Patrick’s Top Ten Movies Just To Watch For Special Effects

By contributor Patrick Zabriskie

Let’s get one thing straight: You always should watch films for their story, for a strong narrative that offers some message or at least entertains. Unfortunately, not all films have a good story. Some movies just go for visual appeal, placing CGI, explosions, stunt scenes, or cool creature designs over plot; but occasionally it works. Anyways, if you’re going to watch a film just for the effects, these are the ones to watch.

10. Transformers (2007)


The plot is certainly sketchy. But hey, I do love me some fifty-foot robots waging all out war.

9. Robocop (1987)


It’s like ‘Lethal Weapon’ meets the ‘Terminator’. It doesn’t take itself seriously at all, but Robocop just looks so darn awesome as he fights criminals with an array of machine guns and explosives.

8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)


I think the word that sums this film up is “boring”. But at least the ships look really good and there’s a cool quasi-psychedelic cloud scene.

7. The Lost World (1997)


The original philosophy and social-commentary that Michael Crichton put into the novel isn’t captured particularly well in its big screen adaptation. The dinosaurs look mighty fine though.

6. Valley of Gwangi (1969)


This film starts out as a crappy western that then decides to rip-off ‘King Kong’ and become a crappy western with stop-motions dinosaurs. But like ‘The Lost World’ it still looks pretty cool, albeit in a very nostalgic way.

5. Independence Day (1996)


Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin specialize in making big budget B-movies, and this was certainly their most riveting. The dialogue and plot are corny and trite as they come, but ‘lots of jet-plane-on-alien-ship dogfights and fun looking aliens make this worthwhile.

4. Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)


The moving message of the original ‘First Blood’ gets lost in the explosions and machine-gun fire of the sequel, but you tell me that explosive arrowheads and helicopter fights aren’t still fun to watch.

3. Destroy All Monsters (1968)


I didn’t say the effects had to be good, only that they were the reason to see the movie. The film reeks of cheesy, cheesy camp value, which some love and others shun. But no one can deny the wonderful spectacle of guys in rubber suits beating the crap out of each other, especially when it features the “Who’s Who” of giant monsters (Godzilla, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and many, many more).

2. The Trip (1967)


Lots of strange visuals and music fill this cult-film about a man who takes LSD for the first time. I can only imagine that under the right “influence”, it must be quite an experience.

1. Tron (1982)


Okay, I admit this one actually had a pretty good story, but the real reason you saw this was the ground breaking CGI that brought this arcade/futuristic world to life. Nothing like it was seen before, and in the nearly thirty years since it’s release, its visuals still have a certain charm. If there ever was a movie to see just for special effects, its ‘Tron’.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Note from James:  Yet another film I neglected to review, but this one was intentionally skipped.  Yeah, it’s so bad, I didn’t even want to talk about how bad it was.

Stars: *1/2 out of Four

Summary:  Almost a solid half of a terrible film, paired with half of a decent film.  Stupidity and adrenaline fueled conflict collide, and the result is very messy.

This poster, according to leading scientists, is 100% more awesome than the entire advertised film.

This poster, according to leading scientists, is 100% more awesome than the entire advertised film.

Review:  Okay, so Michael Bay’s first hit ‘Transformers’ wasn’t all that great either, but seriously?  That film at least had some good, fun moments.  Watching this film is like being hit over the head with a crowbar, while being tazered, while trying to snort mace, while playing with an Optimus Prime action figure.  With multiple elements involved, you would think that at least one would be enjoyable, but nooooo!  They all suck, except of course the Optimus Prime part of the equation, which would be awesome if you weren’t snorting mace, being tazered, etc.

But, Optimus Prime, voiced by original voice actor Peter Cullen, is awesome! Sadly, he isn’t the dominate element of the film, and is thus lost in a sea of failure.

The cinematography is awful.  It definitely didn’t help matters at all.  There are moments, individual shots (the longest shot was about, maybe, 8 seconds long) that are cool, but the hyperkinetic camera movement is both dizzying and forgettable.  The super-fast-hyper-handheld-cam really did work for the ‘Bourne’ movies, but it cannot possibly work for ‘Transformers’.  Ever.  Ever!

I didn’t give one “damn” for all the characters on screen, except for Bumblebee and Optimus Prime.  That’s 2 out of about 30 characters.  Everything about the story seems cheapened.  Last time I checked, ‘Transformers’ was a franchise beloved by children everywhere.  Why, then, did it enter the filmmaker’s minds to plug the film with unlikeable characters (and I do mean unlikeable) and stupid sexual jokes?  It not only alienates the family audience but makes the emotional core of the film — yes, there is one, just buried deep — worthless.

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

The musical score, which impressed me in the first film, is lacking here.  Surprisingly, though, it is merely mediocre and not utterly atrocious.

The CGI was good, sure, and the action at times was cool (when I could see it!), but I didn’t give six pence to watch a movie that I didn’t care about.  Why did I see this movie?