Top Ten Animals Jason Statham Should Fight Next

This weekend, I witnessed Jason Statham fight a gigantic, pre-historic shark known as a megalodon in the documentary feature, The Meg. It was a battle for the ages and definitely NOT a stupid thing to do at 10 pm on a Saturday night. You see, I am terrified of sharks. I don’t consider this to be an abnormal fear, as sharks are inherently terrifying and worthy of our fear, but my level of fear is probably abnormal. It started as a bit: “The ocean is not our home”, I would say each time a shark attack was reported. “Sharks can’t get me on land”, I would joke as my friends left me alone on the sideline to galivant in the shark-infested water (even if the water was a swimming pool). But somewhere in the midst of the bit, I discovered that I was genuinely afraid of sharks and my joking turned into firmer and firmer warnings about the ocean. “WE KNOW MORE ABOUT THE MOON THAN WE KNOW ABOUT THE OCEAN!!!” I often yell at passersby in landlocked Fort Worth, Texas.

Despite this (sometimes paralyzing) fear, however, I, like millions worldwide, am also a little bit fascinated with the shark. Shark Week is a huge hit for a reason: We want to inch as close as possible to that which we fear without actually risking life and limb. I’ve watched hundreds of shark documentaries and nature shows and YouTube videos and shark-related movies even though they all super freak me out. When you combine this horror-fascination with a very reasonable love for Jason Statham, you can see why The Meg was of great interest to me in spite of knowing it would probably be horrible (SPOILER ALERT: it mostly is but sort-of in a good way?)

Regardless of overall quality (or lack thereof), there is one thing that works extremely well within The Meg: Jason Statham fighting a megalodon. Anytime the two main attractions square off, it’s awesome. It’s awesome in the biggest, stupidest, over-the-top ways and upon exiting the theater, I thought, “What other animals would make good adversaries for Jason Statham?” It’s a stupid thought, I know, but again, I went to see The Meg at 10 pm on a Saturday night on its opening weekend so, clearly, I am fine with stupid thoughts. In order to put together a list of other animals Jason Statham should fight in a movie, I did some heavy research (Read: “Googling “World’s Deadliest Animals” and a dozen different variations of that phrase”) and made a list of ten potentially-worthy opponents. In order to rank these animal adversaries, I needed to judge them each in the following three categories:

1.)   How many human deaths the animal caused each year (worldwide when statistics were available, U.S.-only when necessary);
2.)   How exciting the fight with Jason Statham would be;
3.)   How cool it would sound when Jason Statham says, “It’s a (name of animal).” For example: “It’s a megalodon” sounds incredible; “It’s a star-nosed mole” does not.

I then ranked the selected animals from one (worst) to ten (best) in each category and gave them each the corresponding point value, allowing for a perfect score of 30 points. Here are the results.

10. Deer – 10 points
DANGER:
5 (120 deaths per year)
FIGHT: 4
NAME: 1
Did you know deer were so dangerous? Sure, most of these deaths can be attributed to car crashes that result from their propensity to stand in the middle of the road but at least a few have to be antler-related incidents. On the plus side, deadly deer posting up in the road leads to an obvious Fast and Furious crossover with Deckard Shaw seeking revenge against the deer that crashed Little Nobody’s car. On the down side, “It’s a deer” just doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

9. Spider – 10 points
DANGER:
1 (2 confirmed deaths per year though I refuse to believe this, clearly they kill way more)
FIGHT: 5
NAME: 3
First of all, there’s no way spiders only kill two people a year; I firmly believe that Science is in the pocket of Big Spider. Second, I can’t decide which would be worse: fighting one giant spider like Shelob in Return of the King or a thousand smalle- you know what, I don’t want to think about either, spiders are the WORST. Anyway, I’m too creeped out to think about this one too much; it’s not fun to see a spider ever, even if Jason Statham is punching it/them in its/their disgusting eyes.

8. Mosquito – 13 points
DANGER:
10 (725,000 deaths per year)
FIGHT: 1
NAME: 2
As someone whose blood is extremely appealing to mosquitos (I am being harassed by a mosquito as I type even though I am in my house and sitting inside a large citronella candle), I can vouch for the death statistics here. But Statham fighting a cloud of mosquitos would be less of a fight and more just a guy laying on a bed, slowly dying of malaria and what not. That might make for a solid Lars von Trier film but it’s not action-heavy enough to fall in line with what we’re looking for. 

