Tag Archives: Ron Underwood

Top 15 Monster Movies

 

The new blockbuster movie season is almost upon us, so I’m going to take this opportunity to name and talk about my favorite top 15 monster movies over the past 100 years at the movies. Now, in the cases of series, or numerous remakes of the same monster, I’ve taken the liberty of just listing it once on the list with my favorite movie in that series and that film in essence, represents the monster. Also, if I felt that it was more of a horror film instead of a monster movie, because most can be both, I didn’t mention it on this list, although it could be one of my all time favorite movies.  The Thing comes to mind, I love that movie, but I consider it to be a horror film way more than it is a monster movie, so I didn’t include it on the list. A good way of thinking of this is if they could fall under the Universal Studios monsters group of movies.  They concentrate on adventure over horror. The best monster movies aren’t that scary at all, but truly fun and thrilling, although most will have some scary moments or moments that make you jump out of your skin.

15  I, Frankenstein (2014)

This was a very under-rated movie and one that seemed to get no marketing when it was released but actually was a rather good movie. My favorite so far of all the different Frankenstein movies that are out there. A big reason is Aaron Eckert, who plays the Frankenstein monster in this one. He’s great. It’s interesting to note, that in the original screenplay, “I, Frankenstein” and its hypothetical sequels were to take place in the same universe as the “Underworld” series (placed #14 on my list) which is from the same producers and shares actors Bill Nighy and Kevin Grevioux. Kate Beckinsale was rumored to be making a cameo as Selene. Ultimately none of these ideas were used. Since the movie didn’t make much money, it’s unlikely that any sequels will be made, making the matter moot, but boy this could have been cool.

14  Underworld (2003)

Would have to go with the first one in the series as the best one. I don’t think that’s always the case. Kate Beckinsale is the reason this series is worth watching. It’s also fun to see Vampires and Werewolves going full on war. The movie was initially pitched as “Romeo and Juliet for vampires and werewolves”. It’s interesting to see the prequel and sequels of the series, also to see how things began and finish. They have gone back and changed the original, however, as for the 2017 4K High Definition remaster of Underworld, the scene where Michael sees flashbacks into Lucian’s past/Sonya’s death was actually replaced with the 2009 scenes in Rise of the Lycans instead of the 2003 flashbacks.

13  Dracula Untold (2014)

Another version that didn’t seem to do well, or wasn’t marketed properly, but that I found to be much superior than any of it’s previous movies based on Dracula. Luke Evans plays Dracula in this version, and he’s very intense.  Dracula Untold was in production before Universal decided to build a cinematic universe. The producers caught wind of it just in time to independently add a present-day epilogue that Universal could use if they wanted to, but it was ultimately decided that Dracula Untold would not be the first entry in the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe. That first film of the Universal Monsters Cinematic Universe is the new The Mummy film coming out in 2017, which features Tom Cruise in the starring role and also Russell Crowe as Dr. Henry Jekyll to set up his stand alone film for the new Jekyll and Hyde remake.

12 Godzilla (2014)

It’s pretty obvious by now that 2014 was a pretty good year for monster movies, you just may not have known it. It’s mainly because now technology has made it a lot easier to do special effects than ever before. The technology has finally caught up with the creative in this area. This is the latest Godzilla movie to come around and I like it because after the film gets rolling, Godzilla becomes somewhat of a hero in the film rather than the creature out to destroy everything that he was presented as at times. It’s also the first in a new set of films set in the same “universe”, the 2nd being Kong: Skull Island that just came out, the 3rd being Godzilla: King of Monsters set to be released in 2019 and the last being King Kong vs. Godzilla in 2020. On this film, according to Bryan Cranston, Gareth Edwards was inspired by the shark film Jaws (1975). “The film does not immediately show the beast, but rather build up to its appearance while still delivering an eerie and terrifying off-screen presence.” In homage to Jaws, the main protagonists have the name of Brody, after that film’s protagonist.

