Top 10 Most Under Rated Action Sci Films Part 2
by Dan Collacott
Back in our second podcast we discussed some of the films that we personally love that many more really didn't give a chance. Here is the final top most overlooked or harshly criticised films in that list!
4. Moon (2009)
Director: Duncan Jones
Moon tells the claustrophobic tale of engineer Sam (Sam Rockwell) who occupies a small Moon base, running a number of machines that harvest energy for the Earth.
Experiencing a number of flashbacks and unexplained memories, Sam crashes his moon rover on a routine maintenance run. Woken hours later by the facilities computer Gerty (Kevin Spacey) Sam finds everything he thought he knew is under threat and he is no longer alone on the base.
Duncan Jones seminal film is one of the most perfectly weighted piece of film making in recent decades, accompanied by Clint Mansell’s haunting soundtrack. Moon packs so much emotion, psychological tension and melancholy in a script that doesn’t waste a single minute of its runtime.
3. The Machinist (2004)
Director: Brad Anderson
Back in 2004, Session 9 Brad Anderson directed Scott Kosar’s pitch black psychological thriller. The film tells the story of an industrial factory worker whose acute insomnia and psychological problems lead to a horrific work incident. Taking you on an eerie journey through the deconstructed mind of the hauntingly skeletal Trevor Reznik (named after Trent Reznor), piecing his memories back together to uncover the central mystery at the heart of the film through a backdrop of delusion, sleep depravation and paranoia.
Christian Bale went so method when playing Trevor Reznik that he resembled a shadow version of his former self, losing 62 pounds for the role. Director Brad Anderson perfectly executed Scott Kosar’s pitch black psychological thriller in a brilliantly atmospheric film (kudos to the incredible soundtrack by Roque-Banos) that largely gets overlooked.
2. The Running Man (1987)
Director: Paul Michael Glaser
Based on a book by Stephen King (under his Richard Bachman pen name that he wrote in a single week!) Paul Michael Glaser’s bad future adaptation of The Running Man, took the base concept and characters but put them in much more contained and stripped down version of the ultra violent survival game show.
An early career vehicle for uncle Arnie, Running Man was praised for its acerbic take on American TV and wicked deconstruction of capitalism, parodying the great American gameshow. The film can be found in the same cannon as Paul Verhoeven’s dystopian satires such as Robocop, Total Recall (which also starred Arnie) and later on Starship Troopers. All of which playfully deconstruct and hold a cracked mirror to western society.
This late 80s movie is only on this list as it is often treated as more a lower budget B movie than one of the more revered Arnie favourites such as Terminator or Total Recall. But Running Man is a beautifully shot and surprisingly well framed and edited action movie, perfectly paced, with larger than life action and characters. It even has a brilliant electro synth soundtrack by Axel F composer Harold Faltermeyer, that perfectly underpins the rebellious chaos of the film.
Admittedly the dialogue can be clunky and the acting sometimes forgettable, but there are also some classic lines and probably the best example ever of Arnie’s ‘I’ll be back’ line. The casting of real life game show host Richard Dawson as the sociopathic ratings obsessed host Killian is another reason that makes this film such an underrated piece of film history.
1. Watchmen (2009)
Director: Zach Snyder
Other than the Dawn of the Dead remake and maybe 300, Watchmen is probably the best film Zach Snyder has ever directed. But the adaptation of the beloved graphic novel from writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons wasn’t a welcome addition to the film world for many. Alan Moore himself didn’t want to see another one of his works thoughtlessly butchered for the big screen and many fans and critics alike saw this as an unfilmable project. Just look at the long list of studios and directors that passed up on the project before Snyder, including David Hayter, Darren Aronofsky, Terry Gilliam and Paul Greengrass.
The reality is that Snyder produced a painstaking almost panel by panel faithful adaptation of the source material, with a director’s cut which even featured the largely symbolic and meta Tales of the Black Freighter segments (the comic story within the comic). Most of the casting was spot on with Jackie Earle Hayley breathing life into the gruff ginger anti-hero of Rorschach whilst (a pre Negan) Jeffrey Dean Morgan was inspired as The Comedian. There are few missteps in acting and script throughout this disturbing tale of hero outcasts, other than the much criticised ending which swapped out the giant squid of the comic for a different yet equally destructive final event. The ending still largely maintains the same end game and meaning as the book, but it is understandable that some will not forgive this transgression.
