EYG Top 10 Los Angeles Based Movies of the Last 25 years

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This week’s Top 10 Show with Matt Knost and John Rocha was the recording of their first ever live show that they had a few weeks ago in Los Angeles.  It sounded great and having the audience laughing behind them brought a certain energy to the podcast.

The topic they decided on was Top 10 L.A. based movies of the last 25 years.  They specified the last 25 years to bring the number of possible choices down.  Die Hard, Beverly Hills Cop, Chinatown etc. would not be considered for this list.

I liked my list as several of the films that I have on my list are different than either Matt or John.  It’s fun that way.

It would be so much fun to see Top 10 live.  They clearly have a ton of chemistry and perform well in front of a crowd.  They have a great interaction with the crowd.

Anyway… here we go.

#10. Speed.  Right on the outskirts of the 25 year max, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock’s classic action movie featuring a high speed bus that must remain going that fast or else it will explode.  This film kept me on the edge of my seat for the longest time and then, once the bus was taken care of, the finale continued to pick up the speed.  Dennis Hopper was a great villain here and had a great chemistry with Keanu.

 

#9.  Ed Wood.  A great picture about one of the worst films ever made, Plan 9 from Outer Space.  Ed Wood was a horrible director but he still had a love of the film business.  Johnny Depp was solid as the title character and there are great performances from Martin Landau, Vincent D’Onofrio, Bill Murray, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeffrey Jones and Patricia Arquette.  Oh, and George “The Animal” Steele too.  This was a lot of fun.

 

#8.  Cellular.  The future Captain America started here in Cellular as Chris Evans is out to help save Kim Basinger, who has been kidnapped and desperately is trying to contact anyone on a damaged phone.  Sure, this is most likely a goofy film with a questionable premise, but I found it really exciting and thrilling.  Jason Statham was also here as one of the villains in the movie.  It is a film where you have to suspend disbelief, but I find it to be a great guilty pleasure.

 

#7.  Saving Mr. Banks.  The story of how Disney brought Mary Poppins into the House of Mouse.  If you ignore how much they actually screwed on P.L. Travers, the original author, the film is a fun family film.  I love the scene where they play the song “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” to Travers and she winds up dancing with Don (Bradley Whitford).  Tom Hanks is his normal wonderful self as Walt Disney.  Emma Thompson brings a great emotion to the story of P.L. Travers.  In the end, Mary Poppins was such a personal story to her, it was tough for her to watch what Disney wanted to do with the character.  I loved this.

 

#6.  Hollywoodland.  This was actually the first film that popped into my head when I head the topic.  I loved this film starring Ben Affleck as George Reeves, television’s first Superman.  The film deals with what actually happened when Reeves died, which has been a mystery since it happened.  I loved the way they presented the mystery of the death of George Reeves, with Adrien Brody looking into the truth.  And the scene with the little boy pointing the very real gun at “Superman” expecting the bullet to bounce off was really tense.  In the end, I liked how they left the story up in the air.  Hollywoodland is an underappreciated gem.

 

#5.  Nightcrawler.  What a dark and wonderful film.  It is awesome that Jake Gyllenhaal is willing to play such a low life scumbag in a film.  Louis Bloom is such a rotten human being, doing whatever he can do to get the story for the news.  The sensationalism of the new media has been a problem for years and it can really attract these kind of people.  Gyllenhaal really deserved to be nominated for an Oscar for this role and his snub was one of the worst.

 

#4.  The Big Lebowski.  The Dude!  I just recently saw this for the first time this year and I really enjoyed it.  I usually am not a fan of stoner films, but this turned out to be more than I thought.  Jeff Bridges was transcendent as the Dude.  He is the most charismatic character that I have seen on screen in a long time. John Goodman was a bit much for me as I wondered why anyone would continue to keep this guy around.  The Big Lebowski was really funny and deeper than you would expect.

 

#3.  The Muppets.  The gang gets back together and tries to save the old theater from an evil oil baron.  Great music.  Great songs.  Great comedy.  Jason Segel and Amy Adams play the human couple that is there as the Muppets try to bring the Muppet Show back to the world.  Chris Cooper is the perfect evil oil man named Tex Richman.  There are the typical Muppet cameos throughout the film, including Jim Parsons helping Segel and new Muppet Walter in the best song, “Man or Muppet.”  The Muppets are always tremendous.

