There are the 50 Best Movies I saw for the first time, or practically the first time, in 2011. There are a few I had technically seen before, but either couldn’t remember them at all, or felt that I experienced them in a new way, so those are still included. Please enjoy. Both the article, and all 50 movies.
1. Deadly Friend (1986, Wes Craven)
A brilliant teen, with an understanding of neuro-science and robotics, has built an adorable robot named BB who rambles nonsense in an adorably demonic voice. But the robot is detroyed by neighbor Anne Ramsey, and shortly after that, the girl he has fallen for (Kristy Swanson, also fucking adorable) dies. Sad and desperate, he does the only practical thing. Brings both of them back at the same time by putting the brain of BB into the body of Swanson. Things don’t work out exactly as planned, though, as his new Friend turns out to have some Deadly qualities. The plot may have some absurd elements, but if you can embrace it, this is one of the saddest movies you will ever see. I was seriously distraught by the end of it.
Basically, it’s a horror movie that manages to combine a plethora of cuteness with heart-breaking tragedy, centered around a robot and a pretty girl, with moments of disturbing cruelty, some gory effects, and one of the best kill scenes of all time (it involves a basketball). This movie was made for me personally. The film’s been largely dismissed because it jumps genres a bit, and sometimes seems like it was made for kids, but other times is clearly intended as adult horror, leaving people wondering what audience this movie is meant for. Well, it’s me. This movie is tailor-fucking-made for me. It’s unbearably appealing, perfect in every way, and a new all-time favorite.
2. Mac and Me (1988, Stewart Raffill)
A young, grotesquely adorable alien is vaccuumed off his home planet, separated from his family, and planted on Earth, where he befriends a boy in a wheelchair, who helps him hide from NASA by dressing him up as a teddy bear and taking him to a McDonald’s dance party. There are a lot of other crazy and bizarre things that happen, but I feel it may be best to go in unprepared, and let it’s many delights unfold upon you naturally. Part of the reason I defend seemingly-misguided movies like this (or Troll 2 or The Room), is because I admire any movie where you have no fucking clue what’s going to happen next. Even being a rip-off of another film (the inferior E.T., which I also really love, just not as much), there is no way to predict what you’re about to see on a scene-to-scene basis in Mac and Me. But trust me, every moment is compelling, and for me, that makes it a brilliant and unique film. And also, I don’t care what anyone says, Mac is fucking cute. The adult aliens (his family) not so much, and the scene where his naked alien dad is waving a gun around in a supermarket is a little creepy, but overall it’s a cute movie. And one of the best I’ve ever seen.
3. Reform School Girls (1986, Tom DeSimone)
After robbing something, a girl is sent to a reform school that is basically the same thing as a women’s prison, but I guess they’re supposed to be teenagers even though they don’t look like teenagers, and one of them is played by Wendy O. Williams who was like 37 at the time and looks even older (I mean, she looks great and I love her, but it’s hilarious she’s supposed to be a teen). At the reform school prison, the new inmate girl befriends an innocent, claustrophobic runaway (played all too well by Sherri Stoner, making the scenes where fucked up things happen to her truly disturbing) and some other people, but makes an enemy out of the tough bully girl (Wendy O.), who can get away with shit because she’s sleeping with the main guard (Pat Ast) in charge of keeping the girls in line. Supposedly a spoof of the women-in-prison genre, it fully embraces all the same tactics that make those films great (cute girls, violence, horrifying cruelty, shower scenes, and a seriously empowering climactic revolt), and ends up being probably the greatest version of the WIP formula. All the actresses are excellent, particularly Stoner, Williams, the lead (Linda Carol), and the always reliable Sybil Danning as the warden. Warhol actress Pat Ast, as the evil guard, steals the film though, and is one of the most terrifying and savage villains in movie history. An extraordinary film, that really is perfect.