7. Scorpion – 15 points
DANGER:
8 (3500 deaths per year)
FIGHT: 2
NAME: 5
Not to go full-Seinfeld but, like, what’s the deal with scorpions? When God pitched the scorpion, a lobster mixed with a spider that lives in the desert and has a horrifying stinger, I imagine the angels shuddered. Scorpions are the third-most creepy thing in the animal kingdom behind only spiders and lampreys (IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A LAMPREY IS PLEASE DO NOT LOOK IT UP I AM BEGGING YOU) and people who keep them as pets should be on every government watch list. Unfortunately, when I think of Jason Statham fighting a giant scorpion, all I can see is the scorpion from Clash of the Titans and that totally kills the vibe. 

6. Wolf – 15 points
DANGER:
2 (10 deaths per year)
FIGHT: 7
NAME: 6
Just in general, wolves are awesome and back in the day, wolves would’ve ranked way higher on the death index, so we can spot them a few deaths just for old time’s sake. Now, a pack of wolves has been done; Liam Neeson was no match for them in what turned out to be a major bummer of a movie. But one GIANT wolf…now that’s interesting.

5. Bear – 16 points
DANGER:
3 (10+ deaths per year)
FIGHT: 6
NAME: 7
Besides dogs, there is no greater animal in all of creation than the bear. Black bear, grizzly bear, panda bear, Kodiak bear, whatever, it doesn’t matter, all bears are magnificent (except the sun bear, which really needs to get its stuff together). I’m convinced that the only reason there are only 10-ish bear-related deaths a year is because secretly they love humans and when they attack it’s really just being overwhelmed by the need to hug us and it gets out of hand. That said, Jason Statham fighting a bear (a bad bear who is NOT trying to hug humans, mind you) would be pretty awesome if not for The Revenant having already staked a claim to bear-human fights for this decade.

4. Lion – 16 points
DANGER:
4 (22 confirmed deaths per year, likely higher given all the eating they do)
FIGHT: 8
NAME: 4
The best thing about lion-related death statistics is every single site I looked at while researching this (highly scientific) piece was like, “There are DEFINITELY more than 22 deaths, these are just the ones we know about.” Very comforting. The best thing about Jason Statham fighting a lion is it would definitely lead to an entire franchise of big cat-related movies: Statham versus a tiger, Statham versus a leopard, Statham versus @BarstoolBigCat and just WRECKING him (my favorite). This franchise writes itself.

3. Hippopotamus – 18 points
DANGER:
6 (500 deaths per year)
FIGHT: 3
NAME: 9
Some things about hippos you may not know:

1.)   Hippos are extremely mean;
2.)   Hippos have awful, shockingly powerful teeth;
3.)   Hippos actually LIKE sinking boats and chomping on the humans in said boats. It’s in their DNA because, again, they are extremely mean.

Aside from what I see as the opening scene of Jason Statham Versus a Giant Hippopotamus (a giant, angry hippo just ripping through fishing boats left and right) and the corresponding final “chase” scene, though, I can’t imagine it’d be a lot of fun to watch Statham actually fight a hippo. They’re stupid looking creatures, honestly; this is probably why they’re so mean, they’ve been bullied for their appearance throughout their existence and respond by becoming the bullies themselves. Circle of life, and what not. However, the real selling point of the hippo is the idea of hearing Jason Statham say, “It’s a hippopotamus.” Not, “It’s a hippo”; he has to say the full “hippopotamus.” Say that to yourself in your best Statham voice (you know you have one) and tell me you wouldn’t watch that movie based on that one line of dialogue alone.  

2. Crocodile – 26 points
DANGER:
7 (1000 deaths per year, probably higher)
FIGHT: 9
NAME: 10
Crocodiles are just dinosaurs that have evolved and like to eat people. It’s been a while since we’ve had a proper crocodile-related movie and in my version of this script, a giant croc attacks and eats Crocodile Dundee in the early stages and Jason Statham (Dundee’s British son, obviously) comes in to exact his pound of leather. I would definitely watch this, no question. But, the big line has to go the opposite route of hippo/hippopotamus; “It’s a crocodile” is not even one-tenth as cool as, “It’s a croc.” Has to happen that way, I demand it.