 

#2.  The Disaster Artist.  Another story of the filming of one of the worst movies ever, this time, The Room with Tommy Wiseau.  James Franco does a remarkable job playing the mysterious lead actor.  However, The Disaster Artist works mainly because it focuses on Wiseau and his feelings and wishes.  It is not just about the filming of The Room, it is about the relationship with Wiseau and Greg (Dave Franco) and that relationship is real and powerful.

 

#1.  Pulp Fiction.  Quentin Tarantino and his classic movie is my number one. I love the dialogue of this film and the performances from John Travolta, Sam L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Vin Rhames, Uma Thurmon are unbelievable.  Some of the dialogue from these pairings are some of the best ever.  The Royale with cheese.  That one charming Motha f***ing pig.  I love you, honey bunny.  Pulp Fiction is most  probably my favorite Tarantino movie yet.

 

Honorable MentionsDrive, Bandits, Get Shorty, American History X, Boogie Nights, The Mask, Zombieland, Collateral, La La Land.

 

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An American Werewolf in London (1981)

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The Horror Binge-a-thon during the October Fear Fest continued with the John Landis film, An American Werewolf in London.  I have to say, I was not as impressed with this movie as I thought I would be.

I remember watching this years ago, but I wonder if I hadn’t watched the whole thing (or had seen an edited version on TV) because much of what was here was unfamiliar.

While trekking through the Moors of England, David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) wind up being attacked by a werewolf.  Jack was killed, but David survived.  After several weeks in the hospital, David receives a surprise visit from the still deceased Jack who has some uncomfortable news. David is a werewolf and must kill himself to end the blood line of the wolf.

David believes that he is dreaming and meets up with a nurse(Jenny Agutter) from the hospital who lets him stay at her flat.  Unfortunately, time is running out as the moon is due to be full the next night.

I found this to be pretty disappointing.  The tones of the film vary wildly from scene to scene and I just never thought that the film found its footing.

When David is transforming into the werewolf, however, the film is frighteningly solid.  The transformation is painful, harsh and scary.  You feel for David at the time, wishing his pain would end.  The people he kill are all just glorified extras that you have no emotional connection to so their deaths do not overcome the feeling of connection you have for David.  Because of that, the end results feels empty.

The relationship with David and nurse Alex is strange and sudden.  There are a lot of feelings of rushing here as the film does not take its time on any major point.  The whole part with the Slaughtered Lamb and the patrons who refuse to say anything makes no sense whatsoever.  Why are they so secretive?  Why is it such a big issue when one tries to talk to the doctor?  It makes no sense.

Much of the plot is thin and does not pay off.  The film looks great, especially the part where the werewolf transformation is taking place.  I just did not buy the blend of horror and humor in this case.

overrated

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The House of Usher (1960)

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Next up in the October Fear Fest and the Horror binge-a-thon is a film based on the story written by one of my all-time favorite authors, EYG Hall of Famer Edgar Allan Poe.

House of Usher is based on the story “The Fall of the House of Usher,” one of Poe’s classic tales of Gothic horror and macabre.

After a long trip from Boston, Phillip (Mark Damon) arrives at the House of Usher to see his fiance Madeline (Myrna Fahey) but he is met at the door by the loyal servant of the Usher family, Bristol (Harry Ellerbe).  The servant attempts to sway Phillip into leaving, but he would have none of it, demanding to see Madeline and her brother Roderick (Vincent Price).  Phillip intends to take Madeline with him back to Boston.  Roderick insists that Madeline is sick and that the evil of the lineage of the House of Usher would not, could not continue. In fact, all of the Usher family has gone crazy and died horrible deaths and there is nothing that could be done about it.

How much the two remaining Usher family members were doomed to a curse compared to making this a self-fulfilling prophecy is a fascinating study here.  You feel for the plight of poor Madeline and you believe that Roderick truly believed the insanity was unavoidable.

Vincent Price is the horror-filled goodness here as this marked the first time he and director Roger Cormen teamed up for an Edgar Allan Poe tale.  They were really able to distinguish the tone of the story and made the terrors real.  I was rooting for Madeline and Phillip, even though I knew that Poe’s works never come to a happy end.

I love Edgar Allan Poe and his work very much.  I had not read “The Fall of the House of Usher” before this, but the film is supposedly one of the more faithful adaptations of his work.

For the time (1960) and the low reported budget, House of Usher looks great.  The look of the film adds to the overall creepy feel of the film.  The House itself brings a great deal of character to the film as well.

