Well, the user-submitted Top 10 Lists just keep right on coming! Today’s sequel-tastic Top 10 comes from sitegoer Andrew Reed, lately of Buenos Aires, and a blogger at Fighting the Youth. If you’ve got a Top 10 Tuesday idea that you’d like to get published on the site, just email me at email@example.com. I’ll let Andrew take it from here:
Every year, we get a slew of sequels coming at the expense of new movies that could be more artistically worthwhile or otherwise enlightening. It’s tempting for us to believe that the execs running movie studios are either timid or lazy. Fans and critics rightfully complain that there are far too many retreads. On occasion, such as with this summer’s “The Dark Knight,” we get one which all agree was wholly worthwhile. But in general, the release of a sequel is met with a collective groan. “Death Race,” a brainless do-over of a cult classic, is merely the latest example. But sometimes the original release keeps us from giving the newer output a fair shake. A sequel can be easily dismissed for not being up to par with the original, even if it’s a great movie. So let’s take a look at the Top 10 Unfairly Maligned Sequels and Remakes.
Runner-up: Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
When Michael Myers set about terrorizing the teenagers in Smiths Grove, Ill., 1978′s “Halloween” became an instant hit and changed the horror genre forever. A sequel followed with Myers returning to wreak more havoc on the Strode family. When the time came for a third film, John Carpenter decided to take things in an entirely different direction. Aside from the title and time of year, the third installment has no connection to the other eight films. Instead of an indestructible murderer, the plot centers on a doctor investigating a murder-suicide that leads him to the company producing the most popular brand of Halloween masks. Delving deeper, he discovers androids made largely of orange goo and a sinister CEO hellbent on destroying the human race via an elaborate “prank on the children” that was as far-fetched as it was frightening. Despite a stunning ending and an in-her-prime Stacey Nelkin, fans and critics despised the film and it flopped. The original plan was to continue the series with a totally different storyline every year, but after this initial diversion flopped, they went back to the well with more Michael Myers storylines.
Conal Cochran: “You don’t really know much about Halloween. You thought no further than the strange custom of having your children wear masks and go out begging for candy.”
10. Fletch Lives (1989)
There are dudes who can quote every line from “Fletch” and often do. Surely you know some of them. One could argue that this is an annoying habit, but if you’ve seen the movie, you have to at least admit it’s pretty hilarious. Put bluntly, it was Chevy Chase’s finest hour. “Fletch Lives” picks up the same schtick, yet does not share the same reverence from said dudes. The plot sends Fletch to Louisiana to inherit his recently deceased great aunt’s estate. There, he finds himself facing off against further corruption, though this time it involves the illegal stowage of toxic waste (giving Fletch the opportunity for some digs at New Jersey). Despite the ridiculous plot and Fletch’s flippant attitude, the film has its share of memorable one-liners and is always a good time when happened across on the TV dial.
Man: Uh, sir, this is a restricted area.
Fletch: Well, I’m very happy for you, son. Most people live in terrible neighborhoods.
9. Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
Following the smashing success of 1988’s action-packed “Die Hard,” action movies were hyped with the tagline, “It’s like ‘Die Hard’ on a blank.” So by the time “Die Hard 2″ hit theaters in 1990, folks were already sick of the comparison. Once again, we find John McClane in the middle of a criminal operation by pure happenstance. This time his wife is on a plane while an entire airport is held captive by an organization that is hellbent on the release of an imprisoned terrorist. Crazy coincidences abound, but aside from that, the movie works. The action sequences are memorable, and the evil operation seems determined enough that they really could pull it all off. Critics blasted the film, while audiences gave the movie a big “Yippie ki ay.” Still, due to the reverence for the first one, many continue to treat “Die Hard on an Airport” as a joke.
John McClane: Oh man, I can’t f#@king believe this. Another basement, another elevator. How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?
8. Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines (2003)
It’s hard to think of a movie and sequel that separately broke as much ground as the first two Terminators. In addition to their great achievements in special effects and impact on the science fiction genre, both remain culturally iconic. With James Cameron having no involvement in the next installment, many were understandably worried. And they were right. “Terminator 3″ displayed little of the magic that made the first two so brilliant. One could argue that all we got was lots of stuff blowed up real good and a smokin’ hot Terminatrix. However, a superb performance from Nick Stahl as John Connor and the right amount of deadpan humor from Arnold Schwarzenegger made the experience worthwhile, if not downright entertaining. The upcoming McG-directed fourth film, on the other hand, is expected to be very fairly maligned.
Terminator: Katherine Brewster? Have you sustained injury?
Kate Brewster: Drop dead, you asshole!
Terminator: I am unable to comply.
7. “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolutions” (2003)
1999’s “The Matrix” spurred a cult phenomenon like few modern films. Fans approached the movie with a near religious attitude, fervently debating its underlying meanings and devoting themselves to every nuance. Excitement in anticipation of both sequels was over the top. When “Reloaded” ended in a cliffhanger, “Revolutions” was supposed to provide the answers. But most people found it completely indecipherable. Despite the fact that so many were left in confusion, both sequels featured breathtaking action sequences, fantastic storylines, and plenty of karate. The “Matrix” series ended up more as popcorn entertainment than world-altering theology. Perhaps the devoted fans were asking too much, given that they were the ones filling in the gaps with high-minded concepts in the first place.
Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you’re fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can’t win. It’s pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?
Neo: Because I choose to.
6. The Color of Money (1986)
When people heard that Paul Newman was going to reprise his role as Fast Eddie Felson and that Martin Scorsese would be the director, they applauded the concept. Despite a strong performance from Newman and Tom Cruise nailing the part of the brash, talented kid, many reviewers deemed the movie a scratch. The film is not on par with Robert Rossen’s 1961 “The Hustler,” but few are. Roger Ebert opens his review with the comment, “If this movie had been directed by someone else, I might have thought differently about it because I might not have expected so much.” The story of the old veteran trying to find his niche in a world that in many ways passed him by has likely been told better, but that doesn’t meant that this is a failed endeavor. Besides, without this one, we may never have had the Farrelly Brothers’ “Kingpin,” which so ably spoofed the mentorship between Newman and Cruise.
Eddie Felson: How much did you take off Moselle? I heard a hundred…
Vincent Lauria: One Fifty!
Eddie Felson: [sarcastically] A hundred and fifty?
Vincent Lauria: That’s right, a hundred and fifty.
Eddie Felson: You walk into a shoe store with a hundred and fifty bucks, you come out with one shoe! We were working on five thousand!
5. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
When they were making “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” no one expected it to become such a phenomenon. With a character like Harrison Ford’s Jones and so much success in the initial offering, it was clear that a series was in order. “Temple of Doom” finds Indy in hot water in India, alternately brainwashed and beaten, with plenty of excitement to go around. Surely, there are missteps. For instance, pairing Jones with an Asian kid named Short Round (a more fitting name for a Little Debbie snack cake) frequently plays too cutesy. The bigger problem is the replacement of Karen Allen with Kate Capshaw, aka Stephen Spielberg’s wife. Where Allen was a tough-as-nails, bar-owning adventurer, Capshaw’s grating Willie Scott is a prim, whiny songstress. Despite the flaws, it’s a movie you always feel compelled to watch when you stumble across it, at least to catch the lifeboat freefall, mine-car chase, and the flaming, beating human heart.
Indiana Jones: [groping desperately down Willie's dress] Where’s the antidote?
Willie Scott: Oh, listen, I just met you! Oh, I’m not that kind of girl…
Short Round: Hey, Dr. Jones, no time for love. We’ve got company.
4. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
With its irreverent sense of humor, Joe Dante’s “Gremlins” took the country by storm in 1984. The sequel finds Billy and Kate living in New York City, working at the ultra-modern Clamp Building when Billy happens upon Gizmo in a genetics lab. If “Gremlins” was a dark comedy (even though many of its most gruesome scenes ended up on the cutting room floor), then “The New Batch” is an out-and-out romp. Poking fun at corporate America’s penchant for taking itself too seriously, there are too many winning gags to list. Of course, the stars of this film are the mischievous gremlins who diversify this time around by growing wings, breasts, and electrical powers. We even get a gremlin with a genetically enhanced brain, voiced by Tony Randall. Apparently, many people didn’t get the humor and wanted more of Billy and the evil Stripe attacking each other with chainsaws because the film flopped. Regardless, its jokes hold up to this day. And besides, when is Phoebe Cates not a sight for sore eyes?
