June 8, 2012
10 Phenomenally Underrated Movies
GODZILLA (1998) - In 1998, it was a big, dumb, loud & over-hyped Hollywood product, cynically calculated to sell as many toys as movie tickets. Critics hated it, audiences stayed away and tie-in merchandise ended up in budget bins before summer was even over. Hey, it's a giant monster movie. What was everyone expecting, The Seventh Seal? Roland Emmerich is no Scorsese, but Godzilla was better than Transformers, 2007's big, dumb, loud & over-hyped Hollywood product everybody flocked to.
APOLLO 18 - Yet another one of those 'found-footage' movies, a genre that's quickly wearing out its welcome. But what makes this one truly cool is it looks like it came from the era when it takes place - the 70s - when everything was captured on film, and we couldn’t simply fire-up a camcorder or cell-phone. Yeah, the whole killer-alien-space-rock thing is kinda dumb, but I personally thought this deliberately-paced quickie was really spooky. One of the few films to make space look like a shitty place to go.
EVENT HORIZON - Director Paul W.S. Anderson is a hack, but even the worst ballplayer on a team can hit one out of the park every now and then. Event Horizon may simply be The Shining in space, and doesn't always make a whole lotta sense, but it looks great, delivers some real scares, decent performances and, best of all, creates a dreadful, helpless feeling that these characters have ventured way too far from Earth for their own good.
A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE - The story behind this one is the stuff of legend. Originally conceived by Stanley Kubrick, this was handed (at the late director’s behest) to Steven Spielberg to rewrite and ultimately direct. An odd collaboration, considering Kubrick’s films are usually cold and bleak, while Spielberg films have oft-been criticized for being overly-sentimental. A lot of critics (and audiences) didn’t like A.I. The movie is often dark and relentlessly downbeat, only to be punctuated by moments obviously geared to tug at your heart. Spielberg would defensively claim the more sentimental moments were actually Kubrick’s idea, but that’s probably bullshit. No matter...this film does a much more effective job questioning the definition of sentient life than the phenomenally overrated Blade Runner.
BE COOL - No, it ain't as good as Get Shorty, but it's still fun and fast paced. And just try to tell me seeing Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as a flamboyantly gay mob enforcer with dreams of stardom isn't one of the funnier examples of casting-against-type in recent years.
DEEP RISING - Sure, it's an Alien rip-off. Sure, the plot doesn't hold up to scrutiny very well. Sure, the CG effects are a bit questionable. But it's also intentionally funny, features a lot more character development than most movies of its ilk and isn't afraid to pile-on the gore. Director Stephen Sommers would go on to direct the first two Mummy movies, which everyone loved. A lot of what made those movies so much dumb summertime fun is present here.
PAYBACK - This is still my favorite Mel Gibson movie...a macho, sleazy, violent, black-humored, politically incorrect movie, with no aspirations of being anything more. Every single character, criminal and cop, is a bad guy. This movie is tons of fun, but never mentioned among the best modern action films, or listed as a highlight in Gibson’s filmography. But we’re not supposed to like Mel Gibson anymore, are we?