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The 411 Movies Top 5: The Top 5 Improved Sequels

April 23, 2016 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos

The 411 Movies Top 5: Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Movies Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to participate and give us their Top 5 on said topic. So, onto this week’s topic…

The Top 5 Improved Sequels

BRYAN KRISTOPOWITZ
5. TRANCERS II: THE RETURN OF JACK DETH – This is the first Trancers movie I actually saw, so it was the benchmark the other four real movies in the low-budget franchise had to hit (I don’t consider Trancers 6 a real Trancers movie because Tim Thomerson isn’t Jack Deth in it). And while the first Trancers kicks ass and is one of the top B-movies of all time, The Return of Jack Deth wins out because it’s so dang complicated yet so much fun to watch. We’ve got Jack Deth with his past present wife Lena protecting new multi-millionaire Hap Ashby from death (if Ashby dies Deth’s future doesn’t exist), we’ve got Jack’s old future dead wife Alice Stillwell sent back to the past to help Deth fight off a new trancer threat, a “42-year-old tough cop” McNulty sent back to the past to inhabit the body of a teenage girl because that’s his only known relative, a weird beard environmental cult wreaking havoc all over Los Angeles, and a massive squabble over who is Jack Deth’s real wife. It’s absolutely amazing to me that director Charles Band was able to keep all of this straight and entertaining. But then, when you have Tim Thomerson back in the trench coat it’s hard to fail. Love this movie. “Goddamit, McNulty, the next time someone hands you an exploding ham I’m going to pass the mustard.”

4. BLADE II – I didn’t think it was possible to surpass the cinematic awesomeness that was the first Blade. Director Stephen Norrington outdid himself with the look, style, and rhythm of that movie. It was just brilliant. But then Guillermo del Toro took the helm of Blade II and made a scary action movie. And when I say scary I mean goddamn scary. The Reaper vampires, with their unhinged jaws, are terrifying. They’re stronger, nastier, deadlier. I mean, they basically eat vampires. That’s insane. Wesley Snipes returns as Blade and ups the badass quotient considerably, and with a team of heavily armed vampires as his teammates in taking on the Reapers, it’s like a war movie before everything turns on its head and Blade has to wipe out everyone. I wish del Toro had directed part 3, too. If he had we would probably have like six Blade movies by now, or at least three good ones instead of just two.

3. SUPERMAN II – While we all owe director Richard Donner a great deal of thanks for making a comic book superhero movie that people could take seriously with Superman: The Movie we probably owe Richard Lester, director of Superman II, more, as he made a genuinely exciting, engrossing, and funny comic book superhero movie that’s still as good as it when it came out. Superman: The Movie is just a bore compared to part two. And while it’s true that Donner directed most of the big action scenes and whatnot when he was doing the first one he didn’t finish part two. Lester finished part two. And Lester made a superhero movie that was, and still is, accessible to everyone. I’d imagine that when most people think of Superman they’re thinking of this movie, even if they’re not aware of it. Christopher Reeve is Superman. Margot Kidder is Lois Lane. Gene Hackman is Lex Luthor (Jessie Eisenberg is just terrible. I don’t care how rich he is, no one, even the money loving mercenaries he hires to kill people and whatnot, would put up with his shit for very long). And Terence Stamp is General Zod (“Kneel before Zod!”). No has managed to capture the strength, warmth, and fun of the Superman character as well as part 2. And after Dawn of Justice, it looks like no one is willing to even try. Superman II, in the big scheme of things, is just beyond criticism. It really is that good.