11  Deep Blue Sea (1999)

The sharks in this film do have a tendency to grow and shrink in size depending on where they are in the film, but if you can turn your brain off of that fact, this is a pretty cool movie.  Renny Harlin directed it and he has said that it was the hardest film he’s ever made. Samuel L. Jackson happily signed on for the film, as he had enjoyed his experience working with Renny Harlin on The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996).  Renny Harlin admitted that the idea of abruptly killing off Samuel L. Jackson’s character at two-thirds of the movie was borrowed from the similar fate of Tom Skerritt in Alien (1979). Both men were the natural leaders of their respective groups, leaving the remaining survivors in utter despair, and both were the best-known actor in the cast at the time, thereby making their premature demise extra shocking and unexpected. The impact of Jackson’s sudden death scene was intensified by making his preceding speech somewhat long and corny. After watching the scene with an audience for the first time, and hearing them scream in horror and fear, Harlin said that this scene paid off for the entire movie. Just a side-note, the three sharks in this movie are killed in the same ways as the three sharks in Jaws (1975), Jaws 2 (1978), and Jaws 3-D (1983): blown up, electrocuted, and incinerated respectively.

10  Deep Rising (1998)

DEEP RISING, Treat Williams

Now this film is the best in a series of films that are about creatures from the ocean like Leviathan, Virus, Deep Star Six and The Rift. This is actually a really great film, but no-one seems to know about it. Probably because of the lower budget. Originally, Harrison Ford turned down the role of Finnegan. The production’s budget was then downsized. Stephen Sommers, the writer-director, would become known for his monster movies, and this is one of his best. He would go on to direct The Mummy, Van Helsing and The Mummy Returns. Stephen began writing this script, then called “Tentacle”, when he worked at Hollywood Pictures in the mid-90s. Go out a rent this movie, it’s a blast.

9  Lake Placid (1999)

Another film that nobody knows about.  Seemed to go straight to video, but it’s a great movie. This one has a very strange pedigree as it was written by David E. Kelly famous for Law Firm TV Shows like Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, LA Law, Picket Fences and The Practice! Then it was directed by Steve Miner, famous for giving us the real Friday the 13th killer Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part 2 and Friday the 13th part 3, as the first movie’s killer was his mother, Mrs Voorhees! This movie is funny but has plenty of scares to go around. It’s about a giant crocodile living in Lake Placid. The size of the crocodile in the movie is actually much larger than anything ever recorded in real life. The current largest crocodile in captivity (Guinness book of records, 2015) is 5.48 metres (about 18 ft), and although there are (unverified) reports of sightings over 20 feet in length, nothing is as large as the 30ft quoted in the movie.

8  The Fly (1986)

Now, for some reason a running theme in monster movies is the use of science to explain how a monster has been created or come about. This one has the best use of science (except for movie #2) to help build the tension for any of the monster movies. In a 1987 interview on Sinister Image (1987) Vincent Price revealed that when this remake was released, star Jeff Goldblum wrote him a letter saying, “I hope you like it as much as I liked yours.” Price was touched by the letter, he composed a reply and went to see the film, which he described as “wonderful right up to a certain point… it went a little too far.” David Cronenberg met with some opposition when he announced that he wanted to cast Jeff Goldblum in the lead role. The executive at Fox who was supervising the project felt that Goldblum was not a bankable star, and Chris Walas (Make-up) felt that his face would be difficult to work with for the make-up effects. Both, however, deferred to Cronenberg’s judgment. Cronenberg himself later had reservations when Goldblum suggested Geena Davis, his girlfriend at the time, for the other lead role, as he did not want to have to work with a real-life couple. Cronenberg was convinced after Davis’s first reading that she was right for the role. Producer Stuart Cornfeld suggested that they audition more actresses saying that it’s the “script that is brilliant”. Cornfeld relented after “nobody else even came close”. The famous tagline, “Be afraid, be very afraid!”, originated in this film as dialogue spoken by Geena Davis.

7  Tremors (1990)

If you’ve ever watched Dune and thought the best thing about it was the sand worms then this movie is for you. Writer S.S. Wilson said that he got the idea for the film while he was working for the US Navy in the California desert. While resting on a rock, he imagined what it might be like if something underground kept him from getting off the rock. Tremors was the first film directed by Ron Underwood, who would go on to direct City Slickers, Speechless, Mighty Joe Young, Heart and Souls, and tons of TV Shows.