1. Snake – 27 points
DANGER: 9 (50-100,000 deaths per year and also they are evil)
FIGHT: 10
NAME: 8
I genuinely, truly, think this is a good idea. Not like a, “this will be a good movie that transcends time” kind of good idea; I mean, this would definitely make a lot of money. The first Anaconda came out 21 years ago and they are STILL making sequels. You’re telling me you couldn’t make bank pitching Jason Statham against a giant snake in The ‘Conda? OF COURSE YOU COULD! I’m just giving away ideas at this point, I’m not saying anything more until you all sign the NDA.

10 Action Movies That Would Be Better with Tom Cruise

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I love Tom Cruise. This is not news to listeners of Mad About Movies, friends and family, or anyone who’s ever been near me on a mountaintop as I am prone to yelling about my affection from high places. Is Tom Cruise a humorless, crazy person in real life? Very likely. But does Tom Cruise, after more than 30 years in this business, still put on an amazing show that very rarely ends in abject disappointment and occasionally touches on greatness? You bet. He is the Roger Federer of action movies, a superstar whose powers should have diminished long ago but who has continued to dominate for so long that he has now outlasted the class of up-and-comers who came along to displace him. And, as I have noted numerous times, I love that Tom Cruise desperately wants to please the movie going public because at his core, he just wants you to love him. He will do anything for you, the average movie goer.

With the sixth installment of the Mission: Impossible franchise (Fallout) headed our way this weekend, I thought about Tom Cruise’s incredible longevity and asked myself this question: Which action movies from the last 35 years would be better with Tom Cruise? Could we insert him into bad action movies and make them good (yes, definitely, because Tom Cruise essentially doesn’t make bad movies, The Mummy aside) and could we insert him into good action movies and make them better (I think we could)? A number of movies jumped to mind as potential Cruiseian vessels but I think some obvious choices would be changed too much in tone or style by involving Cruise so as to become completely different movies rather than just “better” movies. For example, I tried hard to replace Nic Cage with Tom Cruise in a dozen different movies but Cage, for all of his less than stellar acting chops, is such a singular, shall we say, presence, that removing him would fundamentally change the movie. Would Tom Cruise make Con-Air better? Probably, but it would be completely different movie and possibly not as fun. Likewise, I considered only movies and roles that Cruise, the biggest movie star of all-time (at least in his own mind), would actually take, so no character work or ensembles (see: The Expendables). And finally, I didn’t consider outright atrocious movies because in most cases, the prospective improvement wouldn’t be directly tied to Cruise. Would Tom Cruise in place of Mark Wahlberg make Transformers: The Last Knight a better movie? Of course, but so would a spider monkey throwing feces; that’s not much of a test. With those rules in mind, here’s what I came up with.

HONORABLE MENTION: The Matrix – Keanu Reeves, Thomas Anderson/Neo
The Matrix is a very good movie that is also, in my opinion, very overrated. Some of this is due to its outdated look and some to the fact that the sequels are miserable affairs all around. Perhaps Cruise doesn’t help with either of these issues but I think his intensity, the direct opposite of Reeves’s emotionless zombie routine, works better once Neo ascends and maybe that keeps the sequels afloat? Reeves is DEFINITELY the better Thomas Anderson, though, and the movie has to take on a different tone and possibly aesthetic to match Cruise so this is far from a no-brainer. But I think that I, personally, would be much more willing to re-watch The Matrix and its sequels if it were a Cruise joint. 

10. Robin Hood (2010 version) – Russell Crowe, Robin Hood
Raise your hand if you completely forgot there was a Ridley Scott-Russell Crowe Robin Hood movie. As we approach the release of yet another Hood iteration (but this one has Jamie Dornan! Hooray!), I’d like us to harken back a few years to one of the most boring adventure films in recent memory. Maybe Cruise doesn’t turn Robin Hood into a smashing success (this was, after all, a horrendous period for Scott) but at the very least he’d try to make the material entertaining which is far more than we can say for Crowe.

9. The Running Man – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ben Richards
I’ll be honest, this has way more to do with just wanting Tom Cruise, the King of the Movie Run, to be in a movie titled The Running Man. It would probably be weird to have Rain Man-era Cruise in this heavy action movie extremely suited for Arnie’s talent, but wouldn’t it be awesome to look back on his career 30 years later and note the presence of The Running Man on Cruise’s IMDb? I think so.

