This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Eerie, Indiana (1991-1992)

"My name is Marshall Teller. Not long ago, I was living in New Jersey, just across the river from New York City. It was crowded, polluted, and full of crime. I loved it. But my parents wanted a better life for my sister and me. So we moved to a place so wholesome, so squeaky clean, you could only find it on TV. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, my new hometown looks normal enough, but look again. What's wrong with this picture? The American Dream come true, right? Wrong. Nobody believes me, but this is the center of weirdness for the entire planet: Eerie, Indiana. My home, sweet home. Still don't believe me? You will."
-Marshall Teller.

Television can be as strange a beast as the big screen, especially when it comes to success. Some shows, such as Andromeda, inexplicably get five seasons, despite being horrible, while others, such as Space: Above and Beyond, last only a season, even though they are quite good.
Another series which lasted only a year was the NBC show Eerie, Indiana, produced by Joe Dante, and which can best be described as The Wonder Years crossed with The Twilight Zone.
Marshall Teller (Omri Katz) moves to the title town with his family and quickly discovers how bizarre it is, with, among other things, an neighbor (Steven Peri) who believes he is Elvis and a Bigfoot-like creature who roams the town. But these unusual goings-on don't seem to raise anyone else's eyebrows, except his neighbor Simon Holmes (Justin Shenkarow), whom Marshall befriends.
The 19 episodes of the series show Marshall and Simon observing and dealing with the bizarre happenings of their town, which they document and plan to, someday, release to the world.
One of the sweetest episodes is the seventh, "Heart on a Chain," which was directed by Dante. In that episode, Marshall falls for a girl (Danielle Harris) whose need for a heart transplant is fulfilled when a rival for her affections dies in a car accident. But she begins to act suspiciously like Marshall's rival afterward.
What makes this series good, though, is that Marshall and Simon are both instantly likeable and their adventures are presented in a way which makes the show nice family entertainment.
I still hope that a movie of this series is made someday. Hey, if Veronica Mars can do it....

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Shattered Glass (2003)

"I didn't do anything wrong, Chuck."
"I really wish you'd stop saying that."
-Stephen Glass and Chuck Lane.

If I had to pick my all-time favorite movie about journalism, it would probably be the classic All the President's Men (1976). In addition to having great performances and wonderful insight into the journalism world, it has suspenseful moments which prove that a thriller doesn't necessarily need bloodshed in order to be great (perfect considering the film centers on Watergate). At the bottom of the list you'd find Men on the top of is Never Been Kissed(1999), which, as Richard Roeper once eloquently put it, is as accurate about journalism as Peter Pan is about air travel.
Thankfully there have been other films which have done justice to journalism and one of them is Shattered Glass, which, like Men, is based on a true story. Stephen Glass (Hayden Christensen) is a highly regarded reporter/associate editor for The New Republic.
But that respect is, as the title suggests, shattered in 1998 after the magazine's new editor Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard) soon discovers that Glass's story about a hacker convention in Maryland was fabricated.
Although the rest of the staff, including Glass's colleague Caitlin Avey (Chloe Sevigny) remain sympathetic to him, Lane fires him after he realizes that the convention was just one of many, if not all, of the stories Glass wrote for the magazine which were fiction.
Christensen is fine as the title character, expressing moments which make us feel a bit of sympathy for him even though we know he should answer for being a dishonest journalist.
But my favorite moment is when Lane tells Avey how Glass's actions have basically ruined all their reputations as well as that of the magazine. When Lane is brought on as the new editor, the staff does not exactly welcome him due to the popularity of his predecessor Michael Kelly(Hank Azaria). Although Lane does his best to befriend his new underlings, he soon finds himself having to forcefully remind them of what it means to be a true journalist.
The real Glass would go on to become a paralegal and, tragically, the real Kelly was later killed while covering the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Appropriately, the film was dedicated to him.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Still More Underrated Movie Lines

Here now is the third installment in our series of lines from famous movies that aren't quoted often, but I'll never get tired of hearing.
1. The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973):
The penultimate entry in Hammer's Dracula series and the last one to star Christopher Lee as the Count. By this point, Lee was frustrated with the series due to how far it had strayed from the material in the original Bram Stoker novel. The fact that this film (which was released in the U.S. with the generic title Count Dracula and His Vampire Bride) and its immediate predecessor, Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), were set in contemporary times certainly suggests that the filmmakers were desperately looking for ways to keep the series going. But this film's biggest weakness is not its cotemporary setting, but its plot, which has the count attempting to introduce a plague to kill humanity, even though doing so will deprive him of his sources of blood, a little tidbit even Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) points out to him in the film's climax.
But, like Halloween II, this film still manages to be entertaining in spite of its gaps in logic thanks to its stars. I also liked the musical score by John Cacavas, even if it doesn't necessarily make me think of the Count the way James Bernard's great score in the first film in the series, Horror of Dracula (1958), did.
A wonderful line comes from Lee at this movie's climax when his plans to kill Van Helsing and his granddaughter (Joanna Lumley) are thwarted:
"My revenge is spread over centuries and has just begun!"
This is a great line because of Lee's delivery and because it was one of the few lines from Stoker's novel to find its way into a film script.
But the quality of the series would continue to go down with the next and final entry in Hammer's series, the watchable but unspectacular Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), which combined the vampire genre with kung fu (the film was a co-production between Hammer and Hong Kong's Run Run Shaw studio). Lee declined what was essentially a two-minute cameo in the movie (Dracula was played by John Forbes-Robertson), which is just as well because, that same year, Lee had one of his best roles as the title character in...

