where I came from! Needlesss to say, I coin a phrase from Jon Lovitz's short-lived animated series, The Critic : Watch what you want!
In most cases, that is what people do when they go see a movie but not exactly. They tend to follow the trends and watch what everyone else is watching, which sadly determines what the box office will make before the end of the film's run. Due to this phenomenon, there are a lot of great films that have been released that barely got any attention at all due to simply not enough silent campaigning or just not enough advertising or interest. There have been rar occasions where less advertising did a movie well and created what were called 'sleepers' (*ie Dirty Dancing with the late great Patrick Swayze and Stargate starring James Spader and Kurt Russell.) Now, I felt that it was high time that some of these films received their due, and I am just the person to do it! Look out Hollywood, because here I come!
1) Rent (2005) -This fantastic musical did awesome on Broadway and had nearly a twenty-five year run under the lights. Sadly though, when it was released to film, it hit the wall like a runaway train, crashing and never getting back up. I don't know whether it was the fact that the story was so true to life during the time of the AIDS epidemic in the late eighties into the nineties or its candid and open view of gay and alternative lifestyles in Greenwich Village during that time, I am not sure. The fact of the matter is that the story to me was amazing despite the fact that it was a modernized version of the classic opera La Boheme. The soundtrack was inspiring, which took the story and set it on its ear by showing more depth than the actual acting of the story itself. While the script itself was so powerful, the music with it only packs an even more powerful punch and will leave you reaching for the Kleenex in no time flat!
2) Masters of the Universe (1987)
I was a little guy when this movie came out, and like all movies based on either cartoons or toys, it had a rough time getting any followers depsite the hype. But, I had to admit, it wasn't all that bad. Dolph Lundgren at the time would not have been my choice to play the part of the muscle-bound hero from Eternia who lands on Earth during the battle to end all battles against the evil Skeletor who has captured Castle Greyskull, but the pool, I am sure, was probably limited. Now, Frank Langella (* in the role of the bony fiend), to me stole the show in this one. He was Skeletor, and I don't think they could have found anyone better. The other surprise was a very young Courtney Cox (before her fame on Friends and Cougar Town) and Robert Duncan McNeill (Star Trek: Voyager, Lieutenant Paris). Then, of course, you also could not forget the little alien Gwildor, played with fun and gusto by famous midget, Billy Barty (1970's TV kiddie show Dr. Shrinker and Ron Howard's fantasy masterpiece Willow). If you have never seen this, it is a good film. I used to have it in my collection but had gotten misplaced somehow in my move to my new apartment. I am kind of kicking myself because the collector's value on it is off the hook!
3) Clive Barker's Nightbreed (*1990)
Clive Barker, to me, was one of the first authors to actually take monsters and make them a little more believable and unique in this left-behind but very original horror film.
The story stars Craig Shafer as a troubled man anmed Aaron Boone, who finds himself drawn to the mythological city of Midian, a home for monsters that belong to the legendary Twelve Tribes of the Moon. From succubi to gargoyles, and all other kinds, he soon finds that after an attempt to enter the city, he is bitten and soon begins changing into one of them. Then, he finds himself craving human blood, and having to fight the instinct so he can find answers to what has happened to him. But, he is soon captured and placed under arrest after being accused of several murders of people as a suspected serial killer in a small town and looking at being locked up in an insane asylum for the rest of his life. His answers come in the form of a man (* or is he a man?) named Narcisse, who is of the tribes and has the ability to cut off his face using sharp knives and feels no pain! Soon, the two men escape and Boone is forced to live with the tribes until the real suspect can be caught.
This movie, to me, was a real eye-opener as to how far horror could actually be transformed. But, it met with little to no following except by the horror crowd and it definitely was deserving of even greater attention. If you have never seen it, it is well worth the watch!
4) Kuffs (1992)
Okay all, I had to do this one! Christian Slater has done a bevy of films in his career, and most of them have been extremely serious. Even today, he's been playing a lot of bad guys, which to me is not really his personality, but that was just me. This film, though, showed the true lighter side of his acting ability. Starring him, Bruce Boxleitner and Milla Jovovich, he plays George Kuffs, the younger down-on-his-luck and looking-for the quick-buck brother of Brad Kuffs, a San Francisco Security Patrol specialist for his district in the city. Graduated and now a young and unwilling father to a baby with his girlfriend, Maya, George goes to Brad to try to get some fast cash disguising it as a birthday celebration in order to get out of the country. But, his brother sees through the ruse, and offers him a job as a security specialist with his office. Not wanting to get his hands dirty, George refuses, and then Brad makes him another deal: he will get him half the cash as long as he does something good with it.
But, everything goes wrong when Brad is gunned down by a mysterious assailant who shoots hims several times while he is praying in church. After his brother is DOA at the hospital, he soons learns that in his brother's will that he has been left the business. Reluctant to get involved, his brother's former supervisors convince him to sell the business and pay off the bills and his brother's partners with a little left over for himself. But, after a great deal of thought, George decides to take over the business in order to find his brother's killer and put him away for good!