4. The Peanut Butter Solution (1985, Michael Rubbo)
An 11-year-old boy lives with his father and matriarchal sister (she’s like 13, but insanely adult), and one day a nearby house burns down, so he goes to check it out, fearing some homeless people he knows may have died inside. Whatever he sees in there scares him so badly he wakes up the next morning without any hair. But fortunately, the ghosts of the homeless people show up to give him a magical hair-growing recipe. He mixes in too much peanut butter, though, which causes the hair to grow rapidly, needing constant maintenance, and getting him kicked out of school due to how distracting it is. His best friend, by the way, has also used the Solution, on his crotch, and now has pubic hair growing out of the bottom of his pant-legs (again, these kids are 11). Naturally, the main boy is kidnapped by his creepy, imagination-hating art teacher, who keeps him in a yogurt-induced coma, as his sweatshop of stolen children make paintbrushes out of his hair. This movie is not on DVD and still fairly obscure, and I’ve heard various reports from people who saw it as a kid who weren’t sure if it was a real movie, or a terrifying/enthralling dream that they had. That is seriously what all children’s films should strive for. It’s probably the weirdest movie I’ve ever seen, and literally dropped my jaw on several occasions just from sheer what-the-fuckness. Seek it out. It’s incredible.
5. Captain EO (1986, Francis Ford Coppola)
Captain EO (Michael Jackson) is traveling to a distant, industrial planet with his cute alien space crew, and when they get there, the Supreme Being (Anjelica Huston) wants the crew turned into trash cans, and EO to be tortured for 100 years. But Michael battles her and her henchman with song and dance, and transforms her and the planet into something prettier. It’s fucking fun and amazing and completely holds up and the 3D is incredible, and it’s very overwhelming (though, unfortunately, it’s probably considerably less -whelming when not in 3D at Disneyland).
6. The Six Thousand Dollar Nigger (1979, Rene Martinez Jr.)
Two African-American crooks pay a midget scientist $6,000 to make a serum that will give them the super strength required to pull off a jewelry heist. The midget succeeds with the serum, but the catch is that it will kill them in seven days. So they pick up a vagrant negro (Wildman Steve), give him an apartment, and set him up with a prostitute who he eats fried chicken with and then yells at to wash his ass. They then give him the serum and trick him into lifting up and stealing a safe from a jewelry store. Done with him, they try to shoot him (even though they could’ve just waited a week), but he’s bulletproof, and when the scientist’s assistant (who has fallen in love with Wildman Steve) hears they’re plotting against him, she steals all the ingredients needed to make the die-in-seven-days antidote, and after a finale involving a blatantly unexplained death, things work out. Unbelievably low budget and genuinely hilarious, this is my new favorite heist film. It’s unbelievable that this movie happened (and was released with that fucking title), but it did and it’s wonderful and I’m honored to have seen it.
7. Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan)
A victim of an assault that left his wife dead and his memory fucked, a Guy (Pearce) tries to track down his wife’s killer, relying on notes, polaroids, and tattoos to keep track of evidence and who around him is trustworthy, in a mind-blowing thriller told backwards. Extremely dark, compelling, and entertaining, while still bringing in some commentary on the unreliable cloudiness of memory, and all told remarkably well through it’s complex, but follow-able, reverse-order gimmick. A fucking brilliant film.
8. Death Spa (1990, Michael Fischa)
A health club is having issues with people being killed while working out/showering/looking in a mirror/using a blender /etc. The culprit seems to be the wife of the health club owner, who killed herself the year before and is now possessing her brother, who built and controls the club’s all-powerful computer system, which can apparently control everything from shower tiles to dead fish. It’s. Fucking. Great. It doesn’t ooze charm as much as the other Aerobic Slasher film, Aerobi-cide, but the kills are much bloodier and more creative, and it is perfect horror entertainment. Truly one of the best, of anything.
9. Boxer’s Omen (1983, Chih-hung Kuei)
In a kickboxing match, the huge guy from Bloodsport injures his opponent, so that guy’s brother goes to Thailand to get revenge, and instead is called by a dead monk-wizard who used to be related to him in another life, and also has some vengeance issues that this guy has to work out for him (he’d do it himself but he’s dead). So the guy trains to become a monk-wizard and this leads to insane monk-wizard battles and some equally insane battle preparations. This movie includes adorable stop-motion bat skeletons, vomit-eating, eye-piercings, crocodile fetuses, planting a human corpse inside of a crododile corpse to make a maggot-covered sorceress, worms, tarantulas, a flying head with strangulation tentacles, eating regurgitated chicken anus and banana peels, the sorceress giving birth to a gooey blue puddle that saran-wrapped mummies grow out of, blood, entrails, brutal kickboxing, things that glow with neon, and every monstrous creation and imaginative special effect that could ever be possible. It’s fairly non-stop, constantly out-doing itself, and is one of the craziest fucking movies I’ve ever seen. This movie’s existence makes all life on Earth more valuable.
