October 27th, 2019
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!
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