With his usual sarcastic and smarmy humor, Christian steals the show in this one, as he delights us with not only action, but gag after gag as he goes from training all the way down to running the business. If you have not seen this one, it is riotious!
5) Kingdom Hospital(2004)
I had to include this one though it was on the small screen instead of the big screen just because this, to me, was one of Stephen King's best works.
Now, while King has done many great films for the big screen (Carrie, The Dead Zone, Cujo, Thinner just to name a few), this 10 hr. maxiseries that debuted on ABC Network in 2004 really showed his chops at taking the ghost story and making it a masterpiece.
Our story takes place at Kingdom Hospital, a large and very modern triage facility in New England that handles criitical cases by the truckload. In a series of episodes, we are introduced to a cast of characters who experience a multitude of supernatural events from the uplifiting to the downright horrific! But, the main story centers around Mary, the ghost of a small girl who died on the same ground as the hospital was built on when it was a textile mile during the time of the Civil War. Dying when the mill's owner burns the mill down on purpose with the workers inside for insurance money, Mary is stuck between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Her only friend: an anteater with a mouthful of sharp teeth that can talk and is called 'horrible and beautiful' by the enigmatic Mary.
As the story further unfolds, the viewer is introduced not only to the doctors that run the hospital, but also the patients, as well as two very unsavory and malevolent spirits that still roam the halls. It is a fast-paced thrill ride, with every story connecting the events back to Mary and her anteater friend whom she calls 'Antibus' and to why everything is happening. From a car accident that leaves a famous artist in a comatose state to a serial killer who is saved from suicide and brought to the hospital, the twists and turns that come from the effects of these tragedies ony bring the viewer further into Mary's world and the real origins and reasons that her furry companion roams the hall of what the doctors affectionately call 'The Kingdom.'
This maxiseries is one that I proudly own and at least watch once or twice a year. Due to the length and the amount of DVD's (*four, at almost three hours apiece), it will take you a good weekend to watch it all, and I can guarantee that once you start watching, you will want to know what is happening next right away! If you want to make the time, this puppy is well worth it!
6) RIPD (2013)
This fantasy action film ( based on the popular Dark Horse comic) which was released last summer did not get the respect that it was so aptly deserving. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges, Reynolds plays Boston PD cop Nick, who has made a terrible mistake by stealing a booty-full of gold from a prominent drug dealer after a drug bust. Planning on giving his wife the life that he felt she wanted, he buries the gold in his backyard under an orange tree in order to avoid discovery. But, he soon finds out about the wages he has wrought after he is killed by his partner and co-thief, Hayes (played by Kevin Bacon), in order to keep him quiet after Nick threatens to come clean about the crime. When Nick dies, he is on his way to the pearly gates (or so he thinks), only to be pulled in by a woman named Proctor (*played by Mary-Louise Parker), who informs him that he has two choices: he can either use his skill set and join the Rest in Peace Department or 2) he can face judgment and take his chances. Without any choice, he joins RIPD and is saddled up with Roy (*aka Roycephus), an Old West lawman with hardcore attitude that is not scared to exact justice by his own methods (which mostly include erasing suspects from existence using his blessed six shooter). As Roy shows Nick the ropes,he first uses it to try to get his life back by contacting his wife, Julia, and trying to make her remember him even though he is dead and looks like an old Asian man! But, things get even crazier after Nick learns that the gold that he stole is actually pieces to an old and ancient weapon that is known as the Staff of Jericho, which can be used to allow what they call 'Dead-O's' to return to Earth even after they have faced their judgment. Now, the two have to findout who is scemeing the plot before the weapon is used and the dead reign on Earth forever!
This movie was another that was overlooked quite a bit. Whether it was due to content, the fact that it had strong religious overtones, or whatever, this film was a great take on something that had never been explored before. Jeff and Ryan were both comical and worked together very well. Another film that could have become a classic if it had been given the chance.
7) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
There was the new remake this year, but I have to pay homage to where the movie franchise all began. All I can say is: thank you Jim Henson! His Creature Shop did a FANTASTIC job in rendering the Turtles to real life and it was a great pic!
8) Burlesque (2010)
This musical got next-to-no kudos from everyone despite the hype and an appearance by the cast on Dancing with the Stars the year that it came out. Most had thought that it was going to be nothing but trash that was almost comparable to soft-core porn. The truth: it was nothing like that at all. Burlesque was doing nothing more than paying homage to an old art form that had been forgotten about or was merely just a novelty to most today. Now, while these clubs do exist today, it is not the same as if you were going to an adult club on a seedy street in a large city. This movie definitely showed the differences, and Cher and Christina Aguilera worked so well together as the mentor mom archetype and the up-and-comer.
