It’s the end of a decade, but it’s also the beginning of a new year, which means that it’s as good an excuse as any to kick off 2010 with a list of ten enjoyable (in their own way) “new” films you might want to watch this weekend…starting with this classic:
10. New Year’s Evil (1980): Any holiday worth its salt has inspired a slasher film, and the celebration of a new year is certainly no exception to that rule. The tag line for this Cannon Films classic is just as cheesy as it ought to be – “This New Year’s, you’re invited to a killer party” – and so is the cast, which is led by Roz Kelly, best known for playing Pinky Tuscadero on “Happy Days.” Roger Ebert deigned to review it upon its original release, describing the film as “an endangered species: a plain, old-fashioned, gory thriller. It is not very good. It is sometimes unpleasantly bloody. The plot is dumb and the twist at the end has been borrowed from hundreds if not thousands of other movies. But as thrillers go these days, ‘New Year’s Evil’ is a throwback to an older and simpler tradition, one that flourished way back in the dimly remembered past, before 1978.” For a slasher flick, that’s about as much of a rave as you could hope to get, really.
9. A New Leaf (1971): This was in my original draft of this list, but I yanked it because I couldn’t find a clip to use with it. When our man Bob Westal snuck a peek at the piece and cited it as an unforgivable omission, however, I dug a little deeper and found something that I could use. This was Elaine May’s directorial debut, and she also served as the female lead of this Walter Matthau comedy. Any film that’s loved by both Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby clearly has something going for it, so I’d say it’s more than worthy of making an appearance on this list, but, my, I had no idea that carbon on the valves was such a common mechanical problem…
8. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000): David Medsker swears by this Disney animated flick, and who am I to argue with him? Plus, this gives me an excuse to drop in an anecdote from Patrick Warburton about the flick. He assured me, “I love Disney as much as any straight man in the world can love Disney,” but then he told me about meeting up with Eartha Kitt, his “co-star” in the film, at the premiere and reminding her that they’d worked together before. “When I was in my very early 20’s – I was 21 or 22 – I had done a movie with her in South Africa that was absolutely horrible,” he said. “I got the impression that she probably didn’t want to hear that anything she had ever done was not good. You didn’t even have the right to say it if you were a part of it. She just looked at me and said, ‘I’m sure we had a good time, darling.’ I looked back at her and said, ‘Well, we didn’t have that good of time, Eartha.’”
7. A New Kind of Love (1963): I am assured that, as Paul Newman / Joanne Woodward team-ups go, this is definitely one of their lesser works (at the very least, it certainly has the shortest Wikipedia entry), and PopMatters went so far as to describe it as “predictable and borderline offensive,” but all I know is that you can’t buy the kind of real-life romantic chemistry that those two had.
6. New Jack City (1991): I haven’t seen the film in years, but I still remember how great the soundtrack was. I see that Joe Bob Briggs gave it four stars upon its release, however, and after reading his end-of-review summation, I’m ready to see the movie again. Read it for yourself, and I think you’ll feel the same:
“Six breasts. Thirty-eight dead bodies. Three gun battles. Knife through the hand. Brain blasting. Cold-turkey crack withdrawal. Catfight. East River bridge-dangling, with deadly results. Gratuitous street-corner four-part harmony. Gratuitous hip hop. Gratuitous ‘Say No to Drugs’ lecture. Kung Fu. Rap Fu. Plea-bargain Fu. Drive-In Academy Award nominations for Wesley Snipes, as the whacked-out basehead drug king, for saying, ‘You gotta rob to get rich in the Reagan era,’ and, after he gets rich, ‘Sit your five-dollar ass down before I make change’; Chris Rock, as Pookie the freebasing narc, for saying, ‘They call it the Enterprise Room, man, because it’s for people who wanna be beamed up to Scotty’; Judd Nelson, as the Eyetalian buddy cop, for saying, ‘Is this one of those black things?’; and Mario Van Peebles, for directing this sucker, for doing the street life like it really is, and for coming up with lines like, ‘They either become customers, or they become live-in hostages,’ and, ‘Yeah, he gonna be hangin with Elvis.'”
God bless you, Joe Bob.
5. The New Barbarians (1982): There’s nothing I can possibly say about this film that will make you want to see it, but after you watch the trailer, I’m betting you won’t be able to resist trying to hunt it down, if only to confirm first-hand that any motion picture can possibly be as bad as this one looks to be.
4. The New Centurions (1972): Based on the novel by Joseph Wambaugh, George C. Scott plays the world-weary cop to Stacy Keach’s wide-eyed rookie, and you’ll be unsurprised to hear that, by the end of the film, the latter is just as jaded as the former. All told, the Scott-heavy beginning of the film is better than the Keach-centric conclusion, but it’s still a solid ’70s cop drama.
3. What’s New, Pussycat? (1965): One can quickly lose count of the number of reasons to love this film, from the soundtrack (score by Burt Bacharach, theme song by Tom Jones) to the screenplay by Woody Allen to the performances by Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, and Ursula Andress. In short, if you like zany ’60s comedies, you shouldn’t miss it.
2. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990): Some people hate this movie, but for my money, it’s one of the greatest sequels of all time. It’s ridiculous, it knows it’s ridiculous, and it has a cast which features John Glover, Robert Picardo, Christopher Lee, Gedde Watanabe, Tony Randall as the voice of a Gremlin, and returning cast members Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Dick Miller, and Keye Luke. For my money, the only thing it’s missing is Hoyt Axton…and according to the audio commentary on the DVD, he was supposed to have been in it. (They’d planned to have him appear at the end of the film, with Randall Peltzer having designed special clothing for Gizmo that would ensure Gizmo would never come into contact with water again, but at the last moment, the filmmakers decided not to shoot the scene in order to reduce time.) It’s positively anarchic, and it’s one of those movies I’m sucked into watching whenever I stumble upon it on cable.
1. Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977): Purists never, ever refer to this film by its subtitle – I certainly never do – but if it’ll give me an excuse to put “Star Wars” on the playlist, then I’m willing to make an exception.
Oh, and just one more thing…
Honorable Mention: Twilight: New Moon. Yep, that’s right, I’m unabashedly citing the latest “Twilight” film to get a few extra hits. In truth, I was always going to have an Honorable Mention, but when it came down to choosing between this and DJ Qualls’ “The New Guy,” it was really no choice at all. (DJ’s online fanbase just ain’t what it used to be.)