Maximum Overdrive (1986)
The Earth passes through the tail of a comet, and boom — machines attempt to extinguish humanity. Whereas The Dead Zone is a restrained, emotionally affecting thriller this is the flip side of Stephen King’s talents. Loud, messy, and lacking subtlety, the film is a fun, dumb romp about man versus trucks, steamrollers, soda machines, and more. Like Charles Laughton (The Night of the Hunter) before him, King directed this one film and then stopped cold turkey. Unlike Laughton, we’re okay with that.
Swimming With Sharks (1994)
Guy (Frank Whaley) is a lowly Hollywood assistant hoping to climb his way up the studio ladder, but standing in his way is the world’s cruelest boss (Kevin Spacey) — so he kidnaps and tortures the bastard. Writer/director George Huang’s scathing Hollywood take down is a terrific black comedy with a powerhouse performance by Spacey with an ending that’s as dark as they come.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Julia Roberts stars as a restaurant critic who discovers she loves her ex-boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney) after he tells her he’s getting married (to Cameron Diaz). If your list of the top ten romantic comedies doesn’t include this and/or Roberts’ Notting Hill then you’re a heartless, laugh-hating nut. The comedy is sharp, the heart is real, and the end is atypical.
Six strangers awake in a room that offers little in the way of escape and much in the way of deadly traps. Vincenzo Natali’s feature debut remains his best (non-Hannibal) effort and packs enormous visual creativity and thrills into its tight, low-budget frame. The sequels are a series of diminishing returns, but the curious among you can check a couple of them out on Hulu as well.
Spies from both the east and the west are after the same suitcase, but only one side has Robert De Niro, Natascha McElhone, Sean Bean, and Jean Reno — or do they? John Frankenheimer’s second last feature is a solid and twisty thriller, but the highlight is without a doubt the car chase action.
Porter (Mel Gibson) was double-crossed and lived to tell the tale, but he’s not interested in story time — he just wants his $70k back. Brian Helgeland’s adaptation of Donald Westlake’s classic novel features Gibson at his charming, brutal best and delivers tremendous fun in its dialogue and action. Maria Bello, Kris Kristofferson, William Devane, John Glover, and the utterly lovable Gregg Henry are along for the ride too.
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