2. MAGNUM FORCE – The first sequel to the classic Dirty Harry exists as a kind of further explanation of the Inspector Harry “Dirty Harry” Callahan character. At the end of Dirty Harry Callahan is a badass, take no prisoners kind of cop. He doesn’t take shit from people and he has absolutely no problem shooting down the bad guys. In Magnum Force Callahan is a little more mellow, a little more level headed. He’s still a take no prisoners badass, but he’s not the fascist psycho asshole that he’s been labeled as. The real psychos are the vigilante bike cops led by Hal Holbrook’s Lt. Briggs. Yes, the vigilante cops kill off the bad guys, but they also have no problem killing fellow cops that get in their way (poor McCoy as played by Mitch Ryan. Did he really deserve to die?). To Callahan that’s bullshit. As he explains to Briggs towards the end of the movie Callahan isn’t a fan of the current judicial system, but it’s the only one in the world that makes any sense. No man has the absolute right to be judge, jury, and executioner. Think about what Callahan says several times throughout the movie, the movie’s catchphrase of sorts. “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Dirty Harry is just a guy doing his job in an imperfect world. He isn’t a lunatic.

1. MANIAC COP 2 – Written by the great Larry Cohen and directed by the Bill Lustig, Maniac Cop 2 is one of the greatest sequels of all time. The movie stars Robert Davi as a badass cop who, while investigating a serial murderer, finds out that believed dead cop, Matt “Maniac Cop” Cordell (Robert Z’Dar), is still very much alive and still looking for revenge. See, Cordell was one of the best cops the NYPD had until he was railroaded into prison by corrupt police officials and city politicians. He was then attacked in prison, brutally stabbed and left for dead. But then, somehow, Cordell came back as a kind of monster cop hell bent on getting revenge (and helping criminals out along the way because it’s ironic). At the end of the first Maniac Cop Cordell was sort of killed by Bruce Campbell’s Jack Forrest, but Cordell somehow came back as more of a zombie cop still looking for revenge. And that’s just the story. When you look at the stunt work and action scenes that Lustig was able to pull off with a small budget you will definitely be in awe of Maniac Cop 2. The sequence where Claudia Christian is handcuffed to a runaway car and sent into traffic is easily a top 5 movie stunt of all time. The cop HQ massacre starts out at the gun range and ends with Cordell killing like twenty cops with a machine gun and throwing the chief of police through multiple wooden beams (makes the cop massacre scene in The Terminator look like a Saturday morning cartoon). And the “man on fire” sequence at the end of the movie is a sequence that seems impossible but Lustig somehow did it, for real, with no CGI bullshit. Maniac Cop 2 is just a brilliant action horror movie. If you haven’t seen it by now, good God, what the hell are you waiting for? See it and see it now!

CALIBER WINFIELD
5. ROCKY 4 – Is Rocky 4 a better film than Rocky? No. But as far as my personal taste goes, Rocky 4 is my favorite. I know some people [and by ‘some people’, I mean Communists] have a problem with this film as it took the realistic charm of the original Rock film, and turned it into a comic book movie. Well, Comrade, I hate to break it to you, but this film ended the Cold War! I don’t even know where to begin explaining the greatness that is Rocky 4. First off, it’s about 40% musical montages, each one kicking complete ass, with my favorite being ‘No Easy Way Out’. Then we have Ivan Drago, one of the Top 5 Bad-Asses of all time, who says the 2nd most bad-ass line of all time with “if he dies, he dies” in regards to Apollo Creed, who minutes earlier took part in the greatest entrance of all time. Hell, just about everything in this film in one shape or another is part of the ‘greatest of all time’ club. This film is just an absolute blast, and I have so much fun watching it that I literally almost become giddy. I mean, how could you not? Rocky’s doing hardcore training in the farm via chopping wood, and sacks of rocks, while the evil Russian is hanging & banging at a 24 Hour Fitness, rocking the Hammer Strength Equipment. See, kids, you don’t train those stabilizer muscles and you could lose a fight! Just a great damn film, and one of my all time favorites.

4. THE EXPENDABLES 2 – I need to make it clear when I say that The Expendables 2 was a better movie than the original theatrical version, not the original’s Director’s Cut. That said, Expendables 2 is everything an action movie needs be, with most important being one word: fun. We have your team of good guys, all comic book characters in their own right, and a gnarly team of evil Russians led by Jean-Claude Van Damme in his long-over due return to the big screen. The film is filled with incredible action sequences, heroes you want to see win, bad guys you want to see die, and about 4 million genre referencing jokes, which I loved. The Expendables 2 is truly a love letter to the action genre and it’s fans, I expected to see “This was made with love for Caliber Winfield and Bryan Kristopowtiz” in the end credits. What a fucking movie.

