the only living boy in ny

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: the best movies named after a song title – intentionally or not – that you’ve probably never seen!)

Pop culture crosses streams all the time both in an effort to increase profit and benefit from name recognition. Adaptations, brands, and “cinematic universes” are the most obvious examples, but sometimes it’s as simple as a song. From Stand By Me and Bad Boys to Pretty Woman and Soul Man, some films are titled with the clear goal of reaching instant familiarity with potential viewers. They typically go the expected extra step of licensing the song for use in the movie itself, but sometimes the title itself – which I don’t believe counts as copyright infringement – is more than enough.

The latest film to go this route is the indie drama, The Only Living Boy in New York, which opens in limited release this week. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m betting it includes the Simon & Garfunkel song because they’d have to be fools not to. It’s a great song.

For every American Pie or When a Man Loves a Woman though, there are probably half a dozen far lesser known films also named after songs. Some are forgettable of course, but the six films below are all very good to great movies worth seeking out for fans of their respective genres.

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the lost boys

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: the best vampire movies you’ve probably never seen!)

Vampires are one of the horror genre’s more bland and uninspired character types, but even as I believe that to be true, I also find myself to be a big fan of dozens of vampire films. I promise this is less about me being a hypocrite than it is a response to the abundance of lazy filmmakers out there, as the movies that stand apart from the pack for one reason or another entertain by being different (or simply better) than the norm. Some deliver the goods with a smart script and loads of personality while others simply find fresh ways to tell a vampire story… even if that means chucking the fangs, bats, and magic eyes right out the window.

This month sees the anniversary of two such standouts – it’s the 25th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the 30th for The Lost Boys – so I wanted to take a look at some other good to great vampire movies that deserve a bit more attention. Great titles like The Lair of the White Worm, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Lifeforce, Vampire’s Kiss, Near Dark, and Cronos have been covered enough by this point, all well-deserved, but here are seven more that you probably haven’t seen that are still worth the effort of seeking out.

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War For the Planet of the Apes sequel

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: the best movies about apes and/or monkeys you’ve probably never seen!)

War for the Planet of the Apes hits theaters this week and promises to be the biggest (and possibly best) movie yet about our brothers and sisters from hairier mothers and misters, but it’s just the latest in a long line of films centered on monkeys, apes, and other non-human primates. From King Kong to Congo, moviegoers are fascinated by mankind’s interactions with species so close to our own and yet still so far away.

Films focused on these simian creatures typically fall into one of three categories. Some see the animals as threats (Monkey Shines, Blood Monkey), others as comic relief or sidekicks (Dunston Checks In, Every Which Way But Loose), and the remainder as test subjects (Outbreak, 28 Days Later). There’s also what ever the hell Monkeybone is. Most of these are fairly well known, and many of them are beloved to boot, but as is always the case there are a handful of monkey/ape-centric movies that are worth watching despite their general lack of popularity.

Speaking of which, here are six such movies – ones featuring monkeys, apes, or something similar as major parts of the narrative – that you probably haven’t seen.

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47 Bigfoot Movies Ranked

Everyone has a weakness when it comes to the kinds of movies they can’t help but watch despite the sheer quantity of subjectively bad examples. For me that’s Bigfoot movies.

Bigfoot. Yeti. Sasquatch. Skunk Ape. Bipedal Bob. The big, hairy legend is known by different names around the world, and the movies about the beast have been equally varied. The majority aren’t all that great, but some aim for laughs and others aim for thrills, making it difficult to compare in any responsible way. Luckily for you though I’ve never claimed to be all that responsible. Exhibit A? Below is a ranked list of Bigfoot movies. Lots and lots of Bigfoot movies. More Bigfoot movies than any one person should probably watch in their lifetime. And I’ve ranked them… for you.

Because genre and intent vary so much between them I looked at three different factors – 1) the story, or basically what the film does with Bigfoot, 2) the actual look and design of the creature, and 3) the film’s overall entertainment value.

With that in mind, here’s the ultimate Bigfoot movie ranking from worst to best! (Note: Despite my very strong urge to do so, I’m not including the TV show Bigfoot and Wildboy or the classic Six Million-Dollar Man two-parter where Steve Austin fights Bigfoot.)

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The 13-ish Best Edgar Wright Movie Characters

The 13-ish Best Edgar Wright Characters

Edgar Wright‘s latest feature film hits theaters this week, and by all accounts Baby Driver is another winner blending action, laughs, and Wright’s own unique sensibilities. (Don’t take my assumption for it though, check out Jacob Hall’s review out of SXSW.) Wright has yet to deliver anything less than a very good time at the movies, and while a lot of factors go into an acclaimed film, one of his many strengths as a filmmaker is in the variety of fun and fun-loving characters he packs into his work.

The scripts are obviously key to the films’ highly quotable nature, but pairing the words on the page with particular performers is what ultimately results in such memorable characters. That combination has resulted in a bounty of fun, funny, and fascinating characters in Wright’s films, and while some are leads, others only manage a few minutes of screen time. It’s an issue of quality trumping quantity, and it’s why someone with two scenes in a movie can be far more memorable than someone who’s in nearly the entire thing. What I’m saying is Shaun of the Dead‘s Ed is an obnoxious twat whose “funny” behavior upsets the film’s delicate tonal balance and ultimately keeps it removed from absolute greatness. Look, I don’t like saying it anymore than you like hearing it, but there it is.

It’s also why the list below is heavy on the male members and light on the ladies. Wright’s films feature plenty of women, but you have to look all the way back to his UK television series, Spaced, to find an example of one with meat on her character’s bones. But that’s a think-piece for a different time. For now let’s keep things moving with a look at the best characters in Edgar Wright’s feature films.

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despicable me 3

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: the best animated kids movies you’ve probably never seen!)

There are currently three animated kids movies playing in theaters, two in the top ten at the box-office, and this week also sees the release of Despicable Me 3. This isn’t a bad thing, as kids need entertainment too, but there’s an argument to be made that far too much of Hollywood’s kid-friendly fare is aimed specifically at very stupid kids. Okay, fine, maybe they just treat the kids as stupid. The end result is the same, in that too often the movies ask nothing of its young viewers and give even less in return.

There are better alternatives out there in animated films that entertain while also delivering substance, weight, and wit beyond mere fart jokes, with stories and characters that succeed without turning the volume all the way up to “constant noise.” Wall-E and Zootopia are two popular examples, but they get enough press and praise. No, we’re here to talk about the films you and yours haven’t seen. Some simply failed to find an audience, some are foreign productions, and some are simply decades old. All of them though are worth a shot at family film time.

So gather the young ones around the screen as we take a look at some great animated kids movies that you probably haven’t seen.

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47 meters down

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: the best shark attack movies you’ve probably never seen!)

Shark attack movies bit into the public consciousnesses in 1975 with Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, and while no other film has come close to matching its quality or sheer entertainment value, that hasn’t stopped filmmakers from trying. That’s a good thing. Because when done right, shark attack films can be terrifying and/or immensely fun to watch, but when done wrong, we get most of the shark movies that have been produced in the past decade. I’m looking at you Sharknado, 3-Headed Shark Attack, and Snow Sharks.

It’s worth wading through the bad to get to the good though, as Jaws 2 is an okay sequel, Deep Blue Sea is a ton of fun, and Open Water is an utterly harrowing experience. Last year’s The Shallows was a hugely entertaining surprise too, and this week’s 47 Meters Down is hoping to follow in its sandy footsteps. I’m staying optimistic, but seeing as the film was released on DVD ever so briefly last year before being pulled for an eventual theatrical roll-out, I don’t think I’ll be holding my breath on it.

So there are the good to great shark attack movies you already know and love and abysmal ones with cheap, intentionally (?) terrible CG effects and zero effort towards suspense or thrills. (There’s also the Bollywood shark movie, Aatank, which I so wanted to include here but couldn’t bring myself to do in good conscience. It’s a two hour movie, and only about five minutes of it is shark related… but what a five minutes. Oh my.) There are also good to great ones that somehow slipped through the cracks, and while I expect a couple of the ones below have already graced some of your eyeballs, I’d recommend seeking out the others for some good old-fashioned elasmobranch fish fun!

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Dragnet vs The Untouchables

(Welcome to Seeing Double, a series where two strangely similar films released around the same time are put head-to-head. This week: 1987’s Dragnet and 1987’s The Untouchables.)

Hollywood is a land of mystery. Who killed the Black Dahlia? Was Marisa Tomei the real winner of 1993’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar? Why is Jai Courtney still a thing?

One of the less salacious and controversial mysteries to come out of Hollywood though involves the occasional appearance of “movie doubles” – films from rival studios with highly similar plots/subjects that are released in close proximity to each other. Think Volcano and Dante’s Peak or Deep Impact and Armageddon. There’s little upside to both studios sticking to their guns and moving forward with the production as history shows that more often than not one of the pair falls by the wayside at the box-office, so why even head into production on a film you know another studio has already begun? Are original ideas that hard to come by in Hollywood? (This is a rhetorical question.)

This month is the 30th anniversary of both Dragnet and The Untouchables, and while at first glance they might not seem like another pair of duplicates, I’d argue to the contrary. Both films are big screen adaptations of popular ’50s/’60s television cop shows that at some point starred Harry Morgan, both feature lead actors who were known entities but still a year or three away from their biggest success, and they were released just three weeks apart in June of 1987. The films take wildly opposing approaches to the material itself, and their fates both at the box-office and in the critical eye may have differed because of it.

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wonder woman

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: the best lead female action stars in movies you may have missed!)

Wonder Woman hits the big screen this week, and I’m happy to report that it’s quite good. It’s also the first modern solo effort for a female superhero, and while that’s fantastic news – albeit long overdue – it’s far from the first female-led action picture. Women have been kicking butts onscreen for decades, and they’ve headlined plenty of terrific action movies along the way including Aliens, Kill Bill, and The Long Kiss Goodnight just to name a few. There’s always room for more though, which is why it’s so damn great when a Rita Vrataski, Imperator Furiosa, or Wonder Woman comes along.

For every well-known female performer who lands a role as a strong, action-capable character in a big-budget blockbuster-to-be, there are a typically a few who slip under the radar in smaller, lower profile films. They get less attention, but truth be told, these lesser-known action stars (female or male) in lower-budgeted movies have to work harder to be noticed and often deliver far more memorable action sequences as a result. The trick is getting people to see them… and that’s where this week’s column comes in. Keep reading for a look at six bone-crunching action movies with female leads (doing the bone crunching) that you’ve probably missed.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes Revisited

(Welcome to Nostalgia Bomb, a series where we take a look back on beloved childhood favorites and discern whether or not they’re actually any good. In this edition: Walt Disney’s live action adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s brilliant novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes.)

“My dad disappeared on a trip to the Thousand Islands when I was thirteen years old. My father and I had to go home without him.”

I wrote those lines over twenty years ago as the opening of a personal essay called “The Island of Loss and Pancakes,” and while I won’t burden you with the specifics of the tale the gist of it was this. My dad was once a man of vitality with a desire for exploration who’d take me boating, fishing, and camping at every opportunity, and when we weren’t off cruising the St. Lawrence River, we’d be exploring altogether different frontiers with our cutting-edge Commodore 64 computer or the building of a slot-car race track hidden in the ceiling and only accessible via an elaborate system of pulleys. There was always something shared between us, something we could do together or talk about, and then one day among the islands bordering New York and Canada… there wasn’t.

The passage of time and of adulthood in general had taken a toll on him, and while I didn’t understand his regrets and stresses then, the effect they had on me was both immediate and long-lasting. It affected the choices I made going forward, the dreams I pursued and the ones I let pass me by, and to the (already overdue) point of this very article it changed the way I respond to certain types of stories onscreen.

Like the 1983 adaptation of Ray Bradbury‘s Something Wicked This Way Comes.

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