4.Leprechaun: In the Hood
The Leprechaun series was never any good, per se. Whether he was chasing Jennifer Aniston or taking the form of WWE little-person wrestler Hornswoggle, there’s never really been a reason to clamor for this film franchise. However, between its low-budget horror beginnings and its modern day blandly gritty reboot, there was a wonderful time where the Leprechaun series was self-aware of its stupidity and that time was when Leprechaun: In the Hood released.
A bunch of goofy rapper wannabes decide to rob the house of an asshole record producer (played by the scene-chewing Ice-T) and accidentally awaken the Leprechaun when they steal his magical flute. For some reason, the Leprechaun now has the power of rap and love of chronic that he highlights while going on another murdering spree. And you know what? It totally works. The Leprechaun is supposed to be a charismatic horror villain, but what other things do you remember him doing that were not rap-related or in Wayne’ World 2? Come to think of it, Freddy Krueger needs a rap-based reboot.
3. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster
By the time the fifth Godzilla film rolled around, Japan’s most dangerous monster was pretty well established. He’d tussled with other beasts like King Kong and Mothra, and had crushed Tokyo several times over. So, when the atomic lizard stalked the earth for the fifth time, he’d need to face the biggest threat of his career, one that’d take the combined might of three monsters to take him down. That’s where we get the Ghidorah, the three-headed menace.
Though he’s more of a begrudging hero that wrecks a bunch of stuff first, Godzilla ultimately teams up with Rodan and Mothra to defend the humanity from the alien threat of Ghidorah in the biggest brawl to date. Sure, it gets slightly goofy, and Godzilla is more of a jerk than Earth’s defender, but this movie was still a massive step-up for the series in terms of production. It set a precedent for monster battles that could grow bigger than a mere two combatants, and introduced fans to Ghidorah, Zilla’s nemesis for years to come.
2. X-Men: First Class
Here’s a movie that completely revived a flagging franchise. At a time when two consecutive duds (X3 and Origins: Wolverine) had sapped the X-Men franchise’s power and made the world wonder whether any studio besides Marvel themselves was worthy of creating superhero films, X-Men: First Class made a hard pivot and turned away from the increasingly cheesy past created by Bryan Singer. With Matthew Vaughn now at the helm, the series was basically given a soft reboot, delving into the past of Marvel’s more timeless mutants and putting new actors in charge of humanizing what had become an overly cartoon cast.
There’s so many great moves made with First Class. The recasting of Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique with three great young actors in James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence (respectively) were key and it’s a move that’s still paying dividends now. The best move, however, was pushing the setting back to the 1960s. So many modern superhero movies tend to paint the present in bright lights (Marvel) or with gritty strokes (DC), but X-Men’s foray into the time of political and social discord added touches of gray to a colorful time in American history. Did you notice how Days of Future Past basically reduced the original X-Men movie series’ characters to quick cameos at the start and end? That’s because First Class is the valedictorian of the series.
1. Fast Five
It’s kind of amazing that The Fast and The Furious was able to turn its wheels with little direction for four movies, but I’m glad it did because Fast Five may be one of the greatest action movies of all time and it set the stage for continually excellent sequels now that this high-octane franchise has found its way. For its first decade, F&F would shift gears between being about low-level crime and high-level street racing, changing drivers as often as it shifted between rock and hip-hop tracks. Vin Diesel left, then Paul Walker left, then they both came back, then the practical effects left. It was all a collision of whatever was available and seemed smart at the time, and it never reached its full potential.
Then Fast Five came out and it was essentially nailed what The Expendables was never able to. Firstly, it made us actually care about action heroes by putting together all-star cast (of “family,” if you will) comprised of every F&F character that we’d miraculously made a connection with during the previous four movies. More importantly, the series doubled down on insane driving action. Where other movies try to make set-pieces out of guns, Fast Five wreaked destruction with vehicles doing things we’d never seen on film before. From the insane prison bus breakout to the dragging safe, some of the greatest car stunts in history are packed together in this two-hour package.
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