10. The Fly (1986, David Cronenberg)
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a scientist excited about the new teleportation pods he’s invented, and he shows them off to reporter Geena Davis, and convinces her to hold off on printing a story in her science magazine until he’s done experimenting, and then there’s a really adorable love story between them. Once Brundle is confident his invention works, he tests it out on himself, not realizing a fly is in the pod, which fuses with his DNA during transport. At first, he has excessive energy and strength, but begins to slowly exhibit other symptoms of being a half-fly (or Brundlefly as he labels himself), and starts to looks disgusting and his fingernails fall off and he has to vomit on his food, and there’s a whole fucking lot of really graphic, gooey, and disgusting makeup and effects, with melting body parts and gory arm-wrestling, and it’s the greatest thing ever.
11. Beverly Hills Cop (1984, Martin Brest)
Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is a Detroit cop who, against orders, travels to Beverly Hills to investigate the murder of a close friend of his. The Beverly Hills police force is uncooperative with his methods, but he’s able to outsmart them and do shit his own way, which seems to be a great deal more effective. It’s a fine 80s-style action-y cop film, that is elevated immensely by Eddie Murphy, who is fucking hilarious. Every character, down to the bit parts, feels fleshed out and funny, with Judge Reinhold and John Ashton as the cops assigned to keep an eye on Foley being major highlights. It’s Murphy’s show, though, and he’s brilliant, making it one of the greatest comedies of all time.
12. Julie Darling (1983, Paul Nicolas)
A cold-hearted girl of indeterminate age, who has a creepy crush on her father, witnesses the rape and murder of her mother and chooses not to stop it because she doesn’t like her much anyway. The dad then remarries, to Sybil Danning, and the girl plans a similar fate for her new step-mom, tracking down and hiring her mother’s killer to do it. It’s fucked up. Isabelle Mejias as the smart, creepy, sociopathic kid is fantastic. She’s even a believable match against the always intimidating force of Sybil Danning. The evil-kid genre doesn’t get much better than this. It’s amazing.
13. The Kindred (1987, Jeffrey Obrow & Stephen Carpenter)
On her deathbed, a scientist (Kim Hunter) lets her son know her experiments have gotten out of hand, and tells him to destroy all her notes and things. She also alludes to him having a brother. The son goes to her Science Cabin with a group of other scientists, and a mysterious protégé of the mother, to investigate, and the brother he has turns out to be a gooey, semi-aquatic creature with tentacles, homicidal tendencies, and the ability to impregnate watermelons. The special effects are fucking unbelievable, nearly as good as The Thing, which I believe are the best special effects ever put to film. And it’s embracingly gratuitous gory effects, sci-fi horror fusion, and overall tone reminded me a lot of Stuart Gordon’s works. There’s even a fish monster transformation that predates Dagon. Incredible movie. This shit desperately needs a DVD release, ideally on blu-ray too.
14. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986, John McNaughton)
Michael Rooker plays a serial killer (based on Henry Lee Lucas), who gets his sleazy roommate involved in the killings. Not a ton of onscreen gore, but it often shows the aftermath with an excellent, haunting score over it. It’s a dark and ugly movie, but with hilarious one-liners! The performances are fucking amazing.
15. Treevenge (2008, Jason Eisener)
It starts off with a redone version of my favorite song of all time, the Cannibal Holocaust Theme, playing over the opening credits. Then Christmas trees in the forest are shown being brutally chopped down by lumberjacks, who are cruel and abusive toward the trees in hilariously over-the-top ways, as the trees squeal in pain and protest (their cries are translated and subtitled for us). But come Christmas, the trees takes their revenge on every nearby human or animal, in fantastically gory ways. Really fucking funny, and the gore is seriously outstanding. A new Christmas favorite, I loved the shit out of this.
16. Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996, Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky)
A courtroom documentary about three goth teenagers in West Memphis, Arkansas, who are put on trial for horrendously murdering three young boys, due to a shaky confession from one of the teens who is somewhat mentally challenged, and an assumption that they are all into Satanism based on their appearance and interests. It’s a starkly disturbing look at the most flagrant case imaginable of guilty-until-proven-innocent. The evidence against them is virtually non-existent, and many details just don’t add up. For instance, the killer had meticulously sliced off all the skin from one boy’s penis, which doesn’t sound much like the work of Satanists. Obviously, the suspect they should be looking for is a Jewish rabbi… Ok, but all kidding about child murder and mutilation aside, you guys, this story is fucked, and it’s an amazing documentary.