6  Gremlins (1984)

Written by the amazing Chris Columbus and directed by Joe Dante, this was my favorite film from 1984, at the time, although since then Terminator, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Dreamscape, The Last Starfighter, Romancing the Stone, The Philadelphia Experiment, Top Secret!, All of Me, Runaway, Ghostbusters, and Beverly Hills Cop have since topped that movie in that year, for me. But at 14 years old, Gremlins was my favorite. But now that I look back, that may have been one of the most incredible years for films…I mean, wow, what a list of films all released in the same year. The set for Kingston Falls, the location this movie is set in, is the same one used for Back to the Future (1985). Both movies were filmed in the Universal Studios backlot, and you could see the set for many years afterward if you went on the Universal Studios Tram Tour. Steven Spielberg had a great working relationship with Chris Columbus on this film, and he produced the next two films Columbus scripted–The Goonies (1985), based on an idea Spielberg had, and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), which was Columbus’ idea. Altogether, three years was spent working on those three films.

5  King Kong (1933)

Now the new film, Kong: Skull Island is pretty fun stuff, but the original is just too iconic not be on the list. It is effectively the model for almost all of the monster movies that have followed since. The other King Kong movies are pretty great too, but the original is just one of those films, especially at the time, that people’s jaws just dropped and everyone went…wow. It’s amazing, back then and today. The project went through numerous title changes during production, including “The Beast” (original title of draft by Edgar Wallace in RKO files), “The Eighth Wonder”, “The Ape”, “King Ape” and “Kong”. Art drawn for the press book for the original release of the film was contributed by Keye Luke, who was a highly regarded illustrator before he became an actor and whose works have appeared in films themselves, such as The Shanghai Gesture (1941), and who acted in such classic films as the number 1 son of Charlie Chan in a slew of films and as the old Chinese shop owner in our #5 film, Gremlins.

4  The Mummy (1999)

Great remake, much better than the original, even though I love Boris Karloff. The remake is a great mix of monster movie and adventure movie…just brilliant. It was originally planned to open the film with the old black and white Universal logo that had been used at the beginning of The Mummy (1932) which would dissolve into the blazing desert sun. Would have given a really cool connection to the old style Universal monster movies. Brendan Fraser was cast due to the success of George of the Jungle (1997). Stephen Sommers also commented that he felt Fraser fit the Errol Flynn swashbuckling character he had envisioned perfectly. The actor understood that his character “doesn’t take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can’t go on that journey with him”. Before Brendan Fraser, the role of Rick’ O’Connel was offered to Sylvester Stallone. That would have been a very different film. I’m glad that Stephen Sommers stuck to his vision of the film. Stephen Sommers described his vision of the film as “as a kind of Indiana Jones or Jason and the Argonauts (1963) with the mummy as the creature giving the hero a hard time”.

3  Aliens (1986)

This one almost didn’t make my list as it literally scared me half to death when I first saw it. It’s hard not to think of it as a horror film, but what James Cameron brought to this franchise is so good and so ground-breaking that it literally transcends many genres. Sigourney Weaver had initially been very hesitant to reprise her role as Ripley, especially because Cameron had cut the scene where Burke had brought Ripley the news of just missing the death of her character’s daughter (which Weaver felt would have completed the circle of the mother-daughter bond with Newt) she had rejected numerous offers from Fox Studios to do any sequels, fearing that her character would be poorly written, and a sub-par sequel could hurt the legacy of Alien (1979). However, she was so impressed by the high quality of James Cameron’s script – specifically, the strong focus on Ripley, the mother-daughter bond between her character and Newt, and the incredible precision with which Cameron wrote her character, that she finally agreed to do the film.