8. 300 – Gerard Butler, King Leonidas
The impetus for this selection is two-fold. One, if you gave Cruise this role and six months to prepare, there is a 100 percent chance he’d come back with a real 12-pack to fully embody (forgive the pun) the character and I want to see that. Two, if we could go back 11 years and keep Butler out of this role, I think there’s a 50-50 shot his career never takes off and we’re not subjected to three unfathomably bad Butler movies ever year.

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7. Speed – Keanu Reeves, Jack Traven OR Dennis Hopper, Howard Payne
A friend of mine suggested this selection and I like it because really, truly, you could sub Cruise into either lead role and the movie would get better. Cruise versus Hopper pops off the screen far more than Reeves-Hopper ever did, and Reeves versus Cruise would be a hilarious clash of style that I would definitely watch 900 times. 

6. Spider-Man – Willem Dafoe, Norman Osborne/The Green Goblin
I thought long and hard on how to incorporate Cruise into the MCU. My best idea was to have him step into the shoes of Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange. This would work, I think, but the integration wouldn’t be seamless. So, while the Raimi Spider-Man films are only MCU-adjacent, I’d still jump at the chance to get Cruise into the comic book movie business. I think Cruise plays this role a little less “creepy and insane” but with a harder edge and ultimately, it helps the movie age better than it has in its present form.

5. A Taken-like Franchise – Liam Neeson, Bryan Mills
I love Liam Neeson as both a person and an action hero and he did a great job elevating the pulpy material of the first Taken movie to a respectable level. Plus, this was the jumping off point for the second phase of his career and it was well-deserved, so I wouldn’t want to take it away from him (basically the opposite of Gerard Butler in 300). What I really want is for Cruise to helm his own series like this; his own Taken, Equalizer, John Wick, etc. Something simple and filled with over-the-top action and gun play. It seems like it would be fun to watch him in that role. Let’s make this happen.

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4. Talladega Nights – Sacha Baron Coen, Jean Girard
I admit, I am super stretching the term, “action movie” here, please forgive me. This is nothing against SBC who is actually quite funny in this, one of the more underrated movies from the Will Ferrell heyday. But given Cruise’s comedic success in Tropic Thunder, I very badly want to see him try his hand as a ridiculous French race car driver. It might be a disaster, I DON’T KNOW, I just find myself NEEDING to see that.

3. Any 80’s or early 90’s karate/kung fu-related movie
You have your pick here as one out of every three movies from this era revolved around martial arts. Karate Kid, Bloodsport, American Ninja, Surf Ninjas, Three Ninjas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles… Obviously Cruise would be great in any of these illustrious films. My pick, however, would be the oft-forgotten Chuck Norris jam Sidekicks, wherein a bullied teenager imagines that Chuck Norris is his karate mentor. Of course, Chuck Norris actually knows karate and Tom Cruise does not but wouldn’t it be fun to see Tom Cruise learn karate just so he could star in a cheesy kid’s movie like this? Yes, yes it would.

2. Total Recall – Arnold Schwarzenegger, Douglas Quaid/Hauser
Arnie was like no other before or after him, a man built in a laboratory (almost literally) to star in 80’s action movies. He’s irreplaceable in virtually all of his movies from this time period (including the aforementioned Running Man, I admit). But I will take this belief to my grave: he was out of his depth in Total Recall. This movie needed more of a thinking man’s action star in the lead role and while we’ve never confused Tom Cruise with the great thinkers of our time, he does a much better job of piecing together a mystery than Schwarzenegger ever did. This miscasting was rectified in some ways 12 years later when Cruise did Minority Report but still, the 1990 version of Total Recall is infinitely better with Cruise in the lead, just beginning to stretch his action movie muscles.

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1. The Fast Series
I don’t want Cruise to replace anyone within the Fast and Furious Cinematic Universe as it is perfect and above any potential second guessing I might offer. I just desperately want/need Tom Cruise in this universe. Add him to the mix as a villain in Fast10, have him join up with Hobbs and Shaw in their upcoming spin-off, let him slide in as Brian O’Connor’s older brother hell bent on revenge; I don’t care, just make it happen. Please, I beg of you, make it happen.

Most Anticipated Movies of 2018 - Part 2

Twice a year (in January and July), I prepare a list of the ten movies I’m looking forward to the most in the coming months. I insist on including only films for which we have a definitive release date and for which we have seen a trailer, otherwise the list becomes far more prospective than I would like. My record here is, uh, spotty as I have highlighted some big hits over the years as well as few total duds. The July through December batch is difficult because of the sheer number of indie and awards-y movies that haven’t been officially slated yet and/or received a real trailer. Nevertheless, I push on and present a set of films that I think measures up to the first half of 2018’s “solid if unspectacular” standard.