2. The Man With the Golden Gun (1974):
Roger Moore's sophomore outing as 007 is often criticized for its weak leading lady (Britt Ekland), but I thought its weakest aspect was Bond's ally Hip (Soon Tek-Oh), who, at one point, simply abandons 007 in a weak setup to get Bond to outmaneuver persuing bad guys by himself.
Fortunately, this film is still watchable thanks to the great interplay between Sir Roger's Bond and Lee's Scaramanga. While Richard Kiel's Jaws (who appeared in the next two entries in the series) gets all the attention (and is a great character), I always thought Scaramanga was the best Bond villain from Moore's Bond films.
Lee said that he played the character as the dark side of Bond, and, indeed, unlike his fellow Bond villains, he admires 007 to the point where he has a full-scale figure of him in his home.
This makes the scene where Bond and Scaramanga dine together unique among the other similar scenes in the series. Scaramanga points out that they are similar even though Bond acts on behalf of queen and country. Bond gets one of his best lines when he points out a major difference between them.
"When I kill, it's under specific orders from my government-and those I kill are themselves killers!"
While some foolishly say that Sir Roger's Bond became too much of a joke, this line proves that he could be as serious as the other 007s.

3. The Thing (1982):
This film, about a group of men fighting a shapeshifting alien which has infiltrated their isolated outpost in Antartica, is certainly one which gives remakes a good name. It is superior to the original The Thing From Another World (1951), because it does not relentlessly copy it and it retains the spirit of the original 1938 John Campbell story Who Goes There?.
Kurt Russell is obviously the lead but, while he's good as always, the best line comes from David Clennon's Palmer, who says
"You gotta be fucking kidding!" after seeing the title character revert to a, shall we say, bizarre form to escape from their efforts to kill it. As one of my colleagues noted, that line is the best f-bomb in movie history. This is because it perfectly reflects what both the characters and the audience are thinking at this point in the film. In addition, the line comes naturally from the situation, unlike many other films which fall all over themselves trying to come up with a line the filmmakers hope will be a classic one.
But there's an equally great line later in the film. After Russell's MacReady deduces that they can determine who is still human by testing samples of everyone's blood, he goes through the remaining staff members until base leader Garry (Donald Moffat) is left. Once it is revealed that he is still human, Garry rants in an initally-calm tone:
"I know you gentlemen have been through a lot, but when you find the time, I'd rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!!!"
Like Palmer's line, this line is great because it comes naturally from the situation.

4. Frantic (1988):
While the film was not as intense as In the Line of Fire (1993), which surprised me given Roman Polanski's real-life involvement with this sort of ordeal, Harrison Ford was perfect casting as the doctor whose wife (Betty Buckley) is abducted while they are vacationing in Paris.
While the movie's villains are underplayed and the U.S. Embassy officials Richard Walker (Ford) turns to for help are stereotypically useless, Ford has many great moments which make it easy to side with him. One such moment is when he attempts to phone the Embassy for help and is repeatedly asked how to spell his wife's name and the location he's calling at. Walker then understandably says:
"With an 'S' for Shithead!"
If only everything around Ford in the film could match his great performance, this movie would probably have been as successful as basically all the other films he put out during the 1980s and 1990s.

5. A Few Good Men (1992):
Naturally, the most famous line from this film is Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) tells Dan Kaffee (Tom Cruise) that he can't handle the truth.
But there's another line from earlier in the film which my sister loves. After an earlier court hearing, Kaffee's colleagues Sam Weinberg (Kevin Pollack) and Joanne Galloway (Demi Moore) have an argument about if the marines they are defending are truly innocent. Weinberg then asks Galloway why she is so taken in with their clients' plight, to which she answers:
"Because they stand on a wall and say 'Nothing is going to happen to you tonight-not on my watch!"
When she introduced this film at the Academy Awards a few months later (Men was one of the Best Picture nominees), Kathy Bates rightly noted Galloway's contribution to the film's story by saying "A few good men...and one woman."