Great Movies You Might have Missed From A-Z, Part three

Continuing my list of recommended movies you may have missed that starts with the letter…”  This time it’s the letter K thru O.  I nicknamed this group the “night movies”.

K: There really isn’t a lot of movies that start with K. Most lists have the “Kill Bill” movies, the “Kick Ass” movies, the “Karate Kid” movies, “Kramer vs Kramer” and the recent “Knives Out”.  So, some lists I’ve seen also have my recommendation on it.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – After stumbling into an audition, a New Yorker is sent to Hollywood for a potential movie role and stumbles into a murder mystery.

Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr) is a New York thief that accidentally goes into an audition.  The next thing he knows he’s in Hollywood training with a private eye – Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) – and reuniting with his childhood crush – Harmony Faith Lane (Michelle Monaghan) – who is now a struggling actress.  The three of them get involved in a couple different murder mysteries.

This is the first movie directed by Shane Black – writer of the “Lethal Weapon” movies.  It’s got a great cast including Robert Downey Jr, Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan.

I thought this was an original story until I saw which says the movie is based on a book called “Bodies Are Where You Find Them” – although the movie credits only say, “Screen Story and Screenplay by Shane Black”.  Either way, it’s a good story with some pretty good twists and turns and some very funny lines.

The one thing I don’t like is there is some gratuitous nudity.  Also, for some reason a lot of scenes in this movie take place at night.  For example: the auditions.  Why would they have auditions for a movie at night?

I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

L: There’s a few movies that come to mind when thinking about good movies that start with L.  “Lethal Weapon” movies, “Lost in Translation”, “Life is Beautiful”, “Little Women”, “L.A. Confidential” (one of my favorite movies), “La La Land”, and “Lawrence of Arabia”.  My recommendation was a very small release, so I don’t think it would be on many other lists.

Locke (2013) – A man drives on a highway in the UK.  What he is driving away from and where he is going is revealed through several phone calls he receives and makes.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is driving down a highway in the UK one night.  The story develops through a series of phone calls he receives and makes as he’s driving.  Calls include conversations with his wife (Ruth Wilson), his children (one of them is Tom Holland), and several people that he works with including the person he puts in charge of “the biggest (non-government or military) cement pour in the history of the UK” which is happening the next morning.  I won’t spoil where he’s going other than it involves a woman (Olivia Coleman).

This is also one of the first movies directed by a well-known writer.  This time it’s Steven Knight – writer of “Dirty Pretty Things”, “Eastern Promises”, and “Pawn Sacrifice”.  The movie has only one person on camera – Tom Hardy – but you hear the voices of a bunch of costars on the phone including Ruth Wilson, Olivia Coleman, and Tom Holland.

According to what I read; this movie took only two nights to film.  They put the car on a truck and drove it around in circles, stopping occasionally to change camera angles.  It was filmed so quickly you see Tom Hardy drinking cold medicine because he had a cold while they were filming.  

Also according to what I read, the people he calls or call him were in the production office answering his calls or calling him when signaled.  So, the conversations in the movie are in real time.  The voices weren’t added later in post-production.  This makes the conversations more dramatic.

The only problem I have with the movie is that they padded the story by adding some problems with the cement pour happening at his work in the morning.  If his job the next morning was just another day, this movie would have been a quick 20 or 30 minutes.

I give it 7 out of 10.

M: If you think about movies starting with the letter M you may think of the “Matrix” movies, the “Mad Max” movies, the “Mission Impossible” movies, Misery, My Cousin Vinny, and/or Million Dollar Baby.  If you’re a big fan of comedy movies, you may think of the movie I recommend.

The Mask (1994) – A guy finds a mysterious mask that transforms whoever wears it at night.

Bank clerk Stanley Ipkiss (Jim Carrey) often gets taken advantage of because he’s such as nice guy, but things change when he finds a mysterious mask which transforms whoever is wearing it into a green faced cartoon like wild man.  He uses the mask to get close to singer Tina Carlyle (Cameron Diaz) who is the girlfriend of local gangster Dorian Tyrel (Peter Greene).

Based on a comic book of the same name.  According to reports, it was originally going to be a horror movie since the comic book series is violent.  They were hoping it would be another series of horror movies.  The movie is directed by Chuck Russell who directed one of the “Nightmare on Elm Street” sequels.  Fortunately, they decided to tone down the violence and added some comedy moments.

This character is a perfect role for Jim Carrey.  His persona while wearing the mask is an exaggerated version of characters he’s played in other movies such as “Ace Ventura Pet Detective”.  Also, Cameron Diaz does a very good job in the first thing she’s ever acted in.

