This is my look at movies I really enjoy that have either not been treated kindly by critics or were simply underappreciated.
10. Invasion (2007) – This fourth telling of the classic sci-fi tale Invasion of the Body Snatchers was hammered by critics but I must admit it totally worked for me. Nicole Kidman made for a solid lead and Daniel Craig, who co-starred as Kidman’s love interest, has never been more likeable on screen. One of the film’s messages about the numbing down of people by prescription drugs was a nifty touch as it gave the story a really interesting spin. In my opinion a solid watch. It furthers what made this story so compelling in the first place.
9. Daredevil (2003) – Is it one of the very best superhero movies ever made? No, but it’s a solid film in the genre that is entertaining and involving throughout. Ben Affleck (Matt Murdoch), Jennifer Garner (a perfect Elektra), Michael Clarke Duncan (Kingpin) and Colin Farrell (Bullseye) all give credible performances. I simply don’t get the hate. This is a good movie.
8. Halloween 2 (1981) – This is the best of the Halloween sequels and it plays extremely well as a direct continuation to John Carpenter’s classic original. The scenes of Michael Myers walking the streets of Haddonfield are by far the best of the entire series and the last twenty minutes, when Dr. Loomis finds out that Michael is Laurie Strode’s brother, are extremely suspenseful. Attention Rob Zombie – This is the real Halloween 2!
7. Hook (1991) – critics weren’t kind to this Spielberg film about a grown up Peter Pan who returns to Neverland to rescue his kids from Captain Hook, but I find it highly entertaining. When I originally saw this movie in a theater, I simply loved the way Spielberg built up the anticipation leading to Peter (Robin Williams) finally flying one again. While there are flaws, it’s still one of my favorite Spielberg movies. Another great score by John Williams.
6. Night of the Living Dead (1990) – Tom Savini’s remake of the George Romero classic zombie film isn’t as shocking as the 1968 original (how could it be three decades later) but it works. Tony Todd is a terrific lead as Ben, and Patricia Tallman (former stunt women) puts a nice spin on the Barbara character as she’s anything but the meek damsal in the original version. I first saw this movie after going on a job interview in NYC back in 1990 with around five people in the audience. It didn’t make much money and in many ways seems to be forgotten but for one reason or another it’s always stuck with me. I watch it every Halloween.
5. Gremlin 2 The New Batch (1990) – Joe Dante’s highly inventive sequel takes the action from a small town to the big city of New York and the result is a highly enjoyable follow-up to one of the best summer movies of all time. While this sequel is more comedic in nature, it’s no less entertaining than the original. Why Dante didn’t have a bigger career is anyone’s guess but the guy is a solid talent with a very inventive mind. How can anyone not love Gizmo going Rambo!
4. Jaws 2 (1978) – While it was almost impossible for any follow-up to Steven Spielberg’s original classic to be received in a positive light, director Jeannot Szwarc does about as good a job as one could. While not nearly as character driven as the first film in the franchise, the movie is grounded by returning lead Roy Scheider. Scheider, who later claimed to have only reprised his role to end a contractual issue with Universal, was reportedly unhappy during production and had several heated exchanges with director Szwarc. Scheider evidently didn’t want to get too upstaged by the movies younger cast and I guess he won the battle, as he was clearly the dominating force. The shark action sequences come at a fast and furious pace and the final showdown with Scheider’s Brody character and the shark is just as exciting as the original film. This is a very solid sequel and an underrated one at that.
3. Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – While I haven’t revisited the film since I saw it in a theater back in 1999, I recently got a chance to re-watch the late Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut, on Universal’s HDNET channel. I had the same reaction to it as I did back then. It’s a fascinating movie that features some of the best work of Tom Cruise’s career. This psychosexual thriller, which also costars Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman, is an absorbing and highly interesting piece of movie-making by one of Hollywood’s most gifted directors. I love the way it captured the underbelly of NYC at night through the eyes of Cruise’s doctor character. There’s something about it that’s really hypnotic. Many critics dismissed it upon its release but its one of those films worth a second look, or a first if you have never seen it before.
2. The Godfather III (1990) – Was it as great as Parts 1 & 2? NO, but it’s still a solid movie that is electric every time Andy Garcia (who was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar) is on screen. Many disregard it as a failure. I disagree. I would have loved to see a third sequel with Garcia’s Vincent Mancini character now running the show.
1. Unbreakable (2000) – I hate to use the phrase “misunderstood” but in this case I think it’s quite appropriate. Perhaps the greatest and most original superhero origin story ever put on film. The problem was that it was never marketed as a superhero film and that really perplexed many moviegoers upon its initial release. Bruce Willis and Sam Jackson are in top form here and the score is just brilliant. M. Night Shylaman certainly had his mojo going strong when he made this. While underappreciated by the masses, many movie buffs regard it as a classic and I’m in that camp. “THEY CALL ME MR. GLASS”
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