Friday, April 24, 2015

The best movies about disease outbreaks

Looking for an online list of the best movies about disease outbreaks, I once again came up short. No one had done a clean list of movies with at least somewhat realistic depictions of disease epidemics and pandemics.
Every list I found was loaded with science-fiction movies about diseases from outer space or zombie outbreaks.
So I searched Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and elsewhere online to compile my own list of the best-reviewed disease outbreak movies.
What follows is a listing of movies ranked by critics on Rotten Tomatoes and users on Internet Movie Database. I’ve also included the type of disease depicted and noted which films are documentaries.

Best-reviewed disease outbreak movies, by % of positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes
  • And the Band Played On (1993), AIDS, 100%
  • Panic in the Streets (1950), pneumonic plague, 95%
  • The Normal Heart (2014), AIDS, 94%
  • Contagion (2011), influenza, 84%
  • I Remember Me (2000), chronic fatigue syndrome, documentary, 83%
  • Under Our Skin (2008), Lyme disease, documentary, 81%
  • Ever Since the World Ended (2001), unknown virus, 78%
  • Carriers (2009), airborne virus, 63%
  • Outbreak (1995), unknown virus, 59%
  • Flu (2013), influenza, 45%
Additional disease outbreak movies from IMDb, with user ratings
  • The Polio Crusade (2009), episode of “The American Experience”; polio, documentary, 8.2 out of 10
  • A Paralyzing Fear: The Story of Polio in America (1998), polio, documentary, 7.8
  • Pandemic: Facing AIDS (2003), AIDS, documentary, 7.7
  • The Plague (2005), a History Channel special; plague, documentary, 6.9
  • Yellow Jack (1938), yellow fever, 6.4
  • The Plague (aka “La Peste”) (1992), plague, 6.0
  • The Cleaner (aka “El Limpiador”) (2012), unknown epidemic, 6.0
  • Outbreak: Anatomy of a Plague (aka “La Variole: Anatomie D’un Fleau”) (2010), plague, 5.9
  • Plague City: SARS in Toronto (2005), plague, 5.6
  • Pandemic (2007), miniseries on the Hallmark Channel; bird flu, 5.3
Photos: Movie posters for “Contagion” and “Flu.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

‘Mad Max’ to spark resurgence in post-apocalyptic movies

Post-apocalyptic movies have gotten off to a slow start this year.
After nine such movies in 2013 and eight last year, there has been just one major title released so far in 2015 (“Insurgent”).
But the genre will have a resurgence next month when “Mad Max: Fury Road” hits theaters. The fourth movie in the Australian action series opens in the U.S. on May 15.
The new film stars Tom Hardy as the title character navigating through a desert wasteland teaming with crazy bad guys.
This spring, an Australian zombie apocalypse movie “Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead” received great reviews, but a limited theatrical release in the U.S. Look for it on DVD later this year.
Another post-apocalyptic movie, “Turbo Kid,” is now on the film festival circuit. It received critical acclaim as well. It should be a winner on home video.
This summer, the latest movie in the Terminator robot-apocalypse series will be released. “Terminator Genisys,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emila Clarke, is set to hit theaters on July 1.
Also on the way is “Air,” starring Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou. Set for theatrical release on Aug. 14, “Air” is about two custodians who struggle to hold onto their sanity while living in an underground bunker with cryogenically frozen people meant to re-populate society.
On Sept. 18,  “Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials” opens. It is the second in a planned trilogy.
In September 2016, the supposed final film in the “Resident Evil” zombie apocalypse series is set for release. “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” stars the stunning Milla Jovovich.
Hollywood never seems to run out of ways to destroy the world.
I count at least 20 post-apocalyptic films in development or production. Half of them are sequels or remakes, including “Independence Day 2.” “World War Z 2” and “Planet of the Apes 3.”

Photos: Movie posters for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “Wyrmwood” and “Terminator Genisys.” 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The 30 best post-apocalyptic movies

After compiling a list of the 30 best-reviewed animal attack movies, I decided to do the same with post-apocalyptic movies.
As with the animal attack movies, I first put together a clean list.
My list of post-apocalyptic movies weeded out pre-apocalypse movies and those that were mostly about dystopian futures.
What follows is a list of the best-reviewed post-apocalyptic movies based on critics aggregated by Rotten Tomatoes.
The top two movies – “The Day After” (1983) and “The Road Warrior” (1981) – each received unanimous praise.

The 30 best-reviewed post-apocalyptic movies, % of positive reviews
  1. The Day After (1983), 100%
  2. The Road Warrior (1981), 100%
  3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), 96%
  4. Wall-E (2008), 96%
  5. Dawn of the Dead (1978), 95%
  6. Snowpiercer (2014), 95%
  7. Children of Men (2006), 92%
  8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), 90%
  9. Edge of Tomorrow (2014), 90%
  10. Zombieland (2009), 90%
  11. Planet of the Apes (1968), 89%
  12. The World’s End (2013), 89%
  13. Delicatessen (1991), 88%
  14. Twelve Monkeys (1995), 88%
  15. 28 Days Later (2002), 87%
  16. The Matrix (1999), 87%
  17. The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), 86%
  18. Testament (1983), 86%
  19. The War of the Worlds (1953), 85%
  20. This Is the End (2013), 83%
  21. Day of the Dead (1985), 82%
  22. Night of the Comet (1984), 82%
  23. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), 81%
  24. Warm Bodies (2013), 80%
  25. Dredd (2012), 78%
  26. Ever Since the World Ended (2001), 78%
  27. The Time Machine (1960), 76%
  28. A Boy and His Dog (1975), 75%
  29. Dawn of the Dead (2004), 75%
  30. The Road (2009), 75%
Movie art: “The Road Warrior” and “The Day After.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Apple Maps still suck

More than 2 years have passed since the debut of Apple Maps made Apple the laughingstock of the tech industry.
I have tried to use Google Maps whenever possible since then. But last week I accidentally used Apple Maps and paid the price. The wrong directions it gave made me about 15 minutes late for an appointment.
To get to my appointment I clicked on the address sent to me via email on my iPhone 5S. Because Apple Maps is the default on iPhone, it launched the application and showed what it thought was the address on a digital map.
Instead of a corporate headquarters in Lincolnshire, Ill., it directed me to an address in a residential neighborhood a few miles away.
It was a great reminder to stick with the experts when it comes to online maps: Google.

Photo: Incorrect map from Apple Maps

Monday, April 13, 2015

More animal attack movies on the way

In my last post, I listed the top 30 best-reviewed animal attack movies. But some might get bumped down the list by a few new films in production.
Before the new movies come out, the 1981 film “Roar” is being rereleased in select theaters starting Friday. (See articles by Drafthouse Films, Entertainment Weekly and the Daily Mail.)
The film stars Tippi Hedren, a young Melanie Griffith and a bunch of dangerous lions and tigers.

Later this year, a film based on the true story that inspired the classic tale of “Moby Dick” will hit theaters. “In the Heart of the Sea,” based on the 2000 non-fiction book of the same name by Nathaniel Philbrick, is directed by Ron Howard and stars Chris Hemsworth.
It recounts the story of the whaling ship Essex, which was sunk by a very large and enraged bull sperm whale, in 1820. “In the Heart of the Sea” is scheduled for release on Dec. 11.
Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is producing a movie based on the USS Indianapolis shark attack story.
In 1945, the USS Indianapolis was sunk by torpedoes on its return trip from delivering the Hiroshima bomb. After the ship went down, the surviving crew members floated for five days, becoming easy targets for hungry sharks.
Tate Taylor is set to direct the still untitled movie, EW reported.
This summer, CBS will air a 13-episode TV adaptation of the novel “Zoo” by James Patterson. The story centers around an outbreak of mammal attacks on humans worldwide, EW reports.

Photos: Posters from “In the Heart of the Sea,” “Roar” and “Zoo.”

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The 30 best animal attack movies: Surprise, ‘Jaws’ is not No. 1

I recently searched for a list of the best animal attack movies, but couldn’t find one. Too many lists were cluttered with science-fiction movies about giant animals (ants, spiders, rabbits, etc.) and other monsters.
I wanted to find a list of the best animal attack movies that featured at least somewhat realistic animals. It wasn’t available, so I made my own.
What follows is a list of the best-reviewed animal attack movies based on critic reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
I was surprised to find that “Jaws is not the No. 1 movie on the list. The classic shark attack movie was No. 2 with 98% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
When I compiled a more modest list four years ago (“Top 10 animal attack movies”), “Jaws” had 100% positive reviews. But since then, Rotten Tomatoes included a negative review from Los Angeles Times that the paper featured in a list of its wrong-headed reviews.
The current best-reviewed animal attack movie is “Rogue,” a 2008 film about a killer crocodile. It received 100% positive reviews from 11 critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
Here is a list of the best-reviewed animal attack movies ranked by percentage of positive reviews. I also included what kind of killer animal is featured.

The best animal attack movies
  1. Rogue (2008), crocodile; 100% positive reviews
  2. Jaws (1975), great white shark; 98%
  3. The Birds (1963), birds; 96%
  4. Grizzly Man (2005), grizzly bear; 93%
  5. Arachnophobia (1990), spiders; 91%
  6. Backcountry (2015), bear, 86%
  7. The Naked Jungle (1954), soldier ants; 83%
  8. The Grey (2012), wolves; 79%
  9. Black Water (2008), crocodile; 79%
  10. The Reef (2010), great white shark; 78%
  11. Piranha 3-D (2010), piranhas; 73%
  12. Piranha (1978), piranhas; 72%
  13. Open Water (2003), sharks; 72%
  14. Creepshow (1982), cockroaches; 69%
  15. Snakes on a Plane (2006), snakes; 68%
  16. Alligator (1980), alligator; 67%
  17. Willard (2003), rats; 64%
  18. Frozen (2010), wolves; 62%
  19. The Edge (1997), grizzly bear; 60%
  20. Grizzly (1976), grizzly bear; 60%
  21. Cujo (1983), rabid dog; 59%
  22. Willard (1971), rats; 57%
  23. Ben (1972), rats; 57%
  24. Jaws 2 (1978), great white shark; 53%
  25. The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), lions; 50%
The next six movies did not have a rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so I ranked them based on reviews on Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
  • Blue Water, White Death (1971), great white sharks; 7.3 out of 10
  • Roar (1981), lions; 6.4
  • Of Unknown Origin (1983), rats; 6.2
  • Savage Harvest (1981), lions, 6.1
  • The Pack (1977), feral dogs; 5.9
  • Razorback (1984), razorback boar; 5.9
Honorable mentions go to “Kingdom of the Spiders” (1977), “Lake Placid” (1999), and “Anaconda” (1997). They each have fans, but don’t have a majority of positive ratings.
Let me know if I missed any good ones.

Photo: Movie poster from “Rogue.”

Monday, April 6, 2015

Of mosquitoes and men: The world’s deadliest animals

Many people are interested in learning about the world’s deadliest animals. Most think of man-eating tigers or sharks when thinking about the animals that kill the most humans.
But it’s disease-carrying mosquitoes that claim the most human lives every year. Just ask philanthropist Bill Gates, who is leading the charge to eradicate malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases.
Last April, for Mosquito Week, Gates wrote an article titled “The Deadliest Animal in the World.” It included a nice infographic showing that no animal comes close to mosquitoes in terms of the number of people killed each year.
The graphic puts human deaths from mosquito-borne illnesses at 725,000 a year.
In 2011, I found research that put annual mosquito-linked deaths at 800,000 a year.
For his graphic, Gates lists humans as the second most dangerous animal in the world, responsible for 475,000 deaths a year.
Snakes are third with 50,000 human deaths. The next six deadly animals either carry diseases, such as dogs with rabies, or are parasites, such as tapeworms.
For my article “How many people do animals kill a year?” I found reports that would put scorpions and jellyfish in the top 10. Also, untold numbers of people die each year from allergic reactions to bee and wasp stings.
The article was part of a series I did on animal attacks called “The world’s deadliest animals.”

Graphic from Gates Notes (top); and a revamped version using the same research (below).

Saturday, April 4, 2015

5 rejected reality TV shows

A lot of shocking reality TV shows have made it to broadcast, but some were too controversial to make the cut.
What follows are some reality TV shows that got canned before they could air.

Arranged Marriage 

“Arranged Marriage” was green-lighted by CBS in 2010. It was to follow four adults who allow their friends and family to choose a spouse for them.
“Between grumbles of protest and the show’s creative supposedly not coming together, it wasn’t surprising that the network quietly shelved the show,” EW reported.

Someone’s Gotta Go

In April 2009, during the Great Recession, Fox decided to do a reality show about downsizing companies called “Someone’s Gotta Go.” In the show, employees of a small business would decide which one of their colleagues would be laid off. Each week a different company would lay off an employee. The show was pitched as “Survivor” meets “The Office.”
The show was quietly canned. But in May 2013, Fox aired a revised version of the show called “Does Someone Have to Go?” It lasted just six episodes. (See IMDb and Wikipedia entries.)

I’ve Got a Monkey on My Back

Producers pitched Fox executives for a show called “I’ve Got a Monkey on My Back.” People would literally have a monkey on their back as they raced across the country. (See article by Grantland.)

Extreme Biggest Loser

“Extreme Biggest Loser” was described as a show where plus-sized contestants are locked in a house and can’t leave until they can squeeze through a well-marked exit door. (See article by Vulture.)

Virgin Territory

In 2007, a porn producer tried to get several network to buy a show in which real-life geeks without carnal knowledge of the opposite sex competed for the chance to have their virginity taken by a porn star, Vulture said.

Photo: “The Dillionaire,” a fake reality TV show cooked up by New York metropolitan area PBS affiliate Thirteen. (See articles by Adweek, Gawker, The Wrap and EW.)

Friday, April 3, 2015

Top 10 reality TV shows, a personal opinion

Over the years I’ve watched a lot of reality TV shows. I enjoyed some for awhile, like “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race,” but ultimately got bored with their repetitive formats.
Others lost me because of the mounting B.S. factor, such as “Storage Wars” and “Finding Bigfoot.”
Here are my current top 10 favorite reality TV shows.
  1. Gold Rush: Alaska
  2. American Pickers
  3. Man v. Food
  4. How It’s Made
  5. Monsters Inside Me
  6. Outrageous Acts of Science
  7. Who Do You Think You Are?
  8. The Voice
  9. River Monsters
  10. Prospectors
Honorable mentions: “America’s Got Talent,” “Tanked,” “Treehouse Masters,” “Storm Chasers” and “Project Greenlight.”

Photos: Scenes from “Gold Rush: Alaska.”

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reality TV shows keep getting wackier

Reality TV shows have been a staple of U.S. television programming since the late 1990s with the debut of “Survivor.”
The genre includes documentary series, talent competitions, sociology experiments and game shows. With hundreds of reality TV shows having aired, producers are always looking for something fresh.
Here are some recent entrants in the category:
  • “Married at First Sight” (FYI) – Expert matchmakers set up couples who agree to marry sight unseen;
  • “Neighbors With Benefits” (A&E) – This series follows a bunch of neighbors in suburban Ohio who are into the swinging lifestyle;
  • “Sex Box” (WE tv) – Couples have sex in a private cube-shaped room to solve their relationship problems. A panel of sex experts offers advice and counseling before and after coitus.
And more are coming. No pun intended.
  • “The Sex Factor” – Eight men and eight women compete for a $1 million prize and a three-year porn contract. The judges include adult movie stars Tori Black, Lexi Belle, Remy LaCroix and Keiran Lee.
  • “First Dates” – NBC has ordered eight episodes of the show, which follows couples on blind dates. It is executive-produced by comedian/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
  • “Labor Games” – The TLC show surprises couples in a hospital delivery room with the chance to win prizes for their baby-to-be.
Photos: The cube from “Sex Box” (top); promotional art from “Married at First Sight.” 

Related articles:

22 Worst Reality TV Shows of All-Time (So Far) (EW; Feb. 26, 2015)

From Dating Naked to Armed & Famous: World’s craziest reality shows (Mirror; Oct. 15, 2014)

27 outrageous reality shows, from ‘A’ to ‘W’ (HLN; July 30, 2014)

The Weirdest, Craziest and Downright Cruelest Reality TV Shows of All Time (ViralNova; Nov. 4, 2014)

The Weirdest Reality TV Shows of All Time (Zap2it)

Highest Rated Reality-TV TV Series, as voted by IMDb users. (IMDb)

Most Popular Reality-TV TV Series (IMDb)