Monday, December 28, 2009

Don't Forget About These! (The Decade Edition)

My compatriots have been making lists of their favorite films of the decade and I could do the same thing but I figured why bother since there would be a massive amount of repeats. The best part of all this reminiscing is it makes people think about these movies and in some cases causes them to seek out and discover some of the ones they might have missed. As such I decided to compose a completely different kind of list. What follows is my list of some of the best, unheralded, unsung gems of the past 10 years. Very few of these movies ever won any kind of awards but they’re still great movies none-the-less, some just as good if not better than what’s been touched upon by my colleagues and it’d be a shame for them to slip through the cracks of these never-ending retrospectives. So without any further ado let’s jump right in shall we?

BELOW: David Twohy followed up the brilliant PITCH BLACK with this equally brilliant supernatural / WWII thriller set on a submarine. I refuse to spoil too much but the film is every kind of intense you can think of. Not only are there all kinds of possibly supernatural shenanigans going on aboard the sub but up on the surface they are being doggedly pursued by a pack of relentless German U-Boats. The danger and suspense is inescapable and this film will stick with you long after it’s over. This is one of those films that almost no one saw and it’s an outright crime because it is pure genius.

BUBBA HO-TEP: John F. Kennedy Jr. had his mind put into the body of a black man. Elvis never really died it was one of his impersonators and now black JFK and Elvis (Played by Bruce Campbell) are living out their twilight years in a convalescent home when a cursed mummy thing starts feeding on the souls of their elderly neighbors. It’s up to the King and the ex-President to stop him. If that description doesn’t make you want to instantly rush out and find this movie then I’m not sure I want to know you.

THE HOST: The Korean equivalent of JAWS? Maybe. Not only is this a spectacular monster movie but it’s also a deep, satisfying, truly engrossing family saga as well. Like JAWS you’re more invested in the characters than you ever are in the monster (And it’s a pretty darn cool monster) and that’s why it all works so well. If you consider yourself a fan of M. Night Shyamalan or Steven Spielberg you owe it to yourself to seek out this film.

NINE QUEENS: The best way to sum up this wickedly ingenious con film is to simply give you an excerpt from the review emblazoned across the theatrical one-sheet that drove my sister and me into the theatre. “Fabi├ín Bielinski's trickster of a film, ''Nine Queens,'' is the kind of movie that seduces you into becoming putty in its manipulative card-sharking hands and making you enjoy being taken in by its shameless contrivance… The Argentine movie is the directorial debut of a filmmaker who appears to have steeped himself so thoroughly in Alfred Hitchcock and David Mamet that it's hard to imagine ''Nine Queens'' having been made without them leering metaphorically over his shoulder. The movie… combines Hitchcock's winking tongue-in-cheek vision of a paranoid universe where everyone may or may not be part of an elaborate conspiracy with Mr. Mamet's obsession with the finer points of gamesmanship and con artistry. “ If that doesn’t get your juices flowing then I don’t know what will.

OLD BOY: I can’t guarantee this film is everyone’s cup of tea because it is absolutely BRUTAL, violence, story wise – you name it. That however doesn’t make the film any less brilliant. Hands down this is one of the most visceral pieces of cinema you will EVER see. There’s a reason guys like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Will Smith fell so in love with this movie that they wanted to remake it. OLD BOY is one of the single most twisted, brutal revenge tales ever crafted and it is worth at least one viewing for the hallway / hammer fight alone.

PAYBACK STRAIGHT UP: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT: PAYBACK, starring Mel Gibson was released in 1999 and it was a pretty entertaining little movie. What very few people knew at the time was that the film was ripped out of the hands of writer / director Brian Helgeland (The genius screenwriter behind A KNIGHT’S TALE, L.A. CONFIDENTAL, etc.) re-edited, recolored (No joke they gave the whole film a blue tone) and a completely new third act was filmed and tacked on. For reasons that still defy every sort of Hollywood logic in 2006 the suits at Paramount and Mel Gibson allowed Helgeland to finish the movie the way he originally envisioned it and they released it on DVD. As strange a series of events as that is let me tell you that if they had released this version of PAYBACK the first time around it would have easily wound up on my top 10 list for any year it was released. In fact despite the fact it was originally released in 1999 I would have a hard time keeping this new version off my top 10 list of maybe even this decade. PAYBACK was originally a more faithful telling of Richard Stark’s brilliant novel The Hunter which was made once before into a pretty kick-ass Lee Marvin film called POINT BLANK. There are quite a few people that hold POINT BLANK as a classic, but in my humble opinion the director’s cut of PAYBACK has it beat in every single way. If you like hard-edged, big-balled, crime fiction, neo-noir then it is imperative you seek this sucker out on DVD. If you do you’ll see one of the better revenge / crime films I’ve ever seen. If there were only one movie on this list that you try to discover, I’d make it this one!

THE SALTON SEA: Another great piece of neo-noir / crime fiction. My sister turned me on to this film and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it. This is D.J. Caruso’s feature film directorial debut and while I’ve liked pretty much everything the guy has done I don’t think any of them hold a candle to this flick. Check this one out and you’ll also see Val Kilmer turn in one of the absolute best performances of his career.

SLITHER: This is perfect, B-Movie bliss. If you like stuff like ARMY OF DARKNESS, BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and the works of Bruce Campbell then this movie is right up your alley. If you’re also a fan of Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY and Captain Malcolm Reynolds portrayer Nathan Fillion then I can’t imagine you not loving this movie. This is an awesome, fun, funny B-Movie throwback filled with huge laughs and lots of creepy blood, guts and gore. This is the kind of movie they make midnight screenings for, a total cult classic that if you’re of the right mind set you’ll fall in love with the moment you see it. This is one of those movies that I pop in anytime I just want to have fun, feel happy and have a ball.

THE TAILOR OF PANAMA: This is perhaps the best dark, political satire about the military, war and the men that wage it since DR. STRANGELOVE. This film is wickedly dark, scathing and funny as hell. If the topsy-turvy, hysterically frightening plot weren’t enough you have Pierce Brosnan turning in easily my favorite performance of his career. For all intents and purposes he plays a very “R” rated version of James Bond that has simply stopped caring about queen and country and only wants money, booze and women. After seeing this movie you’ll never look at his turn as James Bond quite the same way again.

WAY OF THE GUN: Christopher McQuarrie followed up on his Oscar winning screenplay for THE USUAL SUSPECTS with this harsh, slick, gritty bit of ass-kicking. In an interview McQuarrie referred to the film as a “Western with cell phones” and if you give this film a whirl you’ll see what he means. Guaranteed you’ll look at Ryan Phillipe in a whole new light after this film and Benecio Del Toro used this film to prove he was for sure the real deal. This is one of those films that’s been practically forgotten and that’s a shame because it’s anything but forgettable.

Oh and just to really wrap up all this “Best of the Decade” nonsense I realize I forgot to mention Darren Aronofsky, Neil Marshall and the brain trust of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost behind the instant classics SHAUN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ, because seriously my list isn’t complete without mentioning them. Also I know I never really listed my favorite individual movies but after much thought and consideration I realized that if I did THE DARK KNIGHT, THE INCREDIBLES, UNBREAKABLE and ALMOST FAMOUS would have probably been at the very top so there you go. And with that other than my “Best of 2009” I’m done with this decade. Here’s hoping the next one brings us so much to talk about as well.

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