The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen About Magicians

(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. This week we go point your attention over there while we discuss movies about magicians over here!)

Movies about magicians come in all shapes and varieties. To be clear, I’m speaking of films about the performers, those who do magic tricks and illusions, as opposed to the wizards you find in fantasy films and late-80s Fred Savage movies. They range from documentaries (Make Believe, 2010) to comedies (The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, 2013) to biopics (Death Defying Acts, 2007) to Swedish genre-benders (The Magician, 1958) to BDSM noirs (Lord of Illusions, 1995) to the best movie about a magician you’ll ever find (The Prestige, 2006).

/Film’s own Peter Sciretta previously compiled a list of the best films about magic and magicians which includes a few of the titles mentioned above, but readers of this column know the goal here is to recommend ones that are far less celebrated. To that end, keep reading for a look at six great and/or entertaining movies about magicians that you probably haven’t seen.

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The ‘Species’ Sequels Bring DNA and T&A to DTV

(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week, we go hunting for horny aliens.)

Science fiction movies are commonplace, and they typically fall into one of two camps – small, smart, and geared towards adults, or big, bone-headed, and aimed at less discerning audiences. Back in 1995, though, a relative rarity appeared in the form of a summer release with a respectable budget, a recognizable cast including two Oscar winners (and one future nominee), some truly impressive special effects, and a story about government agents trying to cock-block an alien intent on copulation.

Species was a hit on the big screen and on home video, and viewers ate up the genre mashup that gave big, messy sci-fi back to adult audiences with sex, nudity, a wonderfully nonsensical script, and a healthy dose of fun. A sequel followed three years later, but it bombed at the box-office and ended the franchise forever. Just kidding – its theatrical outings stopped, but two DTV sequels followed. Are they cheap cash-grabs and lazy excuses to show more alien booty, or is there a chance they’re actually worthy successors?

Let’s find out together.

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best invisible man 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. This week we go looking for little-seen movies featuring invisibility!)

This week’s big new release is a fresh take on a classic – a Universal Monsters classic to be precise – but while Leigh Whannell’s The Invisible Man finds its own identity by playing around with the formula, plenty of other films have followed similar paths to entirely different destinations. What started with James Whales’ 1933 classic grew to include direct sequels and plenty of films that found inspiration in the H.G. Wells adaptation.

The plot point of people turning invisible has been through numerous iterations, from Kurt Russell’s college shenanigans for Disney in Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972) to Paul Verhoeven’s decidedly R-rated horrors in Hollow Man (2000) to even raunchier fare like The Erotic Adventures of the Invisible Man (2003). But you know all of those, so how about we take a look at some entertaining examples you’ve most likely missed over the years?

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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week, we go digging for secrets with a hook.)

Ah, the ’90s. The decade that brought us Beanie Babies and Limp Bizkit also saw a rebirth of sorts for big-screen slashers. After withering away throughout the 80s the genre got a major boost with the arrival of Wes Craven’s Scream (1996) which delivered memorable kills with style, wit, and a hot cast of hot young hotties for all tastes. The film was quickly followed with a wave of less stylish, less witty horror films packed with young stars including The Faculty (1998), Disturbing Behavior (1998), Urban Legend (1998), and new entries in venerable franchises like Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

One of the more directly influenced new arrivals, though, was 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. It was a big hit and a year later was followed by the perfectly titled I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, which while still a hit, was a decidedly smaller one. The franchise sat silent for eight years, but in 2006 someone remembered they still owned the rights and bam! A few days later they had a DTV sequel ready to go. Let’s check it out together, shall we?

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The Best South Korean Films You’ve Never 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. This week we celebrate Bong Joon Ho’s big win at the Academy Awards with his masterpiece ‘Parasite’ by looking back at some lesser known gems from South Korea.)

History was made recently when a non-English language film won Best Picture at the Oscars for the very first time. Parasite absolutely deserves the honor, but even better, the win is moving people toward seeking out other South Korean films too.

Danielle Ryan already put together a fantastic primer featuring some of South Korea’s best known and beloved modern classics, and every one of them are worth finding and watching immediately. I’d add to that list a few more popular gems including Memories of Murder (2003), The Chaser (2008), The Good the Bad the Weird (2008), The Housemaid (2010), The Villainess (2017), and Extreme Job (2019), and I’ll also toss in a few lower profile titles I’ve previously highlighted with this very column including The Foul King (2000), Sex Is Zero (2002), Save the Green Planet (2003), 3-Iron (2004), The President’s Last Bang (2005), Breathless (2008), Private Eye (2009), Confession of Murder (2012), The Thieves (2012), Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013), Confidential Assignment (2017), A Taxi Driver (2017), and – look, I’ve recommended a lot of Korean films through this column.

And I’m about to suggest six more across varied genres, so please keep reading for a look at six of the best South Korean films you probably haven’t seen yet!

