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For Real Fans of Rocky, Harry Potter, and Death Wish, the Fourth Time Is the Charm

With Scream 4 casting a bloody glow on the horizon, everyone is thinking back on past “fourquels.” (Okay, maybe not everyone.) And contrary to what you might think, they’re not all crap, like Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles. Sometimes the fourth movie in a franchise is not only good but one of the better movies in the series. As the ten movies below prove, you may need to rethink which time is the charm.

10. Jaws: The Revenge
Ever wonder what would happen if a woman (Lorraine Gary) went all Ripley on a particularly nasty shark? Then Jaws: The Revenge is your movie. The follow-up to Jaws 3-D, the fourth and last movie to date is driven by Ellen Brody (Gary), the widow of Roy Scheider’s Police Chief Brody. She loses one of her sons to yet another damned shark and then finds another son pursued by a great white that will venture way outside its natural habitat. Sharks are no match for wounded mothers, of course, making Jaws: The Revenge slightly silly but definitely entertaining.

9. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers
Michael Myers returns to menace his little niece in what particularly rabid Halloween fans like to insist is actually the second sequel to the original, not the third (because that’s how much they hate Halloween III: Season of the Witch). Halloween 4 announces right in the title that there will be no more tomfoolery about cursed Halloween masks, just Michael Myers doing what he does best. And who doesn’t love that?

8. The Concorde…Airport ’79
Not a great movie by conventional standards, but watching pilot Joe Patroni (George Kennedy) — a veteran of all three previous Airport movies, though with different jobs in each — steer a supersonic plane clear of heat-seeking missiles and a fighter jet while spewing sexist remarks like “They don’t call it the cockpit for nothing” is pretty fun. Also watch for an all-star cast of seventies characters including TV phenom Jimmie “Dy-na-mite” Walker and busty TV personality Charo. That adds up to two solid hours of entertaining trash that plays better now that the last Concordes have been grounded for almost a decade.

7. Death Wish 4: The Crackdown
The title’s great pun (the movie is about the crack epidemic) is just the beginning: the fourth entry in the Death Wish franchise is notable for other reasons as well, including its unique premise, in which Bronson goes pro as a vigilante when an anti-drug crusader agrees to fund his mission to kill off American’s drug trade, literally. And as if its cool conceit weren’t enough, Bronson introduces a rocket launcher into his arsenal.

6. Alien: Resurrection
After the spectacular Aliens (1986), widely considered one of the rare sequels that actually one-ups the original, the franchise faltered with Alien 3, a troubled production doomed by extensive studio interference. The fourth movie got a screenplay by sci-fi hero Joss Whedon (then best known as the writer of Toy Story) and shines a well-deserved spotlight on Sigourney Weaver’s older, more cynical, thoroughly pissed-off Ripley. From her muscular sensuality and perverse sympathy for the once-hated xenomorphs to her utter contempt for most of the human race, Alien: Resurrection‘s Ripley is utterly believable: being nice and conciliatory blew up in her face, and she doesn’t make the same mistake twice.

5. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Arguably the most anticipated sequel in history, the fourth Star Wars pic — made sixteen years after Return of the Jedi, which it precedes chronological — is cursed by the presence of universally despised Jar Jar Binks. But Jar Jar aside, The Phantom Menace is utterly gorgeous and impressively acted. Even the most stalwart fan of the original trilogy has to admit that Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman are better actors than Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. Sure, it lacks the sheer junk-culture energy of the first three movies, but lightning rarely strikes twice.

4. Rocky IV
Is it Oscar-worthy like the original? Certainly not; it’s not supposed to be. But Rocky IV is the incredible result of applying action-movie style to a sports flick and pits Stallone’s Italian Stallion against Commie Ivan Drago, the bastard who killed Rocky’s enemy turned friend Apollo Creed in the ring. The boxing scenes are terrific, the music amazing, and, looking back, the fourth Rocky movie serves as a perfect artifact of late-Cold War paranoia. Not bad for a movie starring Dolph Lundgren.

3. Land of the Dead
A full twenty years after pioneering zombiemeister George A. Romero’s Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead revitalizes his vision of zombies as the embodiment of an oppressed underclass that quite literally rises up to bite the smug masters of the universe on the ass. Land of the Dead, in which the privileged inhabitants of island community Fiddler’s Green (the name of a mythical paradise), well, fiddle while the rest of the zombie-infested world burns, is quite a piece of work. You have to admire a 65-year-old filmmaker who’s still so damned angry about the way the world’s haves walk all over its have-nots.

2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Granted, Potter flicks have an unfair advantage: they’re based on books that were designed to add up to a single unified story. This means that the gradual erosion of imagination that afflicts so many sequels isn’t an issue. Pretty much the only bad thing you can say about Goblet of Fire is that director Mike Newell has a less distinctive sensibility than, say, Alfonso Cuarón, who directed the previous installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (Many Potter fans would likely say that they wish Cuarón never entered into the franchise.) But that’s it. The fourth is as magical as any of the movies and as good a book adaptation as you’ll find, period.

1. Thunderball
The fourth installment in the then-young series was immediately acclaimed as the best Bond movie yet, which even at that time was really saying something. Thunderball adds a dash of humor to the spectacular action sequences, fabulous locations, luscious babes, and bizarre villains. The touch of humor ultimately led the franchise in a bad direction, but that’s not the fault of the fourth pic. Thunderball remains the favorite of many fans: they love the underwater fight scene, Sean Connery’s performance, Tom Jones’s theme song, baddie Ernst Stavro Blofeld (the model for Mike Myers’s Dr. Evil), the gadgets, and leggy lovely Luciana Paluzzi.

Tonight, Thu., Apr. 28, check out Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, at 8PM | 7C, part of Can’t Get Enough Death Wish.

On Sat., Apr. 30, check out Rocky IV, at 10:30PM | 9:30C, part of AMC’s Crazy About Rocky.

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