2  Jurassic Park (1993)

Harrison Ford was offered and turned down the role of Dr. Alan Grant, as he felt that the part just wasn’t right for him. After seeing the film, he says that he had made the right decision. James Cameron has stated that he wanted to make the film, but the rights were bought “a few hours” before he could interview with Crichton. Upon seeing Jurassic Park, Cameron realized that Spielberg was the better choice to direct it as his version would’ve been much more violent (“Aliens (1986) with dinosaurs”) which “wouldn’t have been fair” to children, who relate to dinosaurs. The special effects were directly influenced by Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). Originally, Michael Crichton’s agents circulated the book to six studios and directors. Warner Brothers wanted it for Tim Burton to direct, while Columbia Pictures was planning it for Richard Donner. 20th Century Fox was also interested, and was intending the project for Joe Dante, while Universal Pictures wanted Steven Spielberg to direct. Crichton was reluctant to submit to a bidding war. He instructed his agents to put a set price on the film rights and he could decide who was more likely to actually get the film made. After interviewing all the prospective directors, he agreed to sell the rights to Universal and Steven Spielberg, who was already his first choice.

1  Jaws (1975)

Kind of fitting to me to have a Universal Studios film as my number 1 monster movie of all time, but probably not the one people would instantly think of as a Universal monster movie…Jaws. It  is, although one of the few that was a highlight on the Universal Studios Tram Tour, but not the reason why it’s number one on my list. It’s just a fantastic movie. Is it iconic that Steven Spielberg directed both of the top two films? It’s also interesting that each of these films were based on books, bought before the books were released into stores. Peter Benchley’s novel was first discovered in galley form at early 1973 by then Cosmopolitan Magazine editor and producer David Brown’s wife Helen Gurley Brown who was to be excerpting part of the novel to be published in an upcoming issue. Brown saw it by accident, having read it then a few days brought it to the attention of his partner Richard D. Zanuck, subsequently obtaining the rights to the book at the end of the year. Director Steven Spielberg said that when he first read the novel, he found himself rooting for the shark because the human characters were so unlikeable. There was a lot of sub plots in the book that was cut from the screenplay and even Peter Benchley eventually liked how cutting the subplots from the novel allowed for the characters to be fleshed out properly. Steven wanted the movie to be different. Because the film the director envisioned was so dissimilar to Peter Benchley’s novel, Steven Spielberg asked Richard Dreyfuss not to read it. Steven Spielberg always considered Jurassic Park a sequel to Jaws, but on land. People saw differences though, where the latter focused on character development as much as on its creature, while the former only used the dinosaurs to sell the film, and not the characters. As far as monsters go, the shark in Jaws is pretty scary, as it has kept whole generations from going into the ocean for decades. The shark was ranked the eighteenth greatest villain on the AFI’s list of 100 Heroes and Villains.

Top 15 Romantic Comedies of the 90’s

 

If you are like me, you are probably missing the good old romantic comedies we used to have. All we ever seem to get are gross out comedies or sleazy rated R comedies these days. I was thinking back and I think I enjoyed the romantic comedies of the 1990’s the best! Granted that was when I was dating the most and is also when I fell in love and got married, so it’s a very distinctive period of wonderful courtship and romance in my life. It seemed to be a perfect time for rom-coms.

Now, with that said, my list would probably be different than your list! Right off the start, you’ll probably be wondering why Pretty Woman didn’t make my list at all and wondering why some films did, but that’s the wonderful things about lists…they are versatile. (Just to answer that question in your head, I just didn’t like Pretty Woman, that’s all, it was a fine film, just not one of my favorite’s for top 15, that’s all.) Now, this list is supposed to get your mind thinking about your favorites and maybe discovering a few new films you probably just never got around to watching.  If that’s the case, then I’ve done my job effectively.

15. Clueless (1995)clueless

A modern adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma. I’m going to tell you a secret only my family knows…I’m a huge Jane Austen fan…OK, I admit it. I’m a sucker for the movies that have been adapted from her courtship novels and I love it when one gets the modern treatment. Directed by Amy Heckerling and starring Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd, it’s a fun little movie. This movie had a cleverly written screenplay that included a wide array of completely made up lingo. One of the promotional items distributed to tie-in with the film was a booklet called How to Speak Cluelessly; in it was a lexicon of many of the invented terms used for the Clueless world (some of which became part of real teen lingo at the time). An example: a Baldwin is a very handsome male, as in the famous sibling actors.

