Friday, April 12, 2013

Jonathan's Top 5 Most Underrated Movies

5. Batman (1967)

Before the recent Christopher Nolan trilogy, the original Adam West and Burt Ward film, almost always left out of the discussion of Batman movies, was easily the best. It's true that the original 60's run of Batman was campy, even for its time, but I maintain that that is why it is amazing. 
This movie is truly the epitome of what a movie is supposed to be: escapism. If you need to be entertained for two hours, watch this film, you won't regret it. The over-the-top-ness and overall satire that was present in the 60's TV show simply ooze off the screen in this film and sarcasm of the era, whether intentional or not, is thick and hilarious. 
Let's not forget the sheer amount of talent involved in this movie too. Not only do Adam West and Burt Ward put on their always stellar personas of Batman and Robin, but Frank Gorshin is the best Riddler to ever live and Burgess Meredith is basically a shoe in for the acting "Hall of Fame" if there were such a thing. Ultimately, no matter how good Batman films continue to be, none will ever truly eclipse this one in my mind.

4. Dream a Little Dream (1989)
I watched this movie knowing that it starred Corey Feldman and Corey Haim and I never expected it to be anything more than a silly comedy and a way to kill time. Instead I was completely surprised to find a movie that had a genuine message and some moments of tense drama. 
The movie centers around Feldman's character Bobby Keller, a high school troublemaker with a sub-par life. In Bobby's neighborhood lives an elderly man Coleman (Jason Robards) who is very philosophical and attempts to learn things from his dreams and attempts experiments in order to influence this. He also despises Bobby and the other neighborhood riff-raff. Meanwhile, Bobby has a crush on his friend Joel's girlfriend Lainie. The only problem is Joel is a tough guy and not entirely stable. 
One night while running away from home for separate reasons Bobby and Lainie collide in Coleman's yard and are both knocked unconscious, when Bobby awakes, we find that Coleman has somehow become trapped in Bobby's body and the real Bobby only exists in his dreams. In order for Coleman to return to reality, and to get his wife Gena back, Coleman must live in Bobby's shoes and fix his messed up life, and he has a limited amount of time to do this. 
For one, this premise really surprised me, because, as I said earlier, I thought this movie was going to be a comedy, but it really was more of a drama than anything else, and even though Feldman is not really renowned for his acting, I felt he did a great job portraying a frustrated old man trapped in a teenager's body who desperately wants his life to return to normal. The movie is great because it emphasizes the power of love as well as a message about understanding. It may very easily be the best movie "the Coreys" ever made.

3. They Live (1988)
They Live is the best example of a terrible movie with an awesome plot that I have ever seen. All this movie needs is a half-decent remake and it would blow everyone away. The acting is awful, chiefly because it's protagonist is played by former wrestling star Rowdy Roddy Piper whose performance makes you question whether wrestling really is fake because the man has no acting ability whatsoever. But as I mentioned earlier, it's not the acting that makes this movie good, it's the overall concept. 
Piper plays a homeless drifter who lands a job working in construction and winds up living in a shantytown. One night he happens to witness a break-in to a local television channel by some pirates and a seemingly religious fanatic comes on foaming at the mouth about the evils that "they" are visiting upon the world without anyone knowing. Later on Piper's character haplessly stumbles into the stronghold of these fanatics and finds boxes and boxes of sunglasses. Shortly after that when Piper sees this compound get raided by the government, he puts the sunglasses on and discovers that only through them can the truth be seen, the truth that we are being manipulated by aliens who live among us and disguise themselves as humans. 
The genius of this movie is not even that, but it's that the glasses show us other truths as well, they show that things like advertising and television and money are just being used to manipulate us. The scene when Piper first puts on the glasses is truly awesome, it's the point at which the movie makes sense and also the point where the viewer can question the validity of such claims. Even if the viewer decides that this is just paranoid subversive thinking, it's not a concept that crosses our minds on a daily basis and They Live forces the issue, and sometimes movies like this need to be made. Usually I hate remakes, but since I feel that with such an excellent plot it would be hard to mess this up, I'm hoping that someone will remake it someday.

2. Cobra (1986)
Aside from Rocky, this film is Stallone's best in my opinion. It centers around Stallone and his partner as cops on the "zombie squad"--the team of cops who work the night-shift, in a city that's been recently ravaged by a series of axe-murders. The cops are left largely clueless until they get a witness, Brigitte Nielsen, but something goes wrong and Cobretti (Stallone) and his partner soon find themselves in a huge shootout against an entire gang of murderers and hell-raisers intent on killing Nielsen before she can testify. 
What makes this movie awesome is partly the machismo, but mostly the atmosphere. This movie is probably one of the most "80's" time capsule movies of all time. It even includes a shakedown-montage when Cobra and his partner are looking for information about the murders by running down the shadier elements, this is inter-spliced with model Ingrid (Nielsen) at a photo-shoot with some robots and all set to the song "Angel of the City" by Robert Tepper, which happens to be one of the most epic songs ever, and perfectly married to the visuals being presented. This montage is also the first time you see Nielson in the film at all, and probably the last time you'll see a musical montage of any kind in a movie ever. One thing is for sure, if it is the last one, it's the best sendoff the plot device could possibly ask for. 
Add this to the action in the film including but not limited to; chase scenes between the bad guys and Stallone in a 1950 Mercury hot rod, and a shootout scene in which the cops actually appear competent and hit the people/things they're shooting at instead of emptying clips into nothing. Additionally, whoever cast Brian Thompson as the villain in this film should get an award as he is easily one of the the most intimidating villains in any film, with dialogue to match. We even have an infamous "car won't start" scene, which I'm quite partial to. This movie is the perfect blend of suspense, action, and slight moments of horror all dipped in an 80's candy coating and that makes it one of the most entertaining films ever made.

1. Dark City (1998)

Dark City is a movie that I feel got it's rightful due years late. Having come out only a year before the similarly themed and paradigm-shifting The Matrix, and owing partly to the use of some of the same sets, Dark City unjustly lived in The Matrix's shadow.  Only recently have I seen it get mentioned in the echelon of movies in which it belongs, usually in lists similar to this one. 
In 1999 when The Matrix came out, every movie after, and several before, were invariably compared to it, but in reality, Dark City was the first of those two movies to question that very subject – reality. Rufus Sewell stars as the amnesiac Mr. Murdoch who awakens one night at the scene of a murder, completely confused and scared. The movie does a great job of pulling you into his world, it rarely ever presents anything to the viewer for the first time without also presenting it to Murdoch for the first time. This builds the suspense, and allows the audience to empathize with the protagonist, something which I feel most movies skip in order to pander to a less pensive audience. 
A school of thought which I detest in movies that most movies take is the thought that the audience should never be left asking questions, so unnatural explanations are often given as to what is going on, even if the characters within the movie are unaware of what is presented to the audience. Dark City doesn't do this; it leaves the viewers as metaphorically in the dark as it's inhabitants literally are. This movie captivates, and is full of suspense and twists, and it's throwback nighttime noir atmosphere is much appreciated amidst a newer school of filmmaking that dominated much of the films around the turn of the millennium. The ending particularly is a wonderful surprise, and I'd find it hard to believe anyone who watches this movie would leave unimpressed.

Jonathan Updike is a dude, a former editor, occasional writer, and a lover of the 80's. He has seen far too many movies to not write about them. At the moment, he is all out of bubble gum.

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