17. Punisher: War Zone (2008, Lexi Alexander)
Frank Castle (Ray Stevenson) has become a mob-slaying vigilante (nicknamed Punisher) after the death of his family. He runs into trouble after a particular mob boss (Dominic West) seeks revenge for fucking up his face after Punisher throws him into a vat of broken bottles. Now named Jigsaw due to his stitched-up puzzle piece face, he busts his brother Loony Bin Jim (an extremely creepy Doug Hutchison) out of the mental hospital, and they do what they can to destroy Castle and all that he cares about, leading to hundreds of people being annihilated (mostly bad guys killed by Punisher). It’s tremendously violent, and so much fucking fun. The death of a guy doing parkour will blow your mind. It’s phenomenally fearless, and just a fucking fantastic action film.
18. Child’s Play (1988, Tom Holland)
A young boy named Andy desperately wants a Good Guy doll for his birthday. His mom can’t afford a new one, so she buys one from a street-peddler, but it turns out to be defective. It’s got the soul of a serial killer trapped inside! The killer, Charles Lee Ray, or Chucky, is on the hunt for his old partner who abandoned him before his death (and quick-thinking voodoo soul-transference into the doll), and more than happy to murder anyone who gets in his way. Andy knows what he’s up to, but of course no one believes him because Chucky is an inanimate doll, and the police think he might be insane and possibly even responsible for the murders himself. One of my favorite things about the movie is the mother’s devotion to her son, and her desperation to believe him no matter how crazy it all sounds. And the scene where she finds out he’s right is fucking amazing. It’s an impressive movie, with what could be a campy premise played out brilliantly. It’s serious, but self-aware, and there are touches of dark humor. The killer-doll effects are also effective, and it’s great watching a doll going through shit and getting injured, looking more and more haggard throughout. It’s even more amazing in the context of having recently seen Seed of Chucky, and taking in all that Chucky has been through. I actually thought to myself “He looks so young!” at the beginning of the movie. A deserved classic. I fucking love it.
19. Frankenstein (1931, James Whale)
An obscure little gem about Dr. Frankenstein, a mad scientist, who creates new life out of body parts collected from graveyards, and a damaged brain from a professor’s lab, using the electricity from a lightning bolt in a thunderstorm. The monster (Boris Karloff) he creates is scared and bewildered, and becomes aggressive after being continually whipped by the scientist’s assistant. He escapes, and while wandering around, comes across a young girl, who he accidently kills by throwing in the water. The town finds out, and join together to find the monster and destroy him. A great horror story, brilliantly executed, with an extremely sympathetic performance from Karloff. Give this one a try sometime!
20. Bride of Frankenstein (1935, James Whale)
Somehow surviving the events of the previous film, the Frankenstein Monster (Karloff) goes off into the woods, where he meets a blind hermit who is kind to him, and they become fast friends, and the hermit teaches him to talk, before everything is ruined by some villagers who find them and freak out. The Frankenstein doctor, meanwhile, is visited by an old professor, Dr. Pretorius, who is intrigued by the doctor’s success in the re-animation of life, since he himself has only been able to create living miniature people (which seems like it would be way harder. What is he building them out of, miniature corpses? It doesn’t really make sense.) Pretorius tries to convince Frankenstein to build someone new, eventually enlisting the Monster’s help to talk him into it, and the doctor relents, building a female companion for him. The newly-alive woman (Elsa Lanchester), though, is repulsed by the Monster, and repulsed by the arranged marriage bullshit they were trying to set up for her, so she shrieks wildly until the Monster blows up the castle, destroying them all.
21. Body Snatchers (1993, Abel Ferrara)
A teen girl (Gabrielle Anwar) and her little brother are spending the summer with their dad on a military base, and they begin to realize something is amiss. Specifically, aliens are replacing people with clones, and plan to take over the planet. I liked that it’s not really a remake, but more like a companion piece to the other Body Snatcher movies, using only the idea of alien pod cloning, and nothing else. The ’78 one uses a lot of the same elements as ’56, but even so, I like to think of them all as concurrent stories happening in different towns (the ’78 one even has a cameo by Kevin McCarthy that suggests this idea). The ’93 version, directed by Abel Ferrara and co-written by Stuart Gordon (!) has a fast pace, good effects, and quite a few disturbing, scary moments. It’s fucking awesome.
22. Water Power (1977, Shaun Costello)
A misogynist (Jamie Gillis) goes to a brothel, where he witnesses an elaborate fantasy set-up of a doctor and nurse giving the patient an enema. Something clicks in him, and he realizes it’s his mission in life to become The Enema Bandit (also an alternate title for the film). He begins breaking into women’s homes, raping them, and cleansing them of their unpure womanliness by giving them enemas. Similar in many ways to Maniac (which it predates), also about a woman-hating psychotic living in a dingy New York apartment, but pornographic and way seedier. This is probably the sleaziest movie ever made, and one of the most disgusting. I’d recommend it to virtually no one, but holy shit is it good.
23. Business Is Business (1971, Paul Verhoeven)
The day-to-day adventures of two prostitutes in Amsterdam, who specialize in fantasy fetishes, like a submissive man who wants to wear a skimpy maid’s uniform and clean the apartment, or someone who wants them to pretend to perform surgery on him, or a guy who wants them all to cover themselves in feathers (which he keeps in his briefcase, just in case) and pretend to be birds. One of the prostitutes (and the main focus of the movie) is tough and uncompromising in who she is, and the other has an abusive boyfriend, and is not really cut out for the hooker lifestyle. There are some dark moments and bad things that happen, but this is pretty much one of the sweetest movies ever. The girls’ friendship, and their various smutty hijinx are surprisingly cute and funny, and it’s an extremely pleasant watch. Not what I’m used to from Verhoeven, but I loved it just the same. My favorite of his Dutch movies.
My reviews from Paul Verhoeven’s Complete Filmography.
24. Last House on the Left (1972, Wes Craven)
Two girls are on their way to a concert, and stopping to buy marijuana from a young man on the street, get entangled with a threesome of violent criminals who take them to the woods, and rape, torture, and kill them. The criminals then, by coincidence, end up at the home of one of the girl’s parents, who figure out what has happened, and seek revenge. David Hess, as the gang’s leader, is amazing, managing to be simultaneously charming and disgusting. He also provides the film’s folksy, brilliantly incongruous soundtrack. It’s an ugly and violently disturbing film, one that defines grindhouse sleaze with it’s gritty cinematography and tone. It’s the greatest.
25. Temple Grandin (2010, Mick Jackson)
The story of Temple Grandin, an autistic woman with a brilliant knack for building things and understanding the needs of cattle. Autism is always fascinating to me, and the movie does an incredible job of showing the world through Grandin’s eyes, relating you to her awkwardness, and Claire Danes’ portrayal is amazing and charming. I don’t know if this was ineligible for last year’s Oscars because it was made for TV, but as far as 2010 movies about overcoming a handicap go, this is a thousand times better than the fucking King’s Speech, and is easily one of the best dramas of that year (I saw it after making my Best Of ’10 lists, or it would have made it on). I also watched the commentary track with the real Temple Grandin, and she was great. Temple Grandin is fucking great!
26-50 in alphabetical order
42nd Street (1933, Lloyd Bacon)
A backstage drama about a musical production, where a struggling director is hired to make what needs to be a hit for all involved. After the lead actress breaks her ankle, a risky decision is made to replace her with a newcomer (an adorable Ruby Keeler). Keeler is great, as is Ginger Rogers in a bit part. It’s lively and enchanting, and I can see why Paul Verhoeven would list this as his primary influence on Showgirls. The musical numbers (choreographed by Busby Berkeley) are amazing.
The Amazing Cosmic Awareness of Duffy Moon (1976, Larry Elikann)
The young Duffy Moon is small and has issues with bullying, but he finds a book about cosmic awareness and learns that if he puffs out his cheeks and listens to an inner voice saying “You can do it, Duffy Moon,” he can achieve whatever the fuck he damn well pleases. Way cute and seriously inspirational. Also includes an appearance from Alexa Kenin, an awesome child actress who died young (she’s also in A Movie Star’s Daughter and Little Darlings).
Any Which Way You Can (1980, Buddy Van Horn)
Ambien Review coming soon.
The Best of Times (1981, Don Mischer)
OH MY GOD. This is a TV movie (or pilot?) about a group of teenage friends, who have some serious teenage issues, like having too much fun with laughter and dancing and punctuating every scene with a cheesy joke! And it stars CRISPIN GLOVER AND NICOLAS CAGE, TWO OF THE GREATEST ACTORS OF ALL TIME, IN THEIR VERY FIRST ROLES. It’s the most adorable thing in the world. Crispin is funny and goofy, but is maybe nervously holding back on his weirdness (which takes nothing away from the cuteness), and Cage wastes no time in his career being over-the-top and hilarious. I had long since given up on ever finding a copy of this, and I stumbled on it by accident on youtube. Fucking amazing. You, too, can watch the miracle here.
Blue Steel (1989, Kathryn Bigelow)
A rookie cop (Jamie Lee Curtis) fires her gun in self-defense and kills Tom Sizemore, who is holding up a grocery store. But Sizemore’s gun is stolen by a psychopath (Ron Silver) who witnesses the scene, and Curtis is penalized for shooting someone since there’s no evidence of the perpetrator being armed. The psychopath, a Wall Street broker, becomes obsessed with Curtis, and begins dating her, without her knowing that he’s the one who’s been carving her name into bullets and shooting people. She figures it out, though, and with some help from a Homicide detective (Clancy Brown), works to bring him down. Jamie Lee Curtis is fucking awesome in it, and Ron Silver is a super-creep. A captivating, intense thriller.
Cliffhanger (1993, Renny Harlin)
Sylvester Stallone tries his hardest to save Michael Rooker’s girlfriend from falling a billion feet to her death, but he doesn’t, which causes some tension between him and Rooker, but when they both end up captured by psychopaths led by John Lithgow who needs their help finding cases of money scattered through the mountains, they have to learn to get along again to get out of their sticky situation. Fucking amazing and intense edge-of-your-cliff action scenes, and enjoyable performances from everyone. Brilliant film.
Coming to America (1988, John Landis)
Eddie Murphy is an African prince with a lavish, pampered life, who is set to marry a woman he has never met, and who is trained to obey him. Dissatisfied with this, he leaves home for America to find a woman with a sense of free will, and who loves him for who he is. So with his assistant (Arsenio Hall), he rents a modest apartment in Queens and gets a job at a fast food restaurant, hiding his wealth from a woman he’s fallen for. Murphy’s character is sweet and lovable, and the whole movie is surprisingly sincere and good-natured. The comedy never gets too broad, keeping it grounded, and it’s just a really endearing and highly enjoyable comedy, with some amazing outfits (James Earl Jones wears what seems to be almost an entire lion). Great movie.
Cria Cuervos (1976, Carlos Saura)
There are three Spanish sisters, whose mother has died, and the father may also be dying, possibly from being poisoned by the best sister, Ana (Ana Torrent). Ana is fascinated with death, and is frequently visited by her deceased mother (Geraldine Chaplin, who also plays the adult Ana looking back at her life). The film is as maudlin as it is cute, with a fantastic, big-eyed performance from Torrent, and a cute dance scene. It’s really fucking good.
Death Wish (1974, Michael Winner)
Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) is a pacifist architect in New York whose wife is murdered and daughter raped by three street punks (including a young Jeff Goldblum). Kersey is sent on a job in Arizona where he meets a gun enthusiast who later sends him a gun as a gift. Frustrated by crime in the city and the NYPD’s inability to catch the creeps who attacked his family, he begins roaming the streets late at night, and shooting to kill anyone who tries to mug him. Bronson is fucking awesome in it, and it’s one of the best, most effective vigilante movies.
Dreamcatcher (2003, Lawrence Kasdan)
Four friends meet up at a cabin to hang out, and some crazy shit starts happening, and the military is involved, and there’s kind of a lot going on. I knew absolutely nothing about this movie going in, and I don’t want to reveal much because it’s a perfect movie to watch without knowing anything. It’s a fun fucking ride of a movie, and I never had any clue what was going to happen next. Even the first scene is disorienting, with a psychiatrist (Thomas Jane) displaying that he knows more than he should about a patient, in what I was sure would turn out to be a dream sequence, but wasn’t. It also has a strong cast and surprisingly top-notch special effects for a movie I don’t even remember coming out. It’s definitely worth checking out, and without saying too much about the plot, I’ll tease that if you’re interested in seeing toothy space slugs exploding out of assholes, Dreamcatcher just might deliver.
Family (2006, John Landis)
George Wendt is a serial killer in suburbia, living with the skeletons of his victims, who he imagines interacting with him. A couple moves in across the street from him, and he becomes obsessed with the woman, and starts plotting how to kill off his current imaginary dead wife and replace her with the new neighbor. George Wendt is fucking awesome, and it does a great job of showing what’s going on in the head of a monster who is passing himself off as a normal and kind person to the outside world. Like with the wife-switch, I loved the idea that he’s so psychotic he has to murder the skeleton of someone he’s already murdered. My only complaint is that I wasn’t into the ending. The idea of it was ok, but it didn’t indulge in it enough. Besides that, though, it’s really great.