3. FRIDAY THE 13TH: THE FINAL CHAPTER – To horror fans and Friday fans especially, The Final Chapter is the Holy Grail in slasher films. While the first 3 were a lot of fun, inventive, gory, and scary at times, The Final Chapter took all of those nuances and turned the slasher movie into an art form damn near. While you had the tropes that are expected, the team here really went above and beyond to create something fresh and new. Seeing the killer in an actual morgue, seeing his escape, a real family in danger, a child as well, a cast of teenagers that actually stood out and that you enjoyed watching as opposed to just waiting for them to die. Of course, in every slasher movie the star is always the killer, and they didn’t disappoint with Jason. Ted White put on a fantastic performance that had Jason become truly scary. Horror fans will tell you that 99.9% of slashers aren’t scary, but Friday 4 is definitely an exception. We also have Jason’s handy-work, created by the legendary Tom Savini, delivering at an all time high here: Axel’s head twist, spear gun to the dick, “TED! TED WHERE THE HELL IS THE CORKSCREW?!….TED?”, the impalement we see via shadow, and of course Jason’s death, which was pretty damn grisly. In the original script, Tommy Jarvis was also going to be a bit of an inventor and had come up with a mini-death ray using microwave bits. He was going to jam it into Jason’s skull, turn it up to 10 and blow his head away. Interesting. But I’m glad they stuck with what they had.

2. PREDATORS – I put this here because it seemed like we were never going to get a proper follow-up to the classic original. Part 2 is a decent film, but far from a worthy predecessor. The AvP films are alright, but again, not on that same level. Finally, we get Predators. A bad-ass film that sees a team of killers put on a planet that serves as a Human Game Reserve. The movie waste no time throwing you into the action, as we’re introduced to an awesome team with awesome weaponry, walking around this planet trying to figure just what the hell is going on. Instead of just one Predator, we have a whole team, including gnarly looking dogs. We get some awesome deaths, but human and Predator, including some fantastic fights, one of which is a battle with swords. I feel this one ranks right up there with the original, and here’s hoping the next one does too.

1. CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER – OK, was ANYONE expecting this to be as good as it was? I loved the first Captain film, and I loved all that Marvel was doing with the MCU, but I didn’t expect them to go Dark Knight and not only create a sequel better than the original but change just how great comic book films can be. I know people who don’t care for comic book films at all that loved the hell out of this one. It’s an insanely smart spy-thriller that just so happens to feature people in awesome costumes while touching on themes of freedom, the cost of it, those who oppose it, and what they’re willing to do to control it. All pretty heavy themes, but again done in a way that doesn’t drag the mood down. Now, without sounding like a cocky kinda guy, I can usually see twists in a story coming a mile away. The major twist in Winter Soldier, as in who’s behind all of this, blew my fucking mind. I absolutely did not see that coming and thought it was one of the best reveals in movie history.

Wednesday Lee Friday
5. The Godfather pt 2 (1974) – The original Godfather is a timeless classic, so making a sequel seemed like a fool’s errand. But no. By taking the events of a young Vito Corleone’s life and juxtaposing them with a 1950’s era Michael Corleone’s rise to power—Coppola and writer Mario Puzo (who also penned Superman II) create an epic that surpassed the first film by a wide margin. Focusing more on political corruption than the first film, Godfather pt 2 features a corrupt politician who is set up to be brought into the fold. This sequel features more betrayal, intrigue, and even more death than the first. And adding Robert DeNiro to your cast is never a bad idea.

4. Aliens (1986) – Another film that follows on the heels of an innovative modern classic. Aliens switched up the genre—taking us from the gothic horror of Alien to an action classic shot in 100% artificial light. Only Ripley and Jones (the cat) return from the first film—and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion Jones was recast. Either way, elements like Newt the lost child, Burke the betrayer, and a host of colonial marines including the great Bill Paxton helps this film surpass the original in terms of action, excitement, and engrossment.

