Sup? It’s been a minute. I am keeping the irony of the name of these articles alive more and more every day. I’ve decided for 2021 that I’d like to keep this at least somewhat consistent, and what better way than to rank stuff I watch every month. That guarantees at least 12 of these this year. Good thinking, right?
Anyway, even the title is a little misleading. I watched 25 movies in January, although six of them were rewatches, so I won’t include those (for those interested, they were Alita: Battle Angel, Menace II Society, Iron Man, School of Rock, John Wick and Aliens). Also, this isn’t my normal monthly watch; I started the month on holiday so managed to smash out a few more than usual. Anyways, let’s get to ranking.
19. The Circle (2017)
Starring: Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, John Boyega
Directed by: James Ponsoldt
The Circle is based on a novel by Dave Eggers and the basic premise is about people’s reliance on social media and the way it continues to eliminate our privacy. Sounds like a pretty solid concept, right? Well, problem is, everybody in this film, minus the late, great Bill Paxton (in his final role) half-asses or no-asses it and the movie is just uninspired, lazy trash.
18. Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Michael Pena, Ramon Rodriguez
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Sometimes, I just wanna watch a dumb action sci-fi where humans and aliens do battle. Next time, I’ll stick with Independence Day. This was horrendously bad. From the lack of character development, to the generic dialogue, to the manic direction that had so many fast cuts it was nauseating at times. This felt like discount Michael Bay on crack. I will give credit to Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez, who kept this off the bottom of this list with solid performances.
17. Above The Law (1988)
Starring: Steven Seagal, Pam Grier, Sharon Stone
Directed by: Andrew Davis
Let me preface this by saying I LOVE dumb action movies, as you will see later in this list. I loved Under Siege, another collaboration between Seagal and director Andrew Davis. The problem here is, for whatever reason, Seagal’s performance just seems lifeless. Sure, it could be that Seagal sucks at acting. But that didn’t stop me from liking Under Siege or even Exit Wounds. But for whatever reason, this one didn’t hit like I wanted it to.
16. Vertical Limit (2000)
Starring: Chris O’Donnell, Robin Tunney, Bill Paxton
Directed by: Martin Campbell
This was filmed in New Zealand, with Kiwi Martin Campbell at the helm, so I should automatically like it, right? I wish it worked like that though. This isn’t horrible. There are a couple of cool action set pieces, and Temuera Morrison has a badass moustache. Plus, once again, Bill Paxton out-acting everyone else around him. Not only does he show that he was one of the most underappreciated actors of his generation, but also how aggressively average Chris O’Donnell was/is as an actor.
15. Æon Flux (2005)
Starring: Charlize Theron, Martin Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller
Directed by: Karyn Kusama
This film featured a great premise, fun action sequences and a solid performance by Charlize Theron as the lead character. The problem with it is the story is so unnecessarily convoluted that it makes it hard to figure out exactly what is going on. Often times, you find movies that are trying too hard to be “smart” instead of just being what they are. This is one of those times.
14. Scoob! (2020)
Starring: Zac Efron, Mark Wahlberg, Will Forte
Directed by: Tony Cervone
This was fine. I was never a massive Scooby-Doo fan but I don’t know if this helped it or hurt it. By that I mean, this doesn’t feel like a “traditional” Scooby-Doo story. You know, hear a story of a ghost, try and solve the mystery, remove the mask and get told that the villain would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for “you pesky kids.” That kinda thing. This isn’t that. It feels like Warner Bros are trying to set up some kind of Hanna-Barbera Universe as they shoehorn a few of their other characters in here. The nostalgic child in me loved seeing Captain Caveman and Dick Dastardly though. Harmless enough.
13. Raw Deal (1986)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kathryn Harrold, Robert Davi
Directed by: John Irvin
I love Arnie and I love movies where dudes have to go undercover. So Arnie going undercover to infiltrate the Chicago Mafia means I should automatically love it. But I don’t unfortunately. It’s fine. There are a couple of really good action sequences, including one where Arnie is driving through a construction site and wastes everyone without ever getting out of his car. But I don’t think he had found his charisma quite yet. His performance was very robotic. Plus, the first half of the movie is criminally boring, something an Arnie action movie should never be.
12. Where Eagles Dare (1968)
Starring: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, Mary Ure
Directed by: Brian G. Hutton
Now I have to admit, WWII movies aren’t really my jam as I’ve never taken an interest in the time period. There are always exceptions to the rule, but Where Eagles Dare doesn’t quite crack that for me. It is still good, and if you like WWII movies, you will love this. In fact, it was quite influential to future action movies as this seemingly bridged the gap from tame action movies to violent ones. It also launched Clint Eastwood into an action hero and features some stunning cinematography and great action sequences. This is one that I am probably in the minority for where I have it ranked.
11. Miami Vice (2006)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Naomie Harris
Directed by: Michael Mann
This one is kinda interesting. It didn’t review well upon release but has gained a pretty significant cult following since, and I can see why. It isn’t shot like a typical action movie. Pretty much the entire film is shot with handheld cameras, so it feels almost like a documentary in a way. And while that helps with the realism of it, it can be distracting, especially when the camera inexplicably zooms right in on one of the actor’s faces. This one is also weird in that, despite it being a Miami Vice movie, it feels like it’s about 85% Colin Farrel, 15% Jamie Foxx, although I guess Farrell needed more screentime to show off the awesome mullet-moustache combo.
10. Hanna (2011)
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett
Directed by: Joe Wright
I was a little hesitant on this one because director Joe Wright is more known for period pieces; the likes of Pride & Prejudice etc. so to see him tackle an action movie was odd. However, this brings us some good character development as well as some decent action sequences. Not to mention a great performance by then-16-year-old Saoirse Ronan. I just didn’t care for the story much.
9. U.S. Marshals (1998)
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Wesley Snipes, Robert Downey Jr
Directed by: Stuart Baird
Not so much a sequel, but the spiritual successor to The Fugitive sees Tommy Lee Jones reprise his role as U.S. Marshal Samuel Gerard, this time chasing a new fugitive, played by Snipes. This is fun. There is a cool plane crash sequence, Jones is great again (there is even a scene where he dresses like a clown to catch someone. It’s awesome), and the new characters are good too. But this is no The Fugitive. The thing that lets this one down is the writing. There are just so many stupid plot holes and a twist that even Stevie Wonder could’ve seen coming.
8. The Croods: A New Age (2020)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds
Directed by: Joel Crawford
The first Croods movie surprised both with it’s humour and it’s heart. The second one, while not lacking in either, doesn’t have as much as the first. In saying that, it is still thoroughly enjoyable. It’s animated beautifully, with bright, vibrant colours bringing the world to life. And these characters are supported by, quite frankly an A-list cast of voice talent that all raise these characters to a new level. The story is generic as all hell, but this is fun.
7. Deep Rising (1998)
Starring: Famke Janssen, Treat Williams, Cliff Curtis
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Deep Rising is a little-known schlock horror action movie directed by Stephen Sommers, one year before his massive hit, The Mummy. So if you liked that one, with the cheesy yet fun tones and campy horror, then you will love Deep Rising. It features a cast full of “hey, it’s that guy” type actors, with the biggest name being Famke Janssen of X-Men fame. But there is some gruesome kills, some cool practical effects (as well as some horrible CGI) and a simple story told well. If you can find this, I definitely recommend it.
6. Red Heat (1988)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Belushi, Laurence Fishburne
Directed by: Walter Hill
I think this, along with Last Action Hero, are Arnie’s two most underrated movies. This is directed by Walter Hill, the man who pretty much invented the Buddy Cop subgenre with 48 Hrs. This follows that template of that movie but I would go as far as saying Arnie and Belushi have better chemistry than Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte did. In fact, I’d go as far as saying they have the best chemistry of any buddy cop movie I’ve seen. Plus it is way less racist than 48 Hrs, so there is that. There is a crazy action sequence near the end that involves a bus chasing a bus and it is way better than it sounds. Check this out.
5. Over The Top (1987)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Robert Loggia, Rick Zumwalt
Directed by: Menahem Golan
First, I have to say, this is an incredibly cheesy 80’s movie. It’s also a movie about competitive arm wrestling. And it’s a road trip movie about an estranged father and son who are trying to reconnect. Now, if you can get past all of that, just know that there is a very underrated Stallone performance here. I’m not talking about the scene where he is arm wrestling and looks like he might shit his pants. But the father son stuff. Sly is totally believable and that made this cheesy road trip movie about arm wrestling really enjoyable to watch. Also, if you’ve seen Real Steel with Hugh Jackman, just know that that movie ripped off about 90% of this one, changing arm wrestling to giant fighting robots.
4. Sudden Death (1995)
Starring: Jean-Claude Van Damme, Powers Boothe, Raymond J. Barry
Directed by: Peter Hyams
I’m not liking the idea that I have to start so many of these off with explanations. I’m not defending my movie taste though, merely explaining it. If you go into Sudden Death looking for plot holes, you’re not gonna have a good time. There are so many plot holes. There are more holes in this than David Bain’s alibi. But this is the best movie I’ve ever seen where someone goes around stopping bombs from going off during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals and then has a spell as the goalie for the Pittsburgh Penguins during said game. How you react to that sentence I just typed will determine how much you enjoy this movie but man, if you just turn your brain off, I guarantee you will have a blast.
3. Soul (2020)
Starring: Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Graham Norton
Directed by: Pete Docter
Time and time again, Pixar say they are going to do something and come up with a really weird concept that nobody thinks will work as a kids movie, and they blow us away. This has happened again with Soul. This is basically a mixture of teaching kids about death while also learning to enjoy life and be happy with ourselves. I think there are a couple of times where instead of focusing on the story, they stray away for an easy laugh, but I get why. The voicework here is flawless (didn’t expect talk show host Graham Norton to be as good as he was), and the animation is stunning. Another hit by Pixar.
2. Cliffhanger (1993)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker
Directed by: Renny Harlin
This is another movie that your enjoyment relies solely on how much you like cheesy action movies from the 80’s/90’s. It features a fun performance from Sly as the lead, as well as one of the best villainous performances of that era by John Lithgow. The story is really basic and kinda stupid but it doesn’t matter because you’re still cheering for Sly the whole way. Also, Stallone kills a dude with a stalactite and it is so gangster.
1. The Irishman (2019)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
I’ll start by addressing the elephant in the room, that being the runtime of this. Yes, it is 3.5 hours long. It is cliché to say it but it does not feel that long at all. The runtime goes by quick as. That is because, while there isn’t a lot of action in this (there is some), the drama is so captivating that it just sucks you in. The performances are masterful. This is the first time Pacino and Scorsese have worked together and I think the director did a great job of getting just the right amount of over-the-top Pacino for his part. I’ll say that I think Pacino’s portrayal of Jimmy Hoffa is the best performance in the entire movie. But all three of the leads are phenomenal. And I won’t spoil it, but the final shot of this is one of the best endings I’ve ever seen in a movie. If you haven’t seen this, put aside 3.5 hours and watch it ASAP. It’s a damn masterpiece.
There it is. If you are curious as to where I would rank the rewatches in here; Menace II Society would be 1st, Aliens 2nd, John Wick 4th, Iron Man 5th, School of Rock 8th and Alita: Battle Angel 10th. Keep an eye out for this as I plan on doing it every month. Thanks for reading.