Building Announcement: Would the owner of the car with license number 1AG 401 please remove it from the Clamp parking garage? Your car is old and dirty.
3. “The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear” (1991) and “The Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994)
Considering that “Police Squad” was such a washout on television, the Abrahams/Zucker/Abrahams team probably had no idea that the first “Naked Gun” would explode the way it did. One of the most popular films of 1988, not only did everyone see it, they seemed to get all the jokes. Rather than spoof another type of film, A/Z/A decided there was more to mine in the cop genre. Largely forgotten and somewhat ignored upon their release, both films have plenty of belly laughs. Even if they’re basically retreads of the same movie, the jokes are at least new. Possibly tarnished by the endless supply of banal Leslie Nielsen spoofs, these two still hold up, and not just because co-star O.J. Simpson is a ridiculous character in real life. Check out the best moments from 2 1/2 and 33 1/3 on YouTube.
Lt. Frank Drebin: I couldn’t believe it was her. It was like a dream. But there she was, just as I remembered her. That delicately beautiful face. And a body that could melt a cheese sandwich from across the room. And breasts that seemed to say…”Hey! Look at these!” She was the kind of woman who made you want to drop to your knees and thank God you were a man! She reminded me of my mother, all right. No doubt about it.
Ed Hocken: Frank, snap out of it! You’re looking at her like she was your mother for Christ’s sake!
2. “The Godfather: Part III” (1990)
Easily the most maligned film on this list, The “Godfather: Part III” is hampered by the display of Francis Ford Coppola’s ego or hubris or whatever you want to call it. Obviously, creating a much awaited follow-up to the IMDb’s #1 and #4-ranked films is an impossible challenge. The larger issue is that Coppola failed to pay attention to what made them so highly regarded in the first place. The film lacks the subtleties of the first two both in terms of setting and direction. Many scenes play like a TV show, not a fabled tale of the mafia’s most compelling family. There are oranges everywhere. Much of the casting is atrocious, from Bridget Fonda to Andy Garcia to director Coppola’s daughter Sofia (who really can’t act at all). But beneath all of the mistakes is an interesting story of a man coming to terms with the life he’s made. Al Pacino lets Michael Corleone evolve in his old age, completing the life of one of the most complex characters in cinematic history. Despite its inferiority to two of the greatest films ever, there’s still a lot of value here. Plus, now that Sofia has proven herself to be an outstanding director, all is pretty much forgiven on that front anyway, right?
Michael Corleone: Goodbye my old friend. You could have lived a little longer, I could be closer to my dream. You were so loved, Don Tommasino. Why was I so feared, and you so loved? What was it? I was no less honorable. I wanted to do good. What betrayed me? My mind? My heart? Why do I condemn myself so? I swear, on the lives of my children: Give me a chance to redeem myself, and I will sin, no more.
1. “The Two Jakes” (1990)
It is often said that you can’t really “get” Chinatown until your second or third viewing. The plot is overloaded and there are so many characters with complex motives and relationships, it can be overwhelmingly confusing. Its sequel turns the heat up on that same problem. A film that seemed impossible to complete and was continually passed around from director to director before Jack Nicholson decided to take the helm, The Two Jakes picks up 15 years after the end of “Chinatown.” It’s just after World War II, and Jake Gittes has made his little private investigation practice into a successful business. The biggest problem with this movie is that unless you know “Chinatown” well, you will likely have a hell of a time figuring out what happened and why. However, it’s not impenetrable. To explain everything here would ruin both movies, but needless to say, it’s all played subtly. There are a few scenes that really don’t really belong, but another strong performance from Nicholson and the continuity of characters and style make the movie a worthy follow-up to one of the greatest noir films ever made.
Jake Berman: You know something, Jake, you might think you know what’s going on around here but… you don’t.