3. Addams Family Values (1993) – I think both of these are great—but then, I have a bias since I’m named after one of the main characters. This film is funnier than the first for several reasons—Fester in a romantic relationship is fantastic. But Fester in a relationship with a black widow played by Joan Cusack is infinitely funnier. The new baby, Pubert, is also excellent. (for the network TV show, the original name submitted for the brother was Pubert, but the network said no—so they went with Pugsley). My fave thing about this film though is how they took a bit character from the first movie (the Girl Scout selling cookies) and made her the main antagonist at Wednesday and Puglsey’s summer camp.

2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) – I’ll be honest, Star Trek: The Motion Picture made me so bored as a kid I wanted to cry right there in the theater. But the sequel? Amazing! And seriously, one of the most famous and oft-repeated lines ever is the agonized “Kaaaaaaahnn” from that movie. Ricardo Montalban as the villain was delightful, and those bugs that bore into heads and cause crushing pain and madness stayed with me for some time.

1. Dawn of the Dead (1978) – This is a tricky one since Night of the Living Dead is one of my fave films of all time. But the scope of the zombie invasion, the military-type guys, the Goblin soundtrack, and the mall all made for a film that was bigger, brighter, and more colorful. Sure, the zombies were blue, but when Tom Savini comes roaring in with his motorcycle gang? That’s good stuff.

Shawn S. Lealos
5. Blade II – Guillermo Del Toro, how I love your movies. The original Blade was pretty cool and was probably what helped kick start the comic book movie franchises that exploded over the next few years. However, Blade II was just incredible. The vampire assassins led by Ron Perlman were awesome. Seeing Blade team up with vampires to battle the very cool Reaper played by Luke Goss was incredible as well. Plus, Donnie Yen and Norman Reedus were in this.

4. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors – The first Nightmare on Elm Street was a true horror original and introduced the world to the greatest slasher villain of them all. Nightmare 2 sucked in comparison and it looked like the franchise would falter to straight-to-video fare. However, Dream Warriors came along and made the interesting decision to actually allow the kids to team up and fight back and it was brilliant. It added a new wrinkle to the entire idea of Freddy Krueger and Dream Warriors remains – to me – to be the best movie in the entire Nightmare on Elm Street franchise.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Nothing is better than The Empire Strikes Back, but Return of the Jedi was a drop-off and the prequels pretty much turned off legions of fans. That made returning to the original series risky. Could it match up to what made the first two movies so great? Sure, The Force Awakens almost copied the story from the first movie when it came to the beats and the Heroes Journey, but it did so much more than that. It created the first great Star Wars characters since the original trilogy (outside of the awesome Darth Maul) and has rekindled everyone’s love with Star Wars once again, bringing it back to life.

2. Dawn of the Dead (1978) – Night of the Living Dead was a great indie horror film. It was moody and creepy and reinvented everything we know about zombies. However, Dawn of the Dead took that idea and turned it into the best zombie horror movie ever made. The idea of taking the horror out of the house and putting it in a shopping mall allowed George Romero to really dissect the idea of consumerism and how it doesn’t matter when the end of the world has come.

1. The Dark Knight – Batman Begins was a great improvement itself over Batman & Robin and Batman Forever. However what The Dark Knight did was amazing. Batman Begins had problems. The fight choreography was shaky at best, and the Ra’s al Ghul reveal and fate were incredibly disappointing. However, The Dark Knight became the greatest comic book movie ever made at the time. It was a great crime thriller and was just a fantastic movie regardless of genre. This was an amazing step up and remains one of the top movies based on a comic ever made.

YOUR TURN KNOW IT ALLS

List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

5. CHOICE: Explanation
4. CHOICE: Explanation
3. CHOICE: Explanation
2. CHOICE: Explanation
1. CHOICE: Explanation

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