The only thing I don’t like about this is the generic story.  If you take away the mask, the story is the standard nice guy falls for a woman that’s involved with a bad guy.  It’s been done several times in movies.  The Mask adds a lot of comedy to the story, but it’s still the same story.  You can probably guess how it ends.

I give it 8 out of 10.

N: I can’t think of a lot of great movies that start with the letter N.  There’s a few like “No Country for Old Men”, “North by Northwest”, and the “The Natural”.  That might be why my recommendation is on a few of the “N” movie lists I’ve seen.

Night Shift (1982) – A shy morgue attendant is assigned to the night shift to train his new coworker.  His life changes when his coworker and his prostitute neighbor convince him to manage a group of prostitutes from the morgue.

Chuck Lumley (Henry Winkler) had a successful Wall Street job but he couldn’t handle the stress, so he switched to a nice quiet job in the city morgue.  His boss switches him to night shift to work with a new coworker – Bill Blazejowski (Michael Keaton).  Bill is always looking for the big idea that will make him rich and successful.  One night, Chuck’s prostitute neighbor Belinda Keaton (Shelley Long) comes in to identify the body of her pimp.  When Bill learns about how much trouble Belinda is having since her pimp was killed, he convinces Chuck to start managing the prostitutes from the morgue.

Just like the L and K movies, this is one of the first movies from director Ron Howard and one of the first movies for Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, and Shelly Long.  

I was very surprised to find that this is one of the only movies that Henry Winkler stars in.  He’s done a lot of TV shows and a few other movies but usually in smaller roles.  He’s funny in this movie and so are his co-stars Michael Keaton and Shelly.  Director Ron Howard also does a very good job in one of his first movies which has some scenes he never had to think about when he directed TV shows – nudity, swearing, drinking and smoking, and violence.

The only thing I don’t like about this movie is it’s a very 70s movie.  New York City was a lot different than it is now.  This movie shows what is basically a brothel in the middle of Manhattan.

I give it a 7 out of 10

O: Like the previous four letters, there isn’t a lot of great movies that begin with the letter O.  There’s a few like “Out of Africa”, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, “On the Waterfront”, and “Office Space”.  Some other lists I’ve seen have the remake “Oceans 11” and it’s two sequels on the list of “O” movies, but not many of them mention my recommendation.  The original….

Ocean 11 (1960) – A group of World War 2 army buddies reunite to simultaneously rob 5 Las Vegas casinos at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and Jimmy Foster (Dean Martin) reunite a team of World War 2 army buddies to do the impossible: The ultimate heist of 5 Las Vegas casinos at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.  Once they steal it, the hard part is staying ahead of all the people looking for them and getting out of town with large bags crammed with cash.

This time it’s one of the LAST movies directed winner Lewis Milestone, an Oscar winning director of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, “Mutiny on the Bounty”, and “The Front Page”.  The screenplay which got a WGA nomination was written by Harry Brown and Charles Lederer based on a story by George Clayton Johnson and Jack Golden Russell.  According to the book “Conversations With Wilder”, Billy Wilder also worked on the script as a favor to Frank Sinatra.

This is the movie that made the name “Rat Pack” popular.  According to reports, the “Rat Pack” – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop – would wake up in the afternoon, do shows in Las Vegas showrooms at night, and then work on the movie until early in the morning.

The 5 “Rat Pack” members are all very funny in this movie and there’s also some good co-stars including Angie Dickinson, Cesar Romero, a very funny cameo by Red Skelton (playing himself), and an uncredited cameo by Shirley MacLaine as a “tipsy woman”.  The rumor is, Shirley MacLaine was working on “The Apartment” and she went out to Las Vegas for one night to film the cameo.

The story in this version is much better than the story in the remake.  In this movie they rob 5 different casinos, not just 1 vault connected to different casinos.  Also unlike the remake, the robbery isn’t the end of the movie.  After the robberies, they must get the bags full of cash out of the city while the police and others searching for them.  

The only things I don’t like about the movie is that there is obviously some ad-libbing in some scenes.  The dialogue sometimes goes from good to corny very quickly.  Also, when I watch the movie on DVD, I often skip the scenes where Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, and other singing.

I give it 7 out of 10 stars.

“Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” has a lot of scenes that happen at night, “Locke” is entirely a car driving on the highway at night, The mask in “The Mask” only works when someone puts it on at night, the guys work the nighttime shift in the morgue in “Night Shift”, and the robberies in “Oceans 11” happen at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.  That’s why I call this group the “night movies”.

The other letters of the alphabet will be coming. I think I found a “Q” movie but there are still some troubling letters like “X” and “Z”.