House of Usher works so well that you are disturbed and unhinged by what happens to the characters, despite the expectations that things would not go well.

vintage

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Scream 2 (1997)

More meta for the sequel which, as Randy says, is never as good as the original.

Scream 2 is very solid however, as the story takes a bit of a divergence while keeping the familiar beats that made the first Scream such a fun return to slasher movies.

Sydney (Neve Campbell) has moved on with her life after the events the year prior.  She has gone to college and she has a new boyfriend (Jerry O’Connell).  However, with the release of the movie based on Gail Weathers’ (Courteneny Cox) novel about the murders, the craziness starts up again with an apparent copycat killer once again stalking Sydney and her friends.

Scream 2 had a lot of fun playing with the suspects list, actually verbalizing every possible suspect from Deputy Dewey (David Arquette) to Randy (Jami Kennedy).

The sequel was also not afraid to push boundaries a great deal as they wind up killing off Randy inside the news van in a graphic and bloody manner.  This showed that anyone was in danger and there were major stakes to be had.  I mean, if the rules guy himself could bit it, then any of our favorite survivors could be next.

Wes Craven returned only one year after Scream opened to create this effective sequel.  It makes one believe that he must have had the idea already in place for them to crank this out as quickly as they did.

There was a welcome addition to the cast here with Liev Schreiber as Cotton Weary, the man who Sydney had incorrectly accused of her mother’s murder originally.  Cotton spent a year in jail only to be exonerated by Gail’s book.  Cotton, however, was looking to cash in on his fifteen minutes of fame and he wanted Sydney to help him do that.  She was not exactly jumping for joy over the chance.  Schreiber brought a different vibe to the film with Cotton and play an important piece in the overall narrative.

So as I continue the October Fear Fest and the Horror Binge-a-thon today, Scream 2 is an excellent sequel that captures what everyone liked about the first one with some well deserved twists and unexpected plot points to keep even the biggest horror fans guessing.

classic

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)

What’s better to fit into the horror genre than a musical?

Wait…I didn’t mean it like that.

The next film in the October Fear Fest and the horror binge-a-thon is the stage play Sweeney Todd, which was adapted for the big screen starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter as two of the worst protagonists to ever grace the cinema world.

After being banished by an evil judge, Benjamin Barker returns to London under the name Sweeney Todd (Johnny Depp) to reunite with his lost love and daughter.  When the truth of the situation confronts him, he quickly changes his plan from reunion to revenge.  Meeting up with Ms. Lovett (Helena Bonham Carter), the pair concoct a plan for Todd to get his revenge on the people of London, to murder the evil Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) and to hide their bloody rampage inside Ms. Lovett’s meat pies.

Directed by the stylish Tim Burton with songs from Stephen Sondheim, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a blood-soaked good time.

The most interesting thought experiment is trying to decide exactly which of these characters are the worst.  Sweeney Todd has the tragic background and you are meant to identify with him as the hero, but he is anything but.  His descent into madness had happened well before he had returned to London and he has basically become a serial killer.  Judge Turpin was a horrendous man who abused the power of his position for his own whims, taking Lucy (Laura Michelle Kelly) from Benjamin and raping her.  He also took the Barkers’ daughter as his own ward.  If that is not enough, we get a scene of him sentencing a young boy to hang from the neck for the crime of stealing.  Ms. Lovett manipulated Sweeney Todd into what she wanted to aid in her own success with her meat pies.  She did not blink at all when the dead bodies started falling into her bake shop.

Ms. Lovett did show some feelings for Toby (Ed Sanders), the boy who was working for the Italian barber Pirelli (Sacha Baron Cohen).  However, once Toby started asking questions, she locked him in the cellar and brought Sweeney Todd down to, supposedly, get rid of him.

These rotten people all have extremely satisfying endings as Burton spared no scene of horror.  Ms. Lovett, in particular, gets a gruesome finale.

The music is wonderful.  I love the songs and the performances, even by the so-so singers, are perfect.  The song, “Little Priest” is one of my favorite songs of the whole piece.

Sweeney Todd is dark and comedic.  It is brutal and violent.  It blends all of this together seamlessly and creates a visually and thoroughly engaging film.  Depp and Carter are wonderful as the criminal duo and Alan Rickman is as fantastic as always with his dirtbag judge.

vintage

The Mothman of Point Pleasant (2017)

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The next film for the October Fear Fest during the horror binge-a-thon is the documentary by Seth Breedlove and Lyle Blackburn of the Small Town Monsters crew that deals with the story of the Mothman.