HONORABLE MENTION: Mary Poppins Returns (December 28)
We’ve only seen a brief glimpse of the world’s greatest nanny (I Still think “Marry Poppins Returns” sounds like a horror movie but whatever) but the idea is a good one and I’m here for any and all things Emily Blunt. Plus, my cohort, Richard, is a big proponent of this film and his excitement has proved contagious.

 10. Spider-Man: Enter the Spider-Verse (December 14)
Like many of you, I am exhausted by all the various Spider-Man-ing going around these days and I’m inclined to be wary of any non-Marvel incarnation at this point (see: the absence of Venom on this list). But, for one thing, this seems like the right way to venture out from the Disney safety net and for another, the animation here looks incredible. There’s a fun story to be told here and it can branch out into an excellent franchise very easily.

9. White Boy Rick (September 14)
For me, this stands out as the poster child for why trailers are valuable. White Boy Rick has been in various stages of development for quite a while now and I’d completely lost all interest in it. Then the trailer dropped and, wow, that is a fantastic trailer that left me wanting more and pumped for what we might get out this movie.

8. Ralph Breaks the Internet (November 21)
For me, Ralph is almost the antithesis of White Boy Rick: it’s a property I’ve been incredibly excited about for a long time but the trailer left me a little concerned. I’m not overly concerned, mind you (hence the placement on this list), but it was not quite what I expected and a little jarring in its meta-ness. Even still, I love the first Wreck-It Ralph, I think these characters are some of the best in recent Disney memory, and the idea is solid. Just hoping for equally solid execution.

7. Predator (September 14)
I’ve already run the gamut with this one. I think it’s a great idea, Predator needed to be rebooted, and I love Shane Black coming back to direct. I’m also a bit hesitant on some of the cast and I thought the first trailer was bad, as if the movie didn’t have to sell itself because everyone knows what the Predator is and will be flocking to see its return. The second trailer was a lot better and hopefully bodes well for what we’re about to see.

6. Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6)
By the time this publishes, many of you will have already seen this one and of course, the…buzz (I sincerely apologize) around it has been great. I’m lower on the first Ant-Man than many seem to be but I love its possibilities and I expect this one to be a vast improvement on it’s already-good predecessor.  

5. Bad Times at the El Royale (October 5)
This could go extremely badly and turn into a jumbled, Smokin’ Aces-style mess, but with this cast and this trailer, I’m completely in. I’m not a big fan of director Drew Goddard’s last film (Cabin in the Woods) but I loved its premise and I love his writing and El Royale promises to be stylistically impressive, if nothing else.

 4. Mission: Impossible Fallout (July 27)
As co-president of the, “Yeah Tom Cruise is Probably a Weirdo but He Sure Makes Good Movies” fan club, there are very few things I enjoy more than Tom Cruise doing ridiculous stunts, on his own (for literally no reason other than to please his fans), in the character of Ethan Hunt. Does this look like the BEST Mission Impossible movie? No, not really, and we’re probably just going to keep chasing the success of Ghost Protocol but I’m here for it nonetheless.

3. A Star is Born (October 5)
This is another one Richard has been banging the drum for over the last few months and again, he was right. I was mildly intrigued in this remake-of-a-remake until I saw the trailer and now it’s all I can think about. I’m a sucker for a harmony and I’ve already fallen in love with this film’s music just from these brief glimpses. And Cooper and Lady Gaga look like a magnificent pairing.

2. First Man (October 12)
I am no friend of the biopic but if you’re going to do a biopic, I demand that you do that biopic with King Ryan Gosling The First of His Name and Damien Chazelle. I imagine that pairing could make a biopic about the creator of the wire hanger interesting so, of course, adding in Neil Armstrong and the Space Race doesn’t hurt First Man’s cause.

1. Creed II (November 21)
Oh my oh my oh my. I’ve been preparing for the Creed II trailer pretty much since the second I walked out of the theater for Creed (bawling my eyes out) and even still, I was unready. This trailer dropped, and I woke up in a hospital bed three days later. You guys, I mean…I’m at a loss for words. What more could I POSSIBLY want from this movie than what I’ve already seen in the trailer?! Creed is a perfect movie and this sequel looks to be following right in its footsteps. We got one, Rock!