Welcome to the second annual De Hart Attack awards. This a way to honor the movies that I saw for the first time in 2014 that became instant favorites. While I watch a hell of a lot of movies again (HD makes all the difference sometimes), these are my top butcher baker's dozen of first time outings.
RIGOR MORTIS (2013): Not only one of the best films to come out of Hong Kong in years, but one of the best horror movies to come out of any country in years. Easily my favorite film of 2014.
FIRE, ICE & DYNAMITE (1990): Willy Bogner gives us the thinnest of plots since THE CANNONBALL RUN (1981) as an excuse to have insane professionals do extremely dangerous things in the snow.
DARK COUNTRY (2009): Thomas Jane's truly under-appreciated 3D homage to "The Twilight Zone" and '50s film noir, scuttled by a boneheaded studio who didn't know what to do with it.
TERMINAL CHOICE (1985): Wonderfully sinister Canadian bitch-slap to the medical profession, executed with style and a solid cast.
THE SPY (2013): Maybe it is just because most South Korean movies are so lacking in originality and subtlety that this one caught me by surprise. Like many Seoullywood movies, it is aping a US film, but for once, does it so much better. If only modern Bond films could be this much fun.
TALL BLONDE WITH ONE BLACK SHOE (1972): Yes, I know that you are thinking that this is one of those "film class" movies, where the instructor blathers on about how wonderful French cinema is, invariably leading up to yet another monologue on the brilliance of Jean-Luc Godard. Inspite of that, this François Perrin vehicle is an absolute corker of a satire, sending up the conventions of the spy and film noir genres, while throwing out a surprisingly bold visual style. Sure there is some slapstick, but there is plenty of multi-layered wit to balance it out. There is one caveat however: this movie will make you want to see the sequel, RETURN OF THE TALL BLONDE (1974) or god forbid the shot-for-shot Tom Hanks remake THE MAN WITH ONE RED SHOE (1985). Don't do it. It's a trap.
JODOROWSKY'S DUNE (2014): I weep bitter tears every night over the fact that Jodorowsky couldn't manage to get his ultra-ambitious vision of Frank Herbert's classic novel "Dune" past the pre-production stage. This documentary actually makes things worse. Covering a large amount of of the history of the project, my only gripe is it should have been a full two-hours minimum. The 90 minute running time feels rushed, but is still a great movie about the greatest science fiction film never made.
THE NICKEL RIDE (1974): Nearly flawless, low-key crime movie in the vein of THE FRIENDS OF EDDY COYLE (1973), about a small time fence, Jason Miller, who's business is starting to turn sour and is starting to crack under the pressure of the cops and the mob. Perfect, if unusual, casting choices include John Hillerman and Bo Hopkins as, believe it or not, mafia men.
SPACE PIRATE CAPTAIN HARLOCK (2013): Easily the best computer animated film to come along in years, this readaptation of the manga that was turned into a children's anime and now into a stunning visual feast that dumps the slapstick in favor of dark, mature themes. Well, mostly mature. There is that zero-g shower scene.
DRAGON FIRE (1993): Out of the multitude of BLOODFIST (1989) remakes cranked out by Roger Corman's New Horizons Pictures, this is the top of the heap, eclipsing even the original. Set in a BLADE RUNNER (1982) dystopian future, this tells the BLOODFIST story of a guy who enters and underground martial arts tournament looking for the killer of his brother, but goes completely nuts with the retro-future set dressing, well choreographed action sequences and charismatic stars. Hell, it's even got a cameo by Jim Wynorski as a stri-club announcer, what more could you want?
Worst Films Viewed in 2014:
These are simply the most unentertaining and insipid films I've seen for the first time this year. I know some folks liked some of these, which is fine, you are welcome to them.