14.  Defending Your Life (1991)defend

This is an incredibly creative film about the after-life. Written and Directed by Albert Brooks and starring Albert and Meryl Streep, it’s a great examination of a person’s life and it carries with it the idea that life and especially LOVE carries over with us. It struck me very hard when I first watched in and I instantly fell in love with Albert and Meryl’s characters.

13.  I Love Trouble (1994)I_Love_Trouble_1994

I’m a huge fan of the films of Nancy Myers and Charles Shyer, and will run out to see one of their films the day they come out. This one was a box office bomb for some strange reason, and I just love it. It reminds me of the old Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn movies with Nick Nolte in the Tracy role and Julia Roberts in the Hepburn role. Truth-be-told, they both do a good job in this movie, but Roberts definitely steals the show.  She’s mesmerizing in this. Roberts and Nolte reportedly did not get along throughout filming, although I don’t think you can tell with the final result. Roberts later described Nolte as “disgusting” whereas Nolte said she was “not a nice person.” Roberts disliked Nolte’s macho act, and was not shy or polite about letting him know. He, in turn, began deliberately engaging in it to piss her off. Regardless, neither one of them ever worked together again.

12.  Doc Hollywood (1991)Doc_Hollywood-1991

I wonder how many movie posters show Michael J. Fox pulling his sunglasses down…that’s like his signature move. This film was directed by Michael Canton-Jones and stars Michael J. Fox and Julie Warner.  I thought this movie was awesome, but it comes with a caveat…although it’s rate PG-13, it does have full-frontal nudity by Julie Warner when she walks out of the lake. It seems out of place for a light romantic comedy, to be honest. In this movie, Fox stars as a Doctor who gets into a car accident on his way through town and is forced into staying and working as the town Doctor.

11.  Housesitter (1992)

Housesitter : Original Cinema Quad Poster

Great movie directed by none-other than Miss Piggy’s alter-ego, Frank Oz and stars Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn. I love these two actors and when you get them both together…magic. They loved working together so much they found another project years later by remaking the Neil Simon hit, The Out-of-Towners (1999). In this one she plays a con-artist that takes over his home.

10. Don’t Tell Her it’s Me (aka The Boyfriend School) (1990)

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

This is one of those films that appear on lists, that blow people’s minds. It had a very small theatrical release originally and then my brother and I found it on HBO late at night when we were in college and completely loved it.  We called it the best straight-to-HBO movie we ever saw, for years…before HBO started to produce their own stuff of course. It’s definitely a HIDDEN GEM, if you’ve never had the chance to see it. Directed by Malcolm Mowbray and stars Steve Guttenberg and Jami Gertz, it was originally released under the great song featured in the opening credits, but then changed later on video to the original source novel title. Guttenberg plays a guy who just survives cancer, only to find that he has let himself go and needs help making him more desirable to women. He recruits his romance author sister, Shelley Long, to help him get the girl of his dreams. Perfect setup for a rom-com.

9. The Cutting Edge (1992)

Cutting Edge : Original Cinema Quad Poster

This film doesn’t hold up as well over time, just simply due to the fact that neither actor does their own skating and there is a cheesy and fake ice skating trick they use to win the whole competition, BUT– with that said, the chemistry between Moira Kelly and D. B. Sweeney is awesome and so much fun to watch.  The true joy in this movie is seeing these two actors go head to head. That’s why it makes my list. Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, who played Starsky in the original Starsky and Hutch!

8. Runaway Bride (1999)

Original Cinema Quad Poster - Movie Film Posters

Ok, yes, I like this film waaaaay more than Pretty Woman…I just do, okay? Same cast and crew, different characters and storyline. Directed by Garry Marshall and starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Also, this is the second time Julia Roberts has a movie on this list (but not the last). Let’s be honest, we’re talking the 90’s…where Julia Roberts was queen of the rom-coms…but they were so good. This one is about a woman who runs away from several weddings, and then tries to avoid a reporter who comes to town to do a story about her.