Back in the 1960s, there were multiple sightings of a strange, birdman like creature in the town and surrounding areas of Point Pleasant, West Virginia.  There were sightings on a regular basis for 13 months, which included plenty of unidentified flying objects and strange lights in the sky as well.  The legend of the sightings included some who claimed the Mothman as a prophet of doom, even going as far as saying that it was seen perched on the Silver Bridge, which collapsed soon after in 1967.

The documentary was well done, specifically in the way of creating a mood in the viewer.  The music, the stylish manner, the coincidences really do a fine job of setting the feeling for the viewer.  Many of the re-enactments of certain major events were well done and helped to make the film creepy.  However, there is not a really deep investigation into the mystery though.  It basically gives the information of the eye-witnesses and tells the story.  There is little to no counter points shown to balance the story.  It takes the assumption that this was something weird and goes from there.

It was an interesting documentary to watch, but it did not truly provide much real substantiated material from anyone other than a town that holds Mothman festivals.

tweener

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Scream (1996)

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The month of October Fear Fest continues here at EYG with our look at horror classics in the “Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed” section.  We started last week with Invasion of the Body Snatchers and this week, we start today and tomorrow’s horror binge-a-thon with Wes Craven’s beloved horror movie satire, Scream.

While it is a satire of horror movies, Scream also is a great example of how successful a slasher film can be.  Not only does the film subvert the genre, taking the “rules” and playing with them in many unexpected ways, but it also resets the rules for future films.

Starring Courteney Cox, who was in the middle of her huge success with Friends, Cox’s soon to be husband David Arquette, Neve Campbell who is everyone’s favorite non-victim, and Billy Loomis himself, Skeet Ulrich.

The use of dialogue involving other scary movies into Scream is a stroke of genius and really created a meta film that was also not-mega at all.  The back story with Sidney’s mother works wonderfully, even without anything first hand for us to see.  Connecting Courteney Cox’s reporter character to Sidney’s mom’s story was great.

Gail and Dep. Dewey were a fun couple too, mirroring the real life pairing between actors.

The use of a star with the stature of Drew Barrymore as the first victim of Ghostface was surprising for certain.  I remember being shocked when she died when I first saw this film years ago.  You just do not do such a thing.  I mean, there is Drew’s face front and center on the movie poster and, yet, she is the, well…technically, second victim to die (Ah, poor Steve…we hardly knew ye!).

Ghostface was anything but a perfect killing machine as he flailed and was battered through the movie as well. Having there be two Ghostfaces in the end is a twist that really kept people guessing.  It was a great film that set off a very successful slasher franchise, which is kind of ironic.

classic

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Bad Times at the El Royale

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Drew Goddard co-wrote and directed the movie Cabin in the Woods, which was one of my favorite movies of that year.  When I heard that he was writing and directing the new film, Bad Times at the El Royale, I was excited and was looking forward to it.

I was not disappointed.

I was completely engaged with the story being told in Bad Times at the El Royale as well as the manner in which it was told.

Now the story was fairly complex as it involved a group of unlikely characters arriving at the hotel named El Royale, which was found directly on the border between California and Nevada, with motives of their own and a ton of secrets.

The acting is unbelievable in this movie.  Jeff Bridges is given the deepest, most interesting character on the page and he brings it big time.  Jon Hamm is great as Laramie Seymour Sullivan who is not quite what you expect.  Chris Hemsworth is fantastic in a menacing role that is different than anything else he has ever done.  Lewis Pullman shows all kinds of soul to the seemingly only staff member at the hotel.  Dakota Johnson whose character is deeper than it appears.

However, there is no doubt who steals this movie.  Cynthia Erivo has a star making performance as Darlene Sweet, a singer who has come to the El Royale the night before she is scheduled to perform at a club in Reno.  Erivo is a well respected stage actor and she has a Daytime Emmy Award, but this is one of the biggest performances on the big screen you are going to get.  Her vocal performance alone is mesmerizing.  The connections she makes with Jeff Bridges are some of the best moments in the script.

The film has a feel of a Tarantino movie, in both structure and development.  I felt as if I were watching Pulp Fiction.  That is a high complement.

Another thing that made me think about Pulp Fiction was how every question brought up by the film is not answered.  I understand that will probably upset some people (like those people who felt as if LOST needed to answer more than it did) but I like that.  There is one plot specifically involving a film recording that might make some people crazy.