Many believe that Snyder shouldn’t have gone all in on the source material, others feel this is as accurate version of the graphic novel as we could have hoped for. For those neutrals out there that haven’t read Alan Moore’s dark and unsettling cold war parody of the super hero genre, Watchmen is a movie worthy of your time.
Other Worthy Mentions
If you ignore the fact this bares so little resemblance to the comics it is based on you can certainly appreciate that this is a surprisingly decent action film even if most were less than thrilled with what Keanu Reeves and Shia LaBeouf brought to the adaptation (I don't agree), plus Peter Stormare is inspired as the Devil.
A Verhoeven classic despite its B-movie aesthetics and budget. Even the sequels aren't bad if you have the hours spare.
Imran's favourite has to get a mention. Walking Statue of Liberty and weird ‘be nice to each other’ messaging aside, this is still an incredibly fun continuation of the first film.
Whilst the concept of sticking the brain of a drug-pushing addict into a giant highly armed robot maybe as ridiculous as it sounds, it does make for more fun dystopian shenanigans.
(Is there a pattern here!?) Gloriously silly and featuring a plot that looks like it was created by a bunch of excitable four year olds. Gremlins 2 succeeds more than it fails even if it does this by throwing so much sticky green madness at the wall that it was inevitable that some would stick.
Revenge of the Sith
Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were not complete turkeys even if they had their fair share of foul Christmas trimmings. But Revenge of the Sith has just enough payoffs to make it watchable, including the lava soaked battle between Obi Wan and Anakin. Not a classic, but if you can curb your Jar Jar Binks hate you might reclaim your love of the prequels even if you won't wipe out the memory of Last Jedi.
If you loved the original then it’s hard not to appreciate the love that went into the 2010 sequel. The film rarely disappoints, the plot is a little clunky but the overall acting and story mostly delivers. Sadly 28 years was probably two long to leave creating a follow to the 1982 original, with the dedicated fanbase too small to make the kind of billions the studios these days demand from their franchises. TeeJ's favourite also!
Episode #3 of the Close Encounters of the 4th Kind podcast sees Tee-J, Imran and Dan discuss things we watched as kids in the 80s and 90s but after refocusing on them with 2019 goggles, we ask whether some of these things were really ok - is the notion of the Bond girl really something to be revered? How were Doc and Marty even best friends anyway? Apu may be a beloved Simpsons character but are we actually crossing lines of impropriety? Tune in as we ruin all of our childhood favourites (and more)!
Top 10 Most Underrated Action & Sci Fi Films - Part 1
by Dan Collacott
In our second podcast we discussed some of the films that we felt passionately about that most critics and members of the general population tend to dislike or overlook completely. Here is a list of the most under rated movies in the last twenty years.
10. Heartless (2009)
Director: Philip Ridley
Heartless was one of the early wave of short lived hoodie horror films that peaked in popularity with Attack the Block in 2011. A dark and surreal film from The Krays director Phillip Ridley. The plot blends themes of gang violence, alienation and bullying around a plot that walks a thin line between dark fantasy and council state morality.
Lead Jim Sturgess gives a strong performance alongside brit movie staples such as Noel Clarke, Clémence Poésy and Eddie Marsan. The story is weighted down with many impenetrable layers of suggestion and meaning, leaving a film that leads impressively with atmosphere and dread but never quite delivers the sum of its parts. Despite this, it is still incredibly watchable with plenty of heart and tension.
9. Equilibrium (2002)
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Set in a totalitarian society that has outlawed creative expression, this Christian Bale vehicle is a surprisingly fun if flawed watch. Likened by some critics to The Matrix for its aesthetic and action sequences, whilst others either lauded or derided it for borrowing heavily from Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and A Brave New World.
Equilibrium wasn’t particularly low budget but it still had a limited theatre release due to its makers fearing it would lose money. Structurally the film isn’t perfect, but Bale nails his role as an enforcer turned resistance member fighting against emotional suppression. It is a tense, fast paced and compelling piece of sci-fi noir, not quite as clever and original as it thinks it is yet it still somehow delivers (if you don’t overthink it).