7.  You’ve Got Mail (1998)YouveGotMail

This movie is a remake of the fantastic Jimmy Stewart movie, The Shop Around The Corner, but written and directed by the incredible Nora Ephron. It stars Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who own competing bookstores, in the same block. Ryan’s store is named The Shop Around the Corner, the two main characters are latter day (mail) and present day (email) “pen pals”; they both know they are falling in love with their respective pen pals; when the man realizes who the woman really is, he pursues her, but is not sure the love match will work; in the end, they find they belong together. It’s cute.

6.  While You Were Sleeping (1995)whileyouweresleeping

This is the first movie that put Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, and for years there was a race to see who would become the queen of the romantic comedies between Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and Sandra…in the end I think it’s a tie between Sandra and Julia. Directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman, the film is about a woman who pretends to be the fiancee of a man in a coma. It’s a charming movie and I just realized that it’s set around Christmastime. It’s alarming how many movies on this list are set around Christmas, it’s a romantic time of year, I guess.

5.  Sleepless in Seattle (1993)sleeplessinseattleposter

Another Nora Ephron movie and it also is with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The 2nd of 3 movies that Meg Ryan and Nora Ephron did together the 3rd one being When Harry Met Sally, which was directed by Rob Reiner.  Rob Reiner plays Tom Hanks best friend in this movie. All around great people to be making movies with.  Sleepless in Seattle is about a recently widowed man whose son goes on a radio talk show to try and find his dad a new wife. The premise that the two lead characters meet at the Empire State Building comes from the Cary Grant Deborah Kerr movie An Affair To Remember. That film made another list of the top 15 for me, The Top 15 Cary Grant Movies. 

4. Speechless (1994)speechless

This was another bomb when it came out to the theatres, but is such a good movie. Directed by Ron Underwood and starring Gena Davis and Michael Keaton, and is about two opposing speech writer’s during an election. The main reason to like this movie is because Keaton truly rocks in it.  He’s extremely funny and charming in this movie.  I think it’s my favorite of all of his movies…and that’s saying a lot because he’s done a lot of fun movies. It also has Christopher Reeve in it and he’s always great to watch as well…it’s strange to think that around this time they were both still portraying Superman and Batman respectively and if they were to do a Justice League together it would have made for a highly entertaining movie. Gena Davis is tall and good enough to have played Wonder Woman back then, what do you think?

3.  The American President (1995)the-american-president

I keep wanting to yell out, “I Love That Movie, ” as I write this blog. I have to keep telling myself, you know that, afterall you are reading my top 15 list. This one is directed by Rob Reiner and stars Michael Douglas and Annette Benning, and is about a US President and a lobbyist dating while he is in the White House. This one is written by the amazing Aaron Sorkin. I rewatch this movie quite a bit and it’s a little sad every time I do, as Michael Douglas doesn’t actually act or impersonate any President that’s ever been in office and yet he personifies the perfect President that we have all always wanted in real life.

2.  Tin Cup (1996)tincup-movie-post

Is this a sports movie or a romantic comedy? Why, it’s a bit of both! It’s about a failed golf pro that hires a psychiatrist to help him qualify for the US Open. It’s directed by Ron Shelton and stars Kevin Costner and Rene Russo.  Kevin Costner is very good in this and was always a pretty good athlete in his own right.  A lot of the shots in the movie of his character playing golf is really Costner, playing golf. The scene at the end of the movie where Roy hits the shot into the water hazard again and again was based on an actual event. Gary McCord, the commentator with the handlebar mustache in the movie, is an actual commentator and pro golfer. In a 1987 tournament he had a shot similar to Kevin Costner’s. He needed a birdie to win and went for it. He hit the water over and over again and finally made the shot, but it cost him 15 strokes. In the movie Costner gets it in 12. The scene where Roy wins a bar bet by hitting a golf ball at a pelican also was based on a real life incident from McCord’s career.

1.  Notting Hill (1999)nottinghill

My favorite romantic comedy of the 90’s.  Directed by Roger Michell and stars Julia Roberts (again) and Hugh Grant. It’s about a quiet travel book story owner who meets and falls in love with the most famous film star in the world.  Roberts and Grant are wonderful together. Hugh Grant got to play in a movie opposite Sandra Bullock a few years later, so Win/Win for him. Now all he has to do is find a way to get in there with Meg Ryan to get the trifecta…