Peter Gallagher also gave a strong performance, as well as Stanley Tucci in the role as a gay costumer designer for the club of the same name, it made it a greatly stellar cast. Now, there were quite a few elements of drama that to me needed a little more finesse and work, but despite all that, Aguilera's and Cher's vocal performances in this musical drama were completely off the charts! I love Cher as a vocalist and she had not sang in a movie for years, and it was a sight to behold. I am definitely going to miss her as she is now retired, but I am sure that we will be seeing a lot more from Christina, or I would at least hope.
9) The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Who would have ever thought that Genna Davis could pull off a major action role? This film puts her way out of her comfort zone. In this stylish, gritty, and very real action thriller, Geena Davis plays schoolteacher Samantha Caine, who suffers from amnesia and is trying desperately to remember who she is and why she has been having dreams that she is another person entirely rather than the woman she is now and the idyllic life that she now leads. Enter private investigator Mitch Hennessey (played by Samuel L. Jackson), a seedy gumshoe that has done time in prison for grand theft and uses his new career as a way of shaking down people for quick cash. After Samantha hires him, the two soon find that Samantha's previous life has a much darker chapter as the two are chased by the CIA, who want her and her family dead at any cost and run a black operation in her small town to do so. As it turns out, Samantha is actually a woman named Charlie Baltimore, an assassin who formerly worked for the State Department and was almost killed by a former comrade and lover after she discovered a plot to do a domestic terrorism attack on American soil in order to gain more funding for the war on terrorism from the government. Samantha/Charlie must now race to stop them, and Samantha must come to grips of who she really is as she finds that her old skills are returning, and her new life and the family that she loves are caught right in the crossfire!
While there have been a few movies that have taken this angle (ie The Jason Bourne Series), Long Kiss not only does it from a different gender, it also has a few other things mixed in with it that gave the film a lot more realism. But, I think what impressed me the most was Jackson's portayal of Hennessey as a flawed man that knew he was flawed, but in the end wanted to at least get one thing right in his lfe. Even if it meant he had to die trying!
If you have never seen this, it is by far one of the best action thrillers that I have seen in years!
10) Priest (2011)
This one was a great vision and quite a different take on vampire legend. Starring Paul Bettany (Legion, Firewall), Karl Urban (Red, Dredd, Doom, Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness), Brad Dourif (Stephen King's Graveyard Shift), Maggie Q (Live Free or Die Hard and the current TV series Stalker) and film legend Christopher Plummer (* The Sound of Music, Dreamscape, Wolf, Rock-A-Doodle, just to name a few), this post-apocalyptic fantasy/horror/paranormal thriller comes at you with an edge that you would never expect.
In the distant future, vampires come out of hiding and begin attacking humanity in their thirst for blood. But, instead of being the intelligent undead creatures that can control people and turn into bats, these vampires are more like animals that are headed by a queen, the only one having any intelligence. The Catholic church in these times begins training a new order called the Priests, vampire hunters and slayers whose sole purpose is to track down the things and kill them all without mercy. When the war is over, however, those same warriors are forced to return to the cities that are under the Church's control and become normnal citizens who labor at whatever tasks they are given.
Enter Paul Bettany's character, commonly known as 'Priest', a warrior of the previous war who now works in the furnaces below the city, keeping it going by shoveling coal into it to power the entire realm. Losing faith, he soons feels that he is outliving his usefulness in his current job and looks to his superiors to regain his faith, only to be told to pray and do a few Hail Marys to help strengthen him. But, he is soon called back to battle after he learns of a girl that has been kidnapped by the vampire broods and taken to their hive which is somewhere in the middle of the desert. But, he soon learns that there is more to the situation than it appears, and he will come to face an old friend who has now become a new enemy as a new war is on the horizon and he must find his former allies to stop the plot and regain the girl in the hopes of averting another bloody conflict.
Bettany has been superb in roles like this (such as his role as the archangel, Michael, in the film Legion) , and the brooding warrior/priest is no different. His quiet demeanor and kick-butt attitude is what keep the film going, and not to mention stellar performances by the supporting cast. Unlike many vampire films that typically follow the same formula, Priest takes that formula and twists it upside down, making itself very different and a cut above the rest with its post-apocalyptic/ steam punk feel that it gives. The landscape is extremely plausable and very, very real.
If you enjoy vampire films and are looking for such a different take, then Priest is defintiely a must see!
So, as the reader can see, my movie tastes are very varied and tend to always look for that sudden spark of inspiration and uniqueness. As an author, screenwriter, and contributor here at Movie Pilot , I like to give my readers the most balanced and honest take on what I think makes a great film. While I am not a critic and do not have any degrees in fimography or media, I do have my passion for films and my writing experience to guide me while I make my presentations to you.
My hope is that you all will keep following me and supporting me as much as you can, and I will do my best to provide the best content for everyone.
In the meantime, I leave you with a quote spoken by the late Eli Wallach from the movie The Holiday : In my day, we made nine movies a month. These days, you see nine movies a week, and if they don't make it big on their first weekend, they go broke! Schmucks!