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Howard Hawks)
Marilyn Monroe is engaged to be married, but the guy’s father doesn’t approve because he thinks she just wants him for his money, which is somewhat true. Her and best friend Jane Russell take a boat trip, and Marilyn flirts with an old guy who owns a diamond mine, and Russell falls for a guy who turns out to be a spy working for Marilyn’s fiance’s dad. With the two friends sticking together, they eventually work everything out for the best. Some good musical numbers, and Russell and Monroe are both really great.
Into the Night (1985, John Landis)
Jeff Goldblum plays an insomniac who drives to the airport one night while bored and frustrated with sleeplessness, and ends up helping out a woman in trouble (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is running from killer Iranians who want the emeralds she has smuggled in her vagina, and he accompanies her on an overnight adventure as she tries to sort her shit out. I love Goldblum and Pfeiffer (who looks fucking amazing here), and anything pertaining to insomnia has an easy appeal for me (appropriately, without even knowing what it was about, I started watching this movie at 4am). And this is a very charming thriller, with lots of fun cameos, mostly by other film directors. Landis himself is a hilarious highlight as one of the Iranians. Definitely one of my favorite non-horror Landis movies, and it’d make a good late-night double feature with After Hours.
Just Before Dawn (1981, Jeff Lieberman)
A group of college kids drives out to the mountains, where one of them owns property. Once there, they discover there are already some mountain people living there who don’t wish to share the space, one of whom is enormous (mountainous even) and homicidal. An exceptional slasher film that culminates in an amazing choking death.
Karate Dog (2004, Bob Clark)
A dog is taught how to talk and do karate by his master Pat Morita, who gets killed by assassins, and they steal some potion or something. As the only witness, Cho Cho the dog decides to help out a computer whiz detective in solving the case. Classic talking dog-buddy cop antics ensue with terrible special effects, and it’s ridiculous and amazing to watch, and occasionally genuinely funny. Chevy Chase voices Cho Cho, and he made me laugh here more than he has in any other movie. Jon Voight, as well, gives his fucking all to his over-the-top performance, and it is really something. There is a scene where the detective goes on a date with Jamie Pressly, and he’s nervous, so Cho Cho tells him what to say through an earpiece. You owe it to yourself to check this out, it’s super good.
Last Action Hero (1993, John McTiernan)
A young boy named Austin (actually the actor’s name, not the character, but when I saw this as a young boy myself, I refused to accept this, in order to help me experience the events of the movie vicariously) is a huge fan of action films and especially loves the films of a character named Jack Slater, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s friends with an elderly projectionist, who gives him a ticket (passed on from Houdini) to an advance screening of the latest Jack Slater movie. Through the power of the ticket, Austin is transported inside the movie he’s watching (which, since I had been imagining that I was the Austin this was happening to, meant it was like going into a movie within the movie I was already in). Once in this action movie world, he becomes a sidekick to Jack Slater, who is not aware of himself as a fictional character. One of the bad guys from the film, though, finds the magic ticket, and uses it to enter the real world, and so Austin and Slater follow him out to stop him from wreaking real world havoc. I hadn’t seen it since it’s initial release, and found that it holds up well. Though it parodies the action genre, it does so lovingly, and still includes plenty of ridiculous, exciting action scenes itself. Extremely fun movie with a well-executed, clever premise.
The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996, Renny Harlin)
Geena Davis is a regular family woman, who starts having flashbacks about an earlier, forgotten life, so she hires private investigator Samuel L. Jackson (The Incredibles) to look into who she used to be. It turns out she used to have a different name and haircut and she was also an amazing assassin. Her old boss (Craig Bierko) has been keeping an eye on her, and when he sees she’s starting to remember how to be awesome again, he tries to have her killed, leading to tons of amazing action scenes and explosions. Davis is great, and a formidable action star, and it’s got tons of excitement.
Look Who’s Talking (1989, Amy Heckerling)
Kirstie Alley has a baby with a married man, who is unavailable for fatherhood, and so she dates around trying to find her son a father figure, not realizing the perfect candidate is John Travolta, who was her cab driver when she went into labor, and then stuck around in her life, as a friend and babysitter. Throughout it all, Bruce Willis narrates the baby’s thoughts. It’s really funny and really fucking charming, and Kirstie Alley is awesome in it. The talking baby aspect is the least intriguing part, but Willis’ vocal performance really makes it, and it’s just as great as the rest of the movie. Definitely one of my new favorite romantic comedies, and the only one where a fetus wonders how to blow himself.
Miami Connection (1987, Y.K. Kim & Richard Park)
A great band called Dragon Sound are also pretty good with Tae Kwon Do, which comes in handy when the lead singer’s brother finds out she’s been dating the bassist, and brings in his gang of bikers/ninjas to start a rumble. Good action scenes, excellent music, and some of the most charming acting you will ever experience.
Navajo Joe (1966, Sergio Corbucci)
A group of outlaws are scalping Indians and causing trouble, and they go to a friendly town to rob them of their large money shipment arriving via train, with the help of the town’s untrustworthy doctor. However, there’s someone on their tail who’s out for revenge; Navajo Joe, who lost his wife to these scumbags. Joe, of course, is played by one of my favorite Native American actors, Burt Reynolds, with his face painted reddish and wearing a tacky black wig. Throughout the film, the villains kill about a thousand people, and Navajo Joe single-handedly kills at least 100 of the villains even though there were only like 20 to start with. It’s not perfect, but it’s shot with style, has a great score by Morricone, and the lead bad guy, played awesomely by Aldo Sambrell, is absolutely fucking ruthless.
Shakma (1990, Tom Logan & Hugh Parks)
A group of medical students meet up in their building after hours for a Dungeons and Dragons-style fantasy role-playing sesh. But trouble arises when a baboon named Shakma that they’ve been experimenting on, who was supposed to be put down for being too aggressive, escapes and viciously runs through the hallways, attacking doors and massacre-ing humans. Terrifically dorky slasher, with an unbelievably and uncomfortably intense performance from Typhoon the baboon as Shakma.
Teen Lust (1979, James Hong)
Bizarre teen sex comedy about a girl with a cheating boyfriend, a crush on a cop who she trains under in a police cadet program, a mentally challenged millionaire neighbor who wants to marry her, and an alcoholic mother, among other things. It’s funny and there are tits in it, but it mostly stands out for it’s weirdness. There’s a subplot about the main girl being adopted that comes out of nowhere, there’s a scene where she almost gets gang-raped by children, there’s terrible drag, and the mentally challenged guy might not be mentally challenged? Fuck, I don’t know, there were just a lot of moments where I didn’t really understand what was happening. But in the best way possible. The actress who played the mom was incredible.
Thelma & Louise (1991, Ridley Scott)
Two BFFs with unsatisfactory lives, Thelma (Geena Davis) and Louise (Susan Sarandon), are going on a weekend road trip, and stop in a bar, where Thelma meets a guy who attempts to rape her, but Louise shows up in time to shoot and kill him. Worried the police won’t believe their story, despite the word of a sympathetic cop (Harvey Keitel), they set out toward Mexico, and experience a sense of freedom and adventure they’d never felt before. It’s really fucking great, and the leads are amazing. An exciting, touching thriller about friendship.
The Virgin Spring (1960, Ingmar Bergman)
The virginal, innocent daughter of medieval Christian Swedes goes on a long foot-journey to bring candles to a church. Along the way, she’s stopped by two men, who rape and murder her. The men, and a young boy who accompanies them, end up at the home of the girl’s family, asking for food and shelter. When the parents discover who these men are, the father (Max von Sydow) takes brutal revenge. Shockingly unrestrained for its time, it’s an amazing revenge thriller.
The Virgin Suicides (1999, Sofia Coppola)
There are five sisters in the mysterious Lisbon family, aged 13 to 17, and the youngest commits suicide, causing the parents (Kathleen Turner and James Woods) to become overbearingly protective. But a boy named Trip Fontaine (Josh Hartnett) convinces their father to let him and his friends take the girls to a school dance, where he ends up sleeping with the sister the movie is most focused on (Kirsten Dunst), then abandoning her, which leads to the parents becoming even more overprotective, not allowing the girls any contact with the outside world. Told through the curious, admiring eyes of some boys (Trip’s friends) who obsessed over the family. A haunting, gorgeous film with a great soundtrack.
To read more of Austin’s writings, almost always about movies, visit his website at http://wolfsothern.blogspot.com/.