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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week, we take a look at a new follow-up to an early Adam Sandler “gem.)

What are the odds anyone has talked about Bulletproof since its release in 1996? The film was something of a bomb both theatrically and critically – it’s at 8% on Rotten Tomatoes! – and while Adam Sandler went on to bigger and occasionally better things it essentially ended co-lead Damon Wayan’s movie career. Seriously, Wayans only has six film credits following Bulletproof, and they earned a combined total of $4.2 million.

Well, it turns out the answer to my rhetorical question is that no one has thought about Bulletproof until early 2019 when this column’s friends at Universal 1440 Entertainment conceived and produced the elegantly titled sequel, Bulletproof 2. It was birthed unto the world at the start of this year, and in true Bulletproof form no one is talking about it. A direct-to-video (or in this case Netflix) sequel that no one’s watching? Yeah, that’s my jam.

Keep reading for a look at Bulletproof 2 – a sequel set 25 years after the original in a world where the Bulletproof movie not only exists but is remembered as being terrible. So, set in the real world I guess?

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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week, we go to war… in space!)

Paul Verhoeven is a filmmaker whose career has seen highs and lows, hits and misses, blockbusters and quiet indies, but the one constant is that his best film will always be Robocop (1987). This is not an article about Robocop, but it is about the big, action/sci-fi movie he made a decade later that echoes some of the same satirical stylings.

1997’s Starship Troopers is a loose adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s novel – an unrelated script was the film’s basis, and the studio simply bought the title rights from the novel before mashing the two together – but where the book is hardcore militaristic, Verhoeven’s film takes a more cynical, darkly humorous, and dismissive tone. It wasn’t quite the hit they hoped for, but its growth into a cult favorite helped spawn two live-action sequels that went straight to DVD/TV. So let’s be good citizens and give ’em a spin!

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The Best World War I Movies You’ve Never 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. This week we go back in time with some movies set during the war to end all wars.)

World War I doesn’t get as much love in theaters as its younger brother World War II, and while there’s no good reason for that I assume it’s simply because WWII offers a greater variety of locales and military hardware to explore. There have been some acclaimed ones over the years, though, from All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) to Paths of Glory (1957) and from A Very Long Engagement (2004) to Mata Hari (1985). Fine, one of those wasn’t quite as acclaimed as the others, but I’m just making sure you’re paying attention.

While the death toll ranges depending on your Google source — seriously, I found numbers from nine to twenty-five million — there’s a reason it was called “the war to end war.” Sure, that was a bit presumptuous, but the point remains that it was an epic conflict involving tens of millions of lives. You’d think we’d have more stories up on the big screen, but in lieu of quantity we at least have quality starting with Sam Mendes’ beautiful and brilliantly structured 1917 which is currently in limited release and absolutely worth your time. While you wait for that one to expand into your area, though, might I recommend a few older titles? I might, and I will if you keep reading.

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The Best Biopics You’ve Never Seen

Borg McEnroe

(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. This week we check out some under-seen movies about real people like you and me, but you know, better known for doing stuff.)

The end of the year is often considered to be prestige season when it comes to movies as studios roll out their classiest films in the hope of winning awards and accolades. The topics run the gamut, but a major presence every year are the biopics — as in pictures about biological humans, presumably — and this year is no different. Richard Jewell, Harriet, Seberg, and Ford v Ferrari are just a few of the biopics opening in the last two months of 2019, and some of them are even well worth the praise they’ve been receiving. (Hint: it’s the one with the fast cars.)

Not all biopics have been as lucky, though, as a crowded field over the years has seen plenty of great ones fade into memory. That’s right, I’m still furious that so many of you slept on the masterpiece that is Borg vs McEnroe (2017). Lucky for you I’m here to point you towards a few of those lesser seen gems. So keep reading for a look at six of the best biopics you’ve probably never seen!

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(Welcome to DTV Descent, a series that explores the weird and wild world of direct-to-video sequels to theatrically released movies. This week, we go bank robbing with Nazis in a sequel to the biggest Spike Lee joint of them all.)

Spike Lee’s film career is filled with highs and lows, films that won critical acclaim and awards and others that have been forgotten, but he’s never been a filmmaker prone to breaking the box-office. The sole exception, and his only film to gross over $100 million, is 2006’s Inside Man. Lee’s direction, alongside a stellar cast, a tight script, and a respectable budget, resulted in a film that succeeded with critics (certified fresh!) and audiences ($184m worldwide!) alike.

It’s a Universal Pictures release too which means that now, thirteen years later, the studio’s home video division has spun off a direct to video sequel. It’s not their first – and will be far from their last as follow-ups to both Sudden Death (1995) and Bulletproof (1996) are currently in post-production – but it is their most surprising. Look, it’s possible that having to endure movies like Backdraft II (2019) and Benchwarmers II: Breaking Balls (2019) has just broken me, but Inside Man: Most Wanted is actually… okay?

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