8. Dark City (1998)
Director: Alex Proyas
Back in 98, Crow director Alex Proyas delivered an influential and gripping piece of neo noir sci-fi mystery. There would (probably) have been no Matrix franchise if there was no Dark City, some even claim Nolan’s Batman films were heavily influenced by Proyas detective dystopia. Dark City’s fractured memory narrative also laid the ground work for Memento as well as taking its own influence from classics like The Maltese Falcon.
Without Dark City, groups of bald people would just be follically challenged self help groups, rather than strangely dark, mystical villains or aliens. No doubt Richard O’Brien himself would only be famous for wearing suspenders and romping around crystal mazes, were it not for his inspired turn here in this too often forgotten classic.
7. Hardcore Henry (2015)
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Naishuller created a first person video game in movie form, complete with end of level bosses (ok you could argue Doom and even Crank did this before, but never on this scale). Hardcore Henry is a hyper-violent fun sci-fi infused adrenalin ride; filmed by a variety of different actors using GoPro rigs. Legendary District 9 actor Sharlto Copley plays multiple versions of himself, all of whom keep the action moving or provide some narration and structure to the limited narrative. Like Crank before it Hardcore Henry is a unique take on the action movie, providing visually stunning mindlessly fun nonsense, even if it lacks some of the traditional benchmarks of an action movie.
6. Upgrade (2018)
Director: Leigh Whannell
Upgrade is another sci-fi film that takes place in the not too distant future where following a car accident a paralysed man (Logan Marshall-Green) is given the opportunity to not only walk again using a new cyber tech called STEM, but as the title suggests become something entirely new and better. Whannell’s bad future film is part revenge thriller and part set piece action film with a decent twist at the end. Lying somewhere between a cautionary Black Mirror Episode and the video game Deus Ex, Upgrade is a superbly executed sci-fi romp that deserves a sequel!
5. District 9 (2009)
Director: Neill Blomkamp’s
Blomkamp’s debut film is also his finest work to date. When a huge ship full of insect/prawn like aliens become stranded in South Africa, the inhabitants are forced to live in massive crime filled ghettos. Government inspector Wikus (Sharlto Copley again) surveys the alien settlement looking for rule breakers, before an accident leads Wikus’s destiny to become entwined with that of the subjugated race he respects so little. Blomkamp drew acclaim for the reflective broken mirror his film holds up to Apartheid in South Africa.
District 9 doesn’t appear higher on the list because few who have seen it deny it’s critical merits, but it should probably be considered more an outright sci-fi classic than just a cult movie!
Click here for part 2 of the best action and sci-fi movies
This is getting a bit heavy (and confusing), but you get the idea. In a conversation I once had with someone about music, they summed up their stance perfectly with the phrase "There's no such thing as good music and bad music... there is only music you like and music you don't". And as my brother would say: "that hit the nail on the jackpot!".
But sticking with the show's original theme, a further example, within the realms of music, of something I openly love that doesn't get as much love from everyone else would be the music of Prince in the 1990s. Probably not a strong opinion held by middle-of-the-road Prince fans but a large contingent of Prince fans relegate The Purple Majesty's best years to within the 80s which spawned the hits 'Purple Rain', '1999' and 'Raspberry Beret', and regard his 90s years as the decade that saw him adopt a symbol as his name, start a public feud with Warner brothers, incorporate hip-hop as part of his sound and release the album generally regarded as the worst of his career with New Power Generation's 'New Power Soul'.
And on the topic of 'New Power Soul'... I used to drive a red 1992 Nissan Micra called Jemima. I’ve had three cars since then but this one was by far the most reliable car I’ve ever owned. So imagine how I felt coming home one day to see that someone had bent the top of the passenger door open with a crowbar just enough for them to slip their hand in and simply unlock it. I wasn’t overly worried about it in as much as there was nothing in the car for anyone to take. It literally consisted of an AtoZ (remember those, pre-SatNav?) and three cassette tapes for the car stereo. There was a Sade album (the name of the album escapes me, but I think it was ‘Love Deluxe’), there was a modern jazz compilation tape, and Prince’s (although, officially, New Power Generation’s) ‘New Power Soul’ album. Thankfully, none of the tapes were taken in this instance. However, when I walked past Jemima around three weeks later, and saw the door bent in exactly the same way… I feared the worst.
That’s right. The swine came back.
And took the tapes.
