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!

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

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.

Read More »

The Best Movie Monsters You’ve Never Seen

alien covenant

(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: some of the best movie monsters you may have missed!)

Ridley Scott has a new movie hitting theaters this week, and for those of us who love his 1979 sci-fi/horror classic Alien, that news is improved further by the knowledge that his latest is a new entry in the franchise. Of course, 2012’s Prometheus fit that very same bill, and we all know how that turned out. (Not terribly if you ask me, but let’s stay focused here.) Alien: Covenant may end up featuring equally stupid human characters, but judging by the trailers, it’s made at least one important improvement. It’s bringing back the fast-moving, wickedly dangerous, and endlessly terrifying xenomorphs (in some form or another) to wreak bloody havoc.

Through the franchise’s ups and downs the aliens themselves have remained some of the most beautifully nightmarish monsters to ever grace the screen, and if we’re being honest, few others come even close to comparing in the area of horrifyingly effective design. Still though, there’s no shortage of memorable movie monsters from the Graboids in Tremors and the river monster in The Host to the creepy subterranean killers in The Descent and the alien monstrosities of John Carpenter’s The Thing. These and others made the cut earlier this year right here on this very site.

But what of the frightening creatures in movies that maybe didn’t find a spot on that list or any other? The seven movies below aren’t nearly as well known, and they’re not all great necessarily (although I’d go to the mat for half of them), but the common thread between them is in the design and presentation of their monsters. Some are terrifying, some are fun, and others are darkly beautiful, but all of them deserve to be seen by more eyeballs.

Read More »

The Best Sci-Fi Comedies You’ve Never Seen

guardians of the galaxy 2

(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: some of the best sci-fi comedies you’ve never seen!)

A little movie called Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters this week, and while it’s a Marvel comic/superhero movie, it also looks to follow its predecessor in being a fairly funny comedy as well. The sci-fi/comedy sub-genre is one with a universe worth of material to have fun with, but it isn’t nearly as crowded as you might think. There are great ones (Back to the Future), bad ones (Morons from Outer Space), unintentional ones (Battlefield Earth), ones you think you love but haven’t actually seen recently enough to realize they’re actually terrible (The Ice Pirates), and, of course, the best one (Galaxy Quest).

You know what there aren’t a lot of though? Great ones that haven’t found the audience they deserve. So yes, this is probably the least collectively obscure of these columns so far, but hopefully there are at least a few on here you haven’t seen yet.

And with that it’s time to look at some lesser-known sci-fi comedies guaranteed to leave you laughing, giggling, or maybe just slightly smiling while you shake your head and wonder what the hell is wrong with this Hunter guy.

Read More »

best amnesia movies

(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: some of the best movies featuring amnesia or memory loss you’ve never seen… or may have just forgotten.)

A new movie called Unforgettable hits theaters this weekend starring Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl, and while it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with amnesia, audiences will probably be forgetting it as soon as they exit the theater. I kid. We love Rosario Dawson. 1996’s Unforgettable however, does involve ideas of memory. So now that we’ve established that incredibly tenuous connection for this week’s topic, let’s take a look at some great movies about memory loss!

Read More »

The Best Oddball Heist Movies You’ve Never Seen

the best heist movies you haven't seen

(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: some of the best oddball heist/robbery movies you’ve never seen.)

You’d be forgiven for not knowing this as it’s hardly being used as a marketing point, but Zach Braff has a new film hitting theaters this week. I already knew this, as I’m both a professional film critic and a card-carrying member of the “Braff is a Pretty Good Director” club. (No, those two things don’t cancel each other out.)

Braff’s latest is a notable departure from his two more personal dramedies about how angsty your twenties and thirties can be, and to prove it he’s not even starring this time around. Going In Style is instead a remake of Martin Brest’s 1979 classic which starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg as old friends, well past the prime of their lives, who decide to rob a bank. Braff’s redo features Alan Arkin, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman as the threesome, and we’re hoping that together they can create an entertaining and affecting film that finds the same blend of laughs and pathos.

Inspired by this rogue’s gallery of octanagarian thieves, I’ve put together a list of six great movies about elaborate and/or odd thefts, robberies, and heists.

Read More »

life

(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 science fiction horror movies you’ve never seen.)

This coming weekend’s going to be a busy one at the box-office, with three new wide releases aimed at completely different audiences (not to mention a strong hold at the top spot by this past weekend’s monstrous debut of Beauty and the Beast). Two TV shows that are totally still relevant in today’s popular culture are getting the big-screen treatment with the adult-oriented CHiPs and the kid-friendly Power Rangers, but it’s the third film I’m interested in here.

Life is an R-rated, space-set thriller about astronauts who cross paths with a previously undiscovered life form and find themselves in grave danger after one of the geniuses touches it. The science fiction and horror genres go together like chocolate and, I don’t know, something else you like to put in your mouth, and the onscreen pairing of the two has resulted in a seemingly endless supply of filmic entertainment. Some of the best are also among the best-known, including Alien, The Thing, and The Terminator (it’s a slasher movie!). Recent years have given us more niche but still popular fare like Pitch Black, Event Horizon, and Attack the Block.

Rather than talk about the films you already know and love though I’m hoping to introduce you to a few that are maybe a bit more obscure, but still well worth your attention. Below are some great (in their own way) sci-fi/horror titles that, like Life, take place off Earth and/or involve aliens. While some may be familiar, I’m hoping you’re inspired to seek out the others.

Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web: