|Premise first: There are a million cinematic genres out there just waiting for you to find them. Within those genres are countless films ranging from atrocious to (hopefully) all time great. We care at OGR, so in 2012 we will periodically be highlighting a different genre and identifying which films in your respective genre are;
The GOOD: 8 / 10 and above
They might not all be great, but we wholeheartedly recommend that you check these out, as they represent some of the best the genre has to offer.
The (NOT) BAD: 6.5 / 10 to 7.5 / 10
These films might have a few flaws and probably won’t blow you away, but they aren’t terrible, boast at least a few decent moments and who knows there might just find a gem or two in here that works better for you.
The UGLY: 6 / 10 and below
Films that are ordinary at best, and worse… not much joy to be found here I’m afraid.
For the most part I will let the full reviews in the links tell the story. Feel free to let me know what I missed or which of your favourites is ranked too low.
Bit of a switch up today, instead of focusing solely on a genre or sub genre, we will look at the franchises, the series, the painfully over-reaching. You know, films what there are at least three of…
Welcome to your comprehensive guide to choosing your next movie series. To a movie lover a trilogy should not be entered into lightly. Even the briefest trilogy clocks in at around five hours or so, and there is nothing worse than renting/buying a series and realising that half way through the first film that this isn’t the experience you thought it would be.
These trilogies won’t rate themselves, so let’s get into it…
Proceed with confidence. These aren’t just some of the greatest movies of all time, they are some of the greatest three-movies of all time!
Austin Powers (Comedy) – Uses the spoof genre from the Naked Gun and takes it further, crafting unique characters, adding implausibly enjoyable dance numbers and scattering cameos and pop culture references liberally. It isn’t all great but you’ll laugh a bit.
Verdict: All three are worth a look, with perhaps the third showing signs of a premise wearing a bit thin.
Mad Max (Action) – The original film was one of the first to use a bleak dystopian future as a backdrop. The second built upon the Mad Max legend with an amazing finale chase that still stacks up well against any action sequence made since. And the third… well it happened and can’t be taken back, but the first two were so good that we can forgive it. (And you can turn it into a decent drinking game when someone spouts lame dialogue – which happens frequently).
Verdict: The first two films are among the greats in Australian cinema. Actually let’s just leave it there.
Star Wars (Sci Fi Fantasy) – Um, it’s Star Wars.
Verdict: yep. Still Star Wars!
Indiana Jones (Adventure) – So some guy named an adventurer after his dog, threw him back in time a few decades, then had a rock, some Nazis and a bunch of bad guys chase him while he chased relics and hot females about the place while wearing your Grandpa’s hat.
And it Rocked.
Verdict: Fortunately it was a trilogy and a fourth film was never made… that would probably be terrible and taint Indy’s legacy beyond repair. I mean wouldn’t it?
Evil Dead (Horror Comedy) – Take one of the best horror movies of all time, build in a little black comedy in the even better sequel, then make a genius third film which turns the scales in favour of comedy without alienating a single horror fan. Sounds easy, this is the only trilogy that does it.
Verdict: All three films are exceptional, and you may label any of them the best in the trilogy depending on your mood on the day and not be wrong.
Blade (Action Horror) – Wesley Snipes is at his tax-dodging best as a half vampire, half human, all arse-kicking superhero. The first was excellent, the second legendary, the third wasn’t terrible, it just sucked balls by comparison and makes me wish the film ended as a double act.
Verdict: Watch the first. Love the second. Endure the third (where Ryan Reynolds shows us another thing he isn’t good at).
The Bourne Trilogy (Action Thriller) – While the journey from a nearly drowned man suffering from amnesia to a full fledged reawakened killing machine is often so complicated it borders on baffling, the action sequences and commitment to authenticity make it so worthwhile.
Verdict: Being confused is rarely this entertaining.
Police Story (Martial Arts) – Jackie Chan could do no wrong in the 80s. When it came to straight ahead action there was no peer – and for that matter there hasn’t been since. The only way he wouldn’t be in the positive side of this list is if he didn’t make a series with at least three films in it. Need I point out that he made a film titled Police Story 3: Supercop?
Verdict: If you like martial arts you should be ashamed if you haven’t seen this already.
Red Riding Trilogy (Drama / Thriller) – Stay with me here: a British thriller/drama/procedural gumbo based upon a series of novels. With each film helmed by a new director and taking a decidedly different tact the tempo and tone changes throughout, but those who stay the journey over the three films will be richly rewarded with an intricately drawn saga that highlights a 20 year crime spree from all angles.
Verdict: If you watch only one, watch the first. But patient viewers will be rewarded as the story unravels over the 6 hour running time.
Millennium Trilogy (Drama / Thriller) – I like the character of Lisbeth Salander more than her movie series, but there is no denying that this is decent adult fare. Just don’t get me started about the shit American remake.
Verdict: A series that is greater as a collective than any of the singular units. But if you have to watch one only, make it the first.
Lethal Weapon (Action Comedy) – There was a time when Mel Gibson wasn’t an alcoholic anti-Semitic punchline. Thankfully during that short period he starred in a series that pioneered and defined the mismatched buddy genre. Sure they perhaps did it to death and over-stretched by reaching for a 4th film. But you can’t argue that these films aren’t mostly excellent.
Verdict: Watch 1 and 2 asap. (And think how amusing it is that if it wasn’t for LW 2, the name Patsy Kensit would mean nothing to 30 year old males.)
Terminator (Sci-Fi Action) – The first was groundbreaking, the follow up took blockbuster sci-fi action to a new level, granted the third was a step down but what do you expect with no James Cameron and the Governor of California replacing Arnold Schwarzenegger? Even the reboot-prequel-whatever wasn’t as bad as expected.
Verdict: T2 will go down as one of the greatest films in history, the original film was groundbreaking, and the rest aren’t awful.
Aliens (Sci-Fi Action) – James Cameron pops up again to show how easy it is to craft a magnificent sequel. They should have got him in for the Matrix 2, The Descent 2 etc… David Fincher lent his stamp to an unfairly derided threequel, and some French guy made the fourth flick a regrettable but pretty mess.
Verdict: An ever evolving masterful series. Should be enjoyed without any Alien Vs Predator crap.
Back to the Future (Comedy) – BttF was amazingly and effortlessly entertaining, and would have demanded attention even if no sequel existed. But they arrived anyway and we are better for it. Building around a labyrinthine time travel premise that folds in upon itself again and again, with multiple versions of many characters and multiple smiles as you realise how cool this all is.
Verdict: One of the most creative, almost the most even trilogy in cinema. Immortal stuff.
Die Hard (Action) – There is only one reason as to why I haven’t reviewed the Die Hard quadrilogy yet. Because I feel the series is so very awesome that completing it will leave me with nothing worthwhile left to cover. The original towers over all-comers, however the second, third and even fourth films are way better than you would expect.
Verdict: As far as action films go, there is no peer.
Toy Story (Comedy) – The original was only the first wide release computer generated animated film ever. And it was brilliant. The sequel to this groundbreaking masterpiece was somehow even better. The third was released a decade later and still managed to elate kids who weren’t born when the first two came out, and bring a tear to the eye of those that were. Top that Transformer-shite.
Verdict: For those adults that say they only watch it because their kids like it; man/woman up and admit this is just great filmmaking and enjoyable regardless of age.
Batman – No-one actually knew that they didn’t really like the old Batman franchise, that is until Christopher Nolan grabbed the reins and said ‘check this out’. The result? Only the best trilogy since Lord of the Rings and a reinvention of the superhero genre from the pointy toed boot up.
Vengeance Trilogy – Never has a film – let alone three – been as simultaneously abhorrent, repulsive, depressing and enthralling as Park Chan-Wook’s astonishingly dark and original trilogy. The films introduced Oh Dae Su (Choi Min Sik) to the world, while reminding us that a couple of cloudy days might not be such a fucking disaster after all.
Verdict: Watch them all. But know this is especially adult fare. I envy those who are able to discover Oldboy for the first time.
Lord of the Rings – Peter Jackson’s career will end with his greatest achievement being crafting a trilogy that is comparable to Star Wars in terms of impact. What is perhaps even more amazing is that he hasn’t managed to create another film within cooee of this quality since.
Verdict: If mythical creatures and a fantasy theme isn’t too much you’ll absolutely love this.
The (not) Bad
These films are subject to the ‘caution’ light for one of two reasons. Either they are uniformly ‘ok’, or actually mostly good, but let down by one spectacularly bad instalment.
I have also included the genre of the series here, as your attitude to the type of film will influence your enjoyment potential.
In short, if you’re a fan of the genre these might be all worth a look. Just know that it ain’t all plain sailing.
The Original Muppet Trilogy (Comedy) – Thankfully the Jason Segal reboot seems to have done the trick. If it only sends a bunch of kids and/or their parents back to the 80s classics then it was all worthwhile, if more sequels are made to the reboot then all the better – as long as they retain the Henson spirit.
Verdict: The first film was very good – if a little dark for the little ‘uns – the second was as Muppetty as can be in all the right ways. As usual the third was the weak spot, where for some reason they decided the franchise needed a brave new direction. The same franchise that Jim Henson had essentially kept the same for over two decades I might add.
The Prophecy (Horror) – The first film remains a bona fide under-seen classic, with great performances from Eric Stoltz (I knoooowww!?!) and Christopher Walken. The second and third remain faithful to the Angel universe – perhaps a little too faithful as they are practically replicas.
And if they are replicas, the fourth and fifth are Bali ‘imitations’…
Verdict: Call me nuts but I love the first and the first two sequels are admirable enough. I’d call it a day after that to minimise the disappointment.
Paranormal Activity (Horror) – Sure the CCTV angle is hardly new – and has been even more done to death since – and furthermore all three films are basically the same present re-gifted with new wrapping. But it’s a good gift.
Verdict: The first was fresh and new, the second suffered from ‘same again’ syndrome, and the third somehow managed to reinvigorate the franchise thanks to… an oscillating fan?!? BTW; the fourth came out a week ago. Whether you like it or not this franchise seems to be around a while yet.
No wait, it sorta is, actually isn’t. I won’t try to top Patton Oswalt’s rant about how George Lucas is way off base if he thinks showing Darth Vader as a cute kid is enough to rattle our sabers, but in truth if these weren’t members of the ‘Star Wars’ family then we probably wouldn’t be talking about them.
I mean John Carter had about as much CGI, a hero just as charismatic and creatures as alternately creepy and cuddly. Look how that turned out.
Verdict: Partial credit at least for bringing us back to our youth, at least in our minds, and Revenge of the Sith was almost dark enough to mesh into the initial trilogy. Almost.
First Blood (Action) – After a surprisingly mature and deliberate first film in First Blood, Rambo hits full steroid-fuelled gear, proceeding to mow down literally thousands of foreigners (despite Rambo being the invader) across many continents. Amazingly enough even the 20 year hiatus couldn’t slow this killing machine’s roll, and the Rambo reboot was also pretty good, albeit exactly the same again.
Verdict: If you like one you’ll like them all. They’re the same film.
Beverly Hills Cop (Action Comedy) – The first film was the first to use Eddie Murphy to his maximum potential. It was funny, profane and fast moving, just like classic Ed. The second was exactly the same, but not in a bad way at all, (in fact it has my vote as the best in the series). Things bog down with the third film, 90 minutes of desperate, laughless, legacy killing sadness.
Verdict: Watch the first two. Then STOP!
Shrek (Comedy) – Kids like everything the big faux-angry Scottish ogre and his loudmouthed donkey companion do and say, that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact that the second and third films shamelessy ignore jokes and plot in favour of pop culture references and cinematic ‘homages’ (read: rip-offs).
Verdict: The first film was OK, the last OK. Expect pain in between.
Ginger Snaps (Horror) – This is more ‘alternative’ than most franchise horror, definitely more creative. Ginger Snaps deals with two sisters confronting the possibility of either becoming a werewolf, or a werewolf’s dinner. But it’s more than that. Smart, snarky and creative, the films don’t always work, but they are always interesting and in a way far more daring than sullen mainstream pap.
Verdict: Probably not hooky enough for the slumber party, this is dark, mature horror (for teens).
Rush Hour (Action Comedy) – For once the tagline was right; the fastest hands from the East teams with the fastest mouth in the West. Jackie Chan’s declining action abilities were masked a little by Chris Tucker’s incessant (but funny) yapping, and vice versa for Tucker’s finite entertainment value. It was obvious by the end of the second that the well was running dry, that didn’t stop them from taking things one step too far to Paris for the awful third film.
Verdict: One and Two are more than fine as light entertainment goes, then STOP!
Wrong Turn (Horror) – The plot is always the same and always formulaic; redneck cannibals chew on attractive teens. But for more than a few moments the filmmakers embrace the silliness and ramp up the gore. It isn’t always high art, but it is more chuckle-worthy than you expect.
Verdict: The same-ness will no doubt strike at some point, but the first two films were OK and both boasted at least one ‘whaaaaattttt?’ moment to take away.
Spiderman (Superhero) – I might have totally missed the point, but when some say that Spiderman 2 is perhaps the greatest comic book movie ever made I cup my ear and calmly scream “What the Fuck are you thinking?”. The first film was decent, the second so-so and the third pretty bad, but Sam Raimi manages to somehow make even average seem better than it is.
