What’s up? I’m back with the next installment of Prolific Ranker. In this one, I will be ranking all 18 of the movies I watched for the first time in February. I did watch a total of 24 movies but 6 of them (Sing Street, Inside Man, The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Mask of Zorro, The Magnificent Seven (2016) and Interstellar) were rewatches, so I won’t be ranking them. But enough pleasantries, onto the ranking.
18. Stealth (2005)
Starring: Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx
Directed by: Rob Cohen
Stealth is an action/thriller that’s supposed to be part Top Gun, part 2001: A Space Odyssey. These three jet pilots (Lucas, Foxx and Biel respectively) are joined by an AI pilot, who for reasons, goes rogue and starts the next world war. Now, the issue with this is it is written so blandly and director Rob Cohen isn’t the best at capturing action. So what we get is lame action sequences and a dull movie. If you want to watch a movie with jets, watch Top Gun. If you wanna watch a movie about rogue AI, watch 2001: A Space Odyssey. Simple.
17. The Alamo (2004)
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Patrick Wilson
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
The Alamo is a film that, quite frankly, should’ve been way better. It was funded by Disney so has no restraints in terms of budget and apparently the only thing that wasn’t allowed was nudity. So why is this so bland? It features a fantastic cast and John Lee Hancock is a capable director. Although, I feel he is usually quite happy just doing enough. He never seems to take it to the next level, and something like that here would’ve helped it immensely.
16. Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (2007)
Starring: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis
Directed by: Tim Story
Now, this movie is down this low because it’s really bad. This was a time when studios didn’t know how to adapt comic book stories into movies (random sidenote: this is why I am confident we will eventually get a legit good Video Game movie). However, if this was ranked on fun, it’d be a few spots higher, because I can watch these for the stupid fun they are. I think the main problem is that this one tried to fit too many storylines into a 90 minute movie. Cut out a couple of the villains and tighten up the Silver Surfer/Galactus storyline and this could’ve been quite good.
15. Knowing (2009)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Knowing is a sci-fi movie with a brilliant premise; what happens if you know when the apocalypse will hit? Is it set in stone or can you change fate? When I read the synopsis of this, I was quite hopeful that I would enjoy it. Director Alex Proyas also directed great sci-fi in Dark City and great action in The Crow, so he clearly has the skill to tackle this. Unfortunately, he stumbles here, mainly due to the bad writing, but the lackluster direction certainly doesn’t help. Also, Nic Cage (as much as I love him), felt out of place. His wacky performance didn’t match the very serious tone of the film.
14. Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)
Starring: Rupert Friend, Zachary Quinto, Hannah Ware
Directed by: Aleksander Bach
Now, this is a reboot of a movie based on an excellent video game series. The original movie sucks. Literally one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot. It was written by a guy called Skip Woods, who wrote the absolute abominations that were X-Men Origins: Wolverine and the fifth Die Hard movie. This guy is one of the worst screenwriters working in Hollywood. Naturally, you’d think when the studio was hiring someone to write this reboot, they’d stay away from this guy, right? WRONG! They hired the same guy to write this, and because of that, it’s horrendous. No characterisation, obvious plot twists, and plotlines that make no sense or are just abandoned completely. I feel for director Aleksander Bach though as he shot some really nice action sequences. However, he hasn’t directed a film since this one.
13. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Colin Farrell
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Saving Mr. Banks, the story of Walt Disney and P.L. Travers, and the adaptation of the book Mary Poppins, is not something I’d normally watch. However, I like Tom Hanks and figured I’d broaden my horizons a little. Well, this is very well-made; the acting is tops, as you’d expect, the set design is great, it really transports you to the 60’s when it’s set, and the music is surprisingly nice. Unfortunately, this just isn’t something I could really get invested in, but if this is your type of thing, I suspect you will like it a lot more.
12. The Little Things (2021)
Starring: Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
I did a full review of this one here already but basically, this is a film of unrealised potential. You have three Academy Award winners working together and yet, this is just seemingly rushed as there are relationships and storylines that need to be built up slower. Add to that that this is set in the 90’s for literally no reason. The script was originally written in the 90’s so I am assuming that this just didn’t get a touchup after the studio gave the OK. If you wanna watch a good serial killer thriller, watch Se7en instead.
11. The Blind Side (2009)
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Eagle-eyed readers may notice there are four films directed by John Lee Hancock this month. That is purely a coincidence, but it did allow me to notice that he always plays it safe in his movies. Everything, while technically sound, is quite paint by numbers, and The Blind Side is no different. The real life story of former NFL O-lineman Michael Oher, this one takes some liberties with his story. Oher himself has called out the film for being “not very accurate” which tells me that someone, whether studio or writer/director fudged some facts to make this more likely for an Academy Award, and Oscar-baiting always loses points for me. This did have great performances though from Sandra Bullock, and surprisingly Tim McGraw. Quinton Aaron making his acting debut also did well.
10. Eraser (1996)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Vanessa Williams, James Caan
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Not one of Arnie’s more famous roles, but funnily enough, this is his only film that was nominated for an Academy Award (for best sound design, but still). The story is predictable and stupid but that’s just how I like my Arnie movies. This features futuristic guns, and awesome one-liners. At one point, Arnie literally shoots an alligator in the face and says “you’re luggage.” It’s beautiful. It has a really underrated score too, from Alan Silvestri, who is now known as the main composer behind the MCU.
9. Broken Arrow (1996)
Starring: Christian Slater, John Travolta, Delroy Lindo
Directed by: John Woo
Broken Arrow is the story of a jet fighter pilot who goes rogue to steal two nuclear warheads. Yeah, that’s actually what happens. This is an incredibly stupid yet incredibly fun movie. Christian Slater is fine in the lead but the real star is John Travolta, as a deliciously evil over-the-top villain, that I wish got more love when talking 90’s movie villains. If you wanna watch something fun that doesn’t require using your brain, you can do worse than Broken Arrow.
8. Southpaw (2015)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams, Forest Whitaker, 50 Cent
Directed by: Antoine Fuqua
Southpaw is the story of boxer Billy “the Great” Hope, a man who is currently undefeated, and lives in his mansion with his loving wife and daughter. That is until tragedy strikes and things get worse and worse. The boxing part of the story is incredibly generic, seen in nearly any boxing movie ever. However, the family drama feels very real and was really well-done. That is mostly thanks to the performance of Jake Gyllenhaal, but also the writing of Kurt Sutter, of Sons of Anarchy fame. Fun fact, he originally wrote this with Eminem in mind for the lead role.
7. Cast Away (2000)
Starring: Tom Hanks
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
First off, the performance of Tom Hanks is masterful here. He is solely responsible for making us care about his character who gets stranded on an island after a plane crash. Not only does he manage to do that, he manages to make us care about a damn volleyball with a face painted on it. The scene where he is separated from Wilson is genuinely heart-breaking. I think where this movie gets let down is the third act. Without spoiling anything, I think the ending was poorly conceived and executed.
6. The French Connection (1971)
Starring: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey
Directed by: William Friedkin
The French Connection is widely considered a “classic”, cleaning up all the major Academy Awards in 1972, and it’s easy to see why. Gene Hackman is fantastic in the lead as rule-breaker detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle. He is magnetic whenever he is on the screen. The score and camerawork are great and probably ahead of their time, considering this features one of the greatest car chases ever put to film. The only reason it isn’t higher up for me is this tends to drag a bit for the first half, where it is basically just Popeye tailing perps. The second half is amazing though.
5. The Foreigner (2017)
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Jackie Chan
Directed by: Martin Campbell
The Foreigner is about a man, Quan Ngoc Minh (Chan), who loses his daughter in a terrorist bombing. He then sets on a mission to find the man responsible. If you’re here to see joke-cracking Rush Hour Jackie Chan, you will be sorely disappointed. What we get from Chan is an incredible dramatic performance of a man mourning the loss of his daughter. But does he want answers or revenge? The irony here is that, in real life, Jackie Chan by all accounts, including his own, was a terrible father. Moving on to Pierce Brosnan, this is without a doubt his best ever performance, and I LOVE GoldenEye. He has a lot of conflict of his own and he plays it off to perfection.
4. Cop Land (1997)
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta
Directed by: James Mangold
Cop Land features an A-list cast with Hollywood heavyweights like De Niro and Keitel. However, it is Sly Stallone who steals the show in this, out-acting these legends, playing a small-town sheriff who had dreams of being a cop, but due to circumstances, he can never be one. The story is basically about this small town which was basically bankrolled by the Mafia and all these corrupt cops live there and use the town to sort out their business, all under the nose of Stallone. It gets let down by some sloppy writing, with a couple plot holes here and there, but is lifted by the fantastic performances.
3. Leon: The Professional
Starring: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman
Directed by: Luc Besson
I’ll start off by addressing the elephant in the room. This film is incredibly problematic in certain areas, mainly the sexualisation of a then-11 year old Natalie Portman, who is saved by an assassin named Leon. She then develops feelings for him, which is where the issues come in. The crush I get. However, Leon never refuses her because of her age, but by way of another stupid reason. You may not think it’s that bad but in the original script, Leon didn’t turn her down at all. Add to that that director Luc Besson was actually dating a minor at the time and you can see where all the issues come in. However, if, and it’s a big if, you can ignore all of that part of the movie, this is a damn masterpiece. Reno’s performance is excellent, as is Natalie Portman’s. Considering she was only 11 at the time and I believe this was her movie debut, it was clear she was heading onto big things. This also has some amazing action sequences and one of the best villainous performances by the master himself, Gary Oldman.
2. Constantine (2005)
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Constantine is based off of the DC Comics character John Constantine, and if you are a fan of those comics, you may not like this. John Constantine in the comics is British with blonde hair. Keanu Reeves is not British with blonde hair. However, take appearance out of the equation and I feel Reeves actually nails the cockiness of the character quite well. I was quite surprised at how much I enjoyed his performance here. The story is a good one and the CGI holds up surprisingly well. In fact, the scenes that take place in Hell look really cool.
1. Hard Boiled (1992)
Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Directed by: John Woo
After watching this, it was no wonder why Hollywood studios were willing to chuck a ton of money at director John Woo. Despite the fact that this came out 29 years ago, the action sequences are shot in a way that, if they were done today, they’d be considered mind-blowing. The way he films these sequences is incredible. In fact, the final act is literally just a non-stop 45 minute action sequence. It’s incredible. The story is something you’ve seen before but it also doesn’t really matter when the action is this good. If you haven’t seen this before and you love action movies, I implore you to watch this. It’s on YouTube right now.
There it is. Another month down. If you want to check out my January rankings, here they are. Thanks again for reading along and I’ll see you next month.