There’s something about being a Prince fan that can drive you to the point of obsession. I like to think that that young hoodlum, who broke into Jemima, soon afterwards met a young female hoodlum who he found was a huge Prince fan. In a bid to impress her, he did the only thing he could, and that was to go back and take my Prince tape. In a strange way, I like to think ‘New Power Soul’ brought those two lovebirds together and I’m glad to have had a hand in that.
This is by no means a post for me to profess my love for 'New Power Soul' by the way but this is the album that gave use 'Come On', 'The One' and 'Wasted Kisses' which are gems so I'd find it difficult to place it at the bottom of the pile as a result.
So many people I know grew up with Marvin, Stevie and Gladys as firm staples of their parents’ vinyl collections while my earliest memory of music are the two cassette tapes my mother would play in the car – Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Back to Front’ and Chris de Burgh’s ‘Spark to a Flame’ (let’s just say I knew the lyrics to ‘Lady in Red’ fairly well). My mum would always claim to harbour an unwavering affection for music… she just didn’t actually listen to any.
I’d say that my musical education really started at college but became a genuine fascination at university, and then a subsequent obsession shortly after that. Nineties R&B led to 90’s hip-hop, then came the fascination with the jazz and soul records they were birthed from and crossover/hybrid projects from artists like Soulive then brought me over to jazz.
I have such a strong affection for that 90’s period of my musical fandom. There was something so special about being surrounded by close friends all discovering things at the same time and getting excited about the same names and releases. Unfortunately, my aforementioned obsession really kicked in when theirs started to wean off – by now I’m trawling through production credits on my inlay cards, eagerly identifying names like pianist/producer James Poyser, trumpeter Roy Hargrove, studio wizard Bob Power… I’m buying albums from artists I don’t know just because artists I do know are included on the project and I’m getting attached to record labels and exploring their catalogues too.
I honestly couldn’t say at what point the idea of radio entered the picture. With no experience, no DJ equipment, no knowledge of the industry, I tried to reason with myself that this was something that couldn’t amount to anything but the allure of playing jazz on a late night radio show in a smoke-filled studio was too much to deny myself.
So I start at an internet radio station in Hackney, east London, sharing a slot with 4ever in Electric Dreams' very own Dan Collacott. We cringely dub ourselves the LOM Collective ("Lovers of Music" Collective - Yikes!), and I’m subsequently living the dream. It’s Friday night, 1-3am, no one is listening, mice are scurrying around me as I’m presenting, I’m having intense anxiety before every show but I am absolutely living the dream. It really took me a long time before I was comfortable on air – that balance between knowing how I wanted to present myself versus how I was actually doing it leaves this middle ground for the “voice” that best represents you. And of course, the music you play is as much a part of that voice. I love the discovery of something I’ve never heard before and I love sharing that feeling with like-minded people who will hopefully embrace the music in the same way.
But after a lengthy run on UK stations including Starpoint and Stomp, my quest finds itself with the inception of Blue-in-Green:RADIO in January 2017, and now with 4ever in Electric Dreams with Dan and Tee-J. For a lot of reasons, this site has been a long time coming and I'm excited about sharing this time and space with my buds and with you guys as you hopefully join us on this journey.
Welcome all. This feels like a long time coming but we're incredibly proud to finally share this super cool new site along with the launch of our brand new podcast series - Close Encounters of the 4th Kind (CE4K).
With episodes scheduled for release on the first and third Mondays of the month, we're kicking off with an awesome double-header of episodes for your listening pleasure!
Episode #1 ("Welcome to Us") serves as an introduction to the whole team, Tee-J Sutherland, Dan Collacott and Imran Mirza, as we introduce each other and spend some time picking out those monumental geek-esque moments from our youth that set us on the path to... well, setting up this site I suppose.
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Episode #2 ("Going Against the Grain") continues the fun as the three of us put ourselves on blast by selecting a piece of genre fiction that we each hold nearly and dearly but perhaps wasn't best embraced by, not only the public at large, but in some cases by the creators themselves.
Check back on the site for articles over the next few weeks in support of these particular episodes and look out for Episode #3 which is due for release, Monday 21st October.
The 4Ever team...
Welcome to 4ever in Electric Dreams which is the virtual HQ and home to our burgeoning podcast network spearheaded by our flagship series, Close Encounters of the Nerd Kind (C.E.N.K.).
Our podcasts are available on the following platforms: