Thursday, November 20, 2008

5 Must-See Action Films

#1
Film: Terminator II: Judgment Day [1991]
Director: James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick
Points: 100 out of 100
Comment: "A sequel has never been this good..."

For true action junkies, this film needs no introduction. Starring the man who is a staple and an icon for action films, Arnold Schwarzenegger played the character that sealed his place in movie history; the Terminator. This is probably one of the few sequel films that outranks it's predecessors, something you don't see or hear very often.

The story picks up approximately ten years after The Terminator [1984] left off. Despite the fact that Kyle Reese' rescued Sarah Connor from the first Terminator, that did not stop the war going on in the future and that spells opportunity for the army of terminators who seek to destroy mankind once and for all. They send yet another terminator to the past, a more advanced terminator with a different goal. This time the target is the future leader of mankind himself, the child of Sarah Connor; the then ten-year-old John Connor. The future John Connor retaliates by sending a re-programmed terminator to the past. From there, it is a race between the two terminators as to who will get to the young John Connor first.

Well, we all know what happened then, but that does not make it any less exciting and that's the beauty of it. Often we see a timeless drama, but very rare we see a timeless action film. Throughout the years, with the presence of online streaming video sites such as YouTube, you will be able to watch all of the scenes cut from the film. What struck my interest is that all these scenes are actually very good ones that further explores the terminator lore. It must have pained James Cameron to omit these scenes from the film. One such example is a scene where the Human Resistance in the future managed to overrun a terminator laboratory. It is from there we know how John Connor found out about the terminator's second attempt to change the past.

But looking back at it, these changes are probably needed as to give the film the appeal that it has today. This film moves really fast. Not just the action, but the total running time of the film is hardly felt due to the scenes being fused seamlessly together. Every scene is crucial in setting up the next, and throughout it all, are timeless stunts and action sequences paralelled by none.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Strong, solid plot
- Exhilarating action sequences
- Good direction
- Immensely unforgettable

The Bad [-0]
- (none)

100 - 0 = 100 points


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#2
Film: Predator [1987]
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator
Points: 100 out of 100
Comment: "Action and sci-fi fused seamlessly..."

Yeap, the second film starring Schwarzenegger as the lead made it to this list. Well, it has been said that the man is an action film icon that will remain unsurpassed for generations to come. This film is the first and the best film to portray the Predator. Indeed, several films had been made featuring the Predator. But despite the overabundance of technology today, none of those films are able to do the character justice. One film such example is the atrocious Alien vs Predator [2004] ineptly directed by Paul W. S Anderson. But that's a different story.

This predator film is about a group of elite commandos sent into a tropic jungle on a mission to rescue prisoners of war. Or so they thought. Not only the mission is a bogus one, they now find themselves caught in a hunting party perpetrated by an extra-terrestrial known only as the Predator. Literally, it is a battle for survival for the humans.

What earned it's place in this list is how well action and sci-fi are fused together. The Predator, despite being butt-ugly without it's mask, is definitely a character everyone will root for due to it's 'cool-factor'; he can be downright violent but can also be chivalrous. (I'm just assuming it's a he because of the pecs and abs)

This is probably the only film starring Schwarzenegger where he has to struggle for that appeal. Let's face it, the guy is not much of an actor; there isn't much you can do with that build and accent, and after donning that leather jacket, there's no going back (and saying "I'll be back" is not going to help either). But when it comes to action films, there's definitely no one who can do it better. In this film, however, the main appeal is the Predator itself. Clever design is definitely a trait of sci-fi.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Good plot
- Coolest villain ever
- A healthy dose of action and suspense

The Bad [-0]
- (none)

100 - 0 = 100 points

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#3
Film: Die Hard [1988]
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, Reginald Veljohnson
Points: 100 out of 100
Comment: "What I would consider the definitive action film..."

Nothing beats old-school action which are made up from pure stuntwork, CGI-free and visionary directors. Die Hard is hailed by critics as the action film that redefines the meaning of what makes an action film. On a personal note, I agree with them. To date, the film has spawned three sequels. However, nothing beats the original hence why I consider this particular Die Hard a classic.

Die Hard is the story of John McClane, a police with disregard for police ethical codes. What makes him so special from other police officers is that he often finds himself at the right place at the wrong time (if that make any sense). After travelling so many miles to celebrate Christmas with his family, he found himself caught in a hostage situation from which he managed to flee. From there, he has to battle both the terrorists and the egoistic California authorities who sees him as a nuisance.

Unlike Schwarzenegger or Stallone, action films starred by Bruce Willis are often better when it comes to being more than just an adrenaline-rush flick. This can be attributed to his wider range as an actor. Take this film for example, he is just an average joe not without flaws. Domestic issues and others are the things he has to worry about, other than the fact that there are people keen on killing him. And he is not the traditional action hero either where he would just stand toe-to-toe with the villains and go trigger-happy without having to worry about being shot or even bother about reloading his gun.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Strong plot
- Memorable action sequences
- Likeable characters
- Memorable dialogues
- More depth than just an action film

The Bad [-0]
- (none)

100 - 0 = 100 points

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#4
Film: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade [1989]
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford, Sean Connery, Denholm Elliot
Points: 100 out of 100
Comment: "Archeologists have never been this cool..."

Who would have thought about making an action hero from an archeologist? George Lucas and Steven Spielberg sure did and did it well. If it were up to my personal opinion, the first two Indiana Jones films were indeed memorable, but mediocre at best. It is this third installment that really takes the cake. A fourth film was made, and it was also a blast. However, it suffers from ludicrous plot which does not really fit in any of it's previous predecessors.

Indiana Jones' last crusade is about his quest to find the Holy Grail. Well, it is actually his father's quest. Indiana Jones was simply taken along for a ride when he tried to rescue him. Set in the World War II era, the villains are Nazis (naturally) bent on taking control of the world by finding the Holy Grail. It is up to the Jones to stop them.

Out of all films in this list, this is definitely the most heartwarming one. Healthy dose of action interspersed with comedy and suspense. What gives this particular film the appeal absent from other Indiana Jones film is the relationship between Indiana Jones and his father. The moments between them are some of the best about it.

Points Calculations

The Good [100]
- Strong, solid plot
- Memorable scenes
- Artful
- Good stunts

The Bad [0]
- (none)

100 - 0 = 100 points

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#5
Film: Hard Boiled [1991]
Director: John Woo
Starring: Chow Yun-Fatt, Tony Leung
Points: 75 out of 100
Comment: "Hardcore action, although the plot rests a little too heavily on it's action sequences..."

Action-junkies everywhere, if you have not seen this one, you should seize the opportunity to do so. Regarded by critics as the one of the few greatest action films of all time, this movie will keep you at the edge of your seat every time somebody with a gun comes on screen.

The plot is not that strong, and the acting will not leave much of an impact, but bear in mind that this is a pure adrenaline-charged action flick. Therefore, traditionally speaking, none of these factors are needed. Just some good action choreography, exhilarating direction and clever editing.

The story is about a police who is keen on taking down a triad, but unable to do so due to limited resources. Adding insult to injury, he even lost his partner on an operation that went wrong. Afterwards, he began to work with an undercover cop whose intentions are not clear.

Points Calculation

The Good [+100]
- Pure action
- Good editing

The Bad [-25]
- Mediocre plot

100 - 25 = 75 points
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