Verdict: One of the last pre-Batman Begins series where it was still OK to just cater to the ‘popcorn and low expectations’ set. I might have to check this out for the site one day.
Hannibal Lecter (Horror / Thriller) – Silence of the Lambs was brilliant. A great book featuring great characters and a great story being adapted into a great film. That’s how it should be. By the time Hannibal was released a decade later and Hannibal Lecter made haute cuisine from Ray Liotta’s thinker, the moment had already passed.
Verdict: The second and third films were startlingly more average than Silence, the prequel Hannibal Rising was pretty terrible.
Pirates of the Caribbean (Adventure) – No amount of Keith Richards impressions – and for that matter Keith Richards cameos – big name guest stars and high falutin’ CGI effects can mask the fact that this is boy’s own fare. Not bad mainstream fare, but mainstream fare regardless.
Verdict: I raise an eyebrow each time someone expresses any sort of anticipation toward one of these films.
The Matrix (Sci-Fi Action) – The first is a modern day classic – over-rated, but still a classic sci-fi flick. The next two were confusing, over-complicated modern daX head-scratchers. Ultimately too ambitious for their own good. Ask any die hard Matrix fan why this stuff rocks and you’ll hear an hour about the mythology, the creativity and the groundbreaking effects. They won’t talk about the sequels much.
Verdict: Watch the first. If you like cosplay (and not just the pics of hot girls) then the second two might be for you.
Underworld (Horror Action) – Like the Matrix trilogy, Underworld exists in a world that sounds cooler than it ends up being. Vinyl clad vampires vs vicious werewolves looks the goods on paper, but somehow manages to continually underwhelm. I am on record though in saying that the 4th instalment in the mediocre series is the best. And can we just pretend ‘Rise of the Lycans’ doesn’t exist?
Verdict: Kate Beckinsale in tight outfits sucking on necks. How could they make that this bland?
George Romero’s ‘Of the Dead – Forget the sly social commentary that has been retrospectively granted to this series. George Romero is a guy that realised that with just a few shuffling extras and some animal entrails, an ultra low budget film could be made. The first was quite good, the second very good and the third serviceable. None of them are as good as some say.
Verdict: Decent films all, but take out the gore and how good are these flicks really?
Ice Age – What could be just another Madagascar is saved by the presence of real voice actors. Sure Ray Romano gives a mammoth Ray Romano’s voice, and Denis Leary doesn’t stretch too far with Diego the sabre-toothed tiger, but John Leguizamo makes Sid the sloth the best character in an animated series this side of Woody and Buzz.
Verdict: The first was very good, and it has gradually declined in each subsequent sequel. Still better across the board than Madagascar if you ask me. And you should.
Tremors – Tremors unexpectedly struck low key B movie gold with a dry tale about giant underground worms. In truth the bottom kinda fell out after that. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward took their effortless (and hilarious) chemistry to more credible fare, and with the premise already exhausted all that was left is silly new developments and desperate efforts to make Michael Gross a headliner…
Verdict: Watch the first. Then watch it again and again and again.
X-Men – If you just gasped just let me say that we might not see eye to eye. But for me a bunch of so called superheros with one pissy power can’t command the respect of say, the Hulk. I mean there’s a guy whose skill is a high pitched scream, Mariah Carey had that. She can’t even save her career, let alone society?
Verdict: If the discussion is between X-Men and The Avengers then as far as I am concerned there is no discussion.
Naked Gun – These films aren’t about the plot, they’re about repetition and running the same gags into the ground. If you consider vacant stares, pratfalls and unwittingly wreaking havoc in social situations hilarious, all with a backdrop of sightgags and kooky moments then look no further. I personally don’t think much of it, but if it’s up your alley the Naked Gun series does it best.
Verdict: Like one and you’ll probably like them all. And bright colours might fascinate you too…
Before you rush headlong into anything let us first identify the risk of mass-movie selection. These are the films that cannot be rescued regardless of how many they made. Often proof that quantity doesn’t always guarantee even some quality.
Let’s not worry too much with discussion about consistency and artistic merit. These franchises are mostly bereft of such things.
The verdict here – in all cases – is that Red lights mean stop kids.
Consider this section a big Red Light for everything that follows, and proof that bad things often come in threes.
Friday the 13th / A Nightmare on Elm Street / Halloween (Horror) – Sorry ‘horror nuts’, these are the same movie. Identify bad guy, then have him kill several teens. Wipe off glove, hockey mask, knife: repeat. Sure you can watch one in isolation to kill a few minutes, just know that there is zero reason to watch the series in order so that you can enjoy the ‘story’.
Alvin & the Chipmunks (Children) – Jason Lee stands in front of green screen and lazily reads dialogue to ping-pong balls on sticks. Hey I guess this pays his kid’s way through college. It also resigns them to snarky comments about their dad’s ‘acting’ ability each day on the way to class.
Final Destination (Horror) – I’ve actually heard this is OK but it sounds terrible (I think I saw the first one). Kids experience eerie omens and premonitions after cheating death, then die in exactly the way foretold.
Transformers (Horror) – Haven’t seen any of them. Will never see any of them. If I ever had the inclination to see Megan Fox in a tank top I will watch her next movie. The rest is a noisy, obnoxious melange of idiocy and stupidity, but aside from Shia Le Beouf there are also robots.
The Mummy (Adventure) – Like the Pirates of the Caribbean series, a movie built more like a theme park ride. Only this time without the redeeming features of decent action, chuckles or tipsy pirates.
Oh, and any Brendan Fraser is too much Brendan Fraser.
The Transporter (Action) – Even Stathams need to start somewhere. The ingredients are all here: fast cars, hot women, weapons, hand to hand combat, Statham. Yet somehow mediocrity holds sway across three inexplicably average action films.
Robocop (Action) – Forget the ‘black comedy’ element that in truth consists of a few 30 second ads. Robocop is a lousy hero whose primary ability is shooting accurately. He gets killed in every film before rising again to shoot accurately once more. Technology gets obsolete quickly, never quicker than over the course of these lousy films.
Warlock (Horror) – The first was a guilty pleasure for me as a teen – but it hasn’t held up that well – and the sequels grew increasingly desperate and amateurish.
At least the first had Richard E. Grant and Julian Sands to up the hipster quotient, but once the unnecessary gore ramped up the writing was on the wall.
The Grudge (Horror) – Another example of a reasonable first film being stretched out way too far. Once you’ve seen one creepy pasty Japanese girl spider-walking down the stairs you’ve seen ‘em all. Ditto miaowing pasty Japanese boys with a bowl haircut.
Sniper (Action) – If you like a grizzled old vet sniper (played by Tom Berenger) being paired with a very different partner to shoot some bad guy in a foreign land then perhaps this might be for you. Just know that that is all that happens; in EVERY film.
Feast (Horror) – The premise steals liberally from From Dusk till Dawn, then proceeds to extract every ounce of creativity, enjoyment and horror from the situation. For every person who doubted a reality TV show winner couldn’t create cinematic art, here is your proof.
Friday (Comedy) – Ice Cube proves that as scriptwriting director he is one legendary bad-ass rapper. This series started when Chris Tucker chanced on a couple quotable lines, then was dragged out altogether too long.
Child’s Play (Horror) – Built on a one note premise that was exhausted in the first trailer, Chucky nonetheless hung around for five films where the quality level only varies according to how many ‘really’s that you decide to put ahead of the word ‘awful’.
Resident Evil (Horror) – I finally manned up and took on the unstoppable behemoth that is this insanely underwhelming series this year. The problem is that it is obvious that in the right hands this is a franchise and a character in Alice that should kick arse – just not in slo-mo and fetish outfits to bad rock music.
I imagine Zack Snyder behind the helm of this and the results are… well exactly the same. Bad example.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Children)– Look beyond the kitschy, so silly it must be hilarious premise and…
…wait you mean there’s nothing more than that?
Scream (Horror) – I don’t care how nice Wes Craven is in reality, how influential other filmmakers found him to be in the early stages of their careers and how many of Hollywood’s ‘so hot right nows’ he manages to squeeze into every edition.
The first Scream was mildly clever and not at all scary to anyone that shaves, every sequel grew increasingly useless and more undeservedly impressed with itself. Judging by the ‘meh’ response to #4 I can’t be alone in my thoughts.
Saw (Horror) – Granted the first was a nice, lean little piece of nasty filmmaking, and from a rookie Australian pair no less. But were the 6 further sequels really necessary (unless you were adding up the receipts that is)? And were they any more than a series of ever more elaborate and unnecessary traps and weapons with which to pass on an increasingly tired ironic message?
We get it Jigsaw. We also got it with Se7en, and that movie kicked arse in 120 minutes and then had the sense to stop (thankfully once Gwenyth’s head was safely in the box…)
We finally got there. Over 50 trilogy/franchises, well over two hundred films of varying quality.
Apologies for the length, this one got kinda out of hand. I’ll leave it there and go ice the trigger finger.
Until next trilogy…