The only issue I had with the film was it did drag a little early as things were being set up and it could have been a little long.  However, the third act was as good of a third act as you are going to get and it was completely original.

I was thoroughly entertained watching Bad Times at the El Royale and I think it is one of the best films of the year.  It was full of great acting, great storytelling and some of the best looking shots you are going to find.  The mystery of the story is compelling and engaging.  Jeff Bridges and Cynthia Erivo do some of their best work, which is saying something.  Chris Hemsworth makes one of the best villains of the year.

Bad Times is full of Great Times.

4.85 stars

Goosebumps 2: Haunted Halloween

The brand new Comedy Central made-for-TV Halloween movie, Goose… What?  What do you mean this is not a made-for-TV movie?  Wide release in theaters?  You’re kidding me!

The quickly released sequel (sort of) to the fairly entertaining Jack Black film Goosebumps is nowhere near as good as that 2015 film.

A new group of characters come across one of R.L. Stein’s (Jack Black) unwritten books and accidentally release the evil ventriloquist dummy, Slappy (voiced by Jack Black as well) who is looking for a family.  When that doesn’t work for him, he decides to make his own family by causing havoc with his own monsters.

Jeremy Ray Taylor from last year’s huge hit It plays Sonny and Caleel Harris plays Sam.  These two kids are running their own junk salvage business and wind up going through one of R.L. Stein’s old houses.

I really did not like this movie much.  I have heard a lot of online critics say that they did not hate the movie, but did not like it much.  They all had what felt like excuses.  I’m not making any.  I disliked this a lot.

To say this felt like a TV movie would be an understatement.  The production, the script, the acting all felt like it fit better on the small screen than the big one.  The CGI looked cheap.  The story beats were boring and unoriginal.  None of the kids were bad actors, but none of them stood out at all either.  The humor did not work.  I found it a really poor theater experience.

I did actually like what was done with the character of R.L. Stein.  No spoilers, but I liked how that played out.

I think that a young child, around 10 or so, might find this to be somewhat entertaining, but, as an adult, it was work.

1.9 stars

First Man

Damien Chazelle is now three for three.

Director Chazelle’s first film was Whiplash, which was tremendous.  His second film was La La Land, which was critically acclaimed (while I found it okay) and brought him an Oscar.  Now, Chazelle has his trifecta with the story of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.

First Man tells the intensely personal story of Neil Armstrong and his losses and sacrifices during his life that led him to being the first man to step foot on the powdery surface of the moon.  The film goes from 1961 to 1969 and focuses on the man more than it does the moment.

And the film really started with a gut punch that I did not know was coming.  Of course, I knew who Neil Armstrong was, but I will admit to not knowing that much about him.  This biopic dove into details that place the American hero into a brand new perspective.  Armstrong’s family suffered a tragedy at the beginning of the film that, apparently, taints everything that happens after it.

Ryan Gosling played Neil Armstrong and, to be honest, I found the character to be quite a jerk.  He was withdrawn and isolated, even from those who loved him the most.  However, we also see how brilliant of an astronaut he was as the film showed us several instances where his skills were the only reason he and the other crew members he was with got out of those situations alive.

Claire Foy is brilliant as Armstrong’s wife, Janet.  She brought the humanity to the film and demanded that her husband be more than just the walking zombie that he appeared to be.  Foy’s performance was powerful and fit perfectly into the narrative.

One of the things I noticed was that Chazelle gave us some great shots throughout the film.  I would stop and marvel at several of these visual imagery on the screen and I was really impressed with the eye of the director.  There was one moment where Gosling’s eyes kind of melded into the darkness of space, but still stood out in the shot and it was amazing.

My only criticism is a personal one as well.  Some of the scenes in the shuttles were difficult to watch because of the drastic spinning.  I am sure this was a choice made that was intended to make the audience uncomfortable to increase the tension but I did not like them.  There were several moments where I had to turn away to maintain my own balance.  I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone who really had trouble with motion.  At times, it reminded me about how I felt while watching Dunkirk, which attacked me physically and made the viewing unlikable for me.  This was not at that level, but there were definitely moments that caused distress.

There were times where First man felt a little slow, but that is not a bad thing.  It is a character study on Neil Armstrong and the events of his life that led him to become a myth.  We see in First Man that the myth has some reality hidden in it.

4.6 stars

EYG Top 10 Space Movies

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In honor of First Man, the story of Neil Armstrong that opens this week, this week’s Top 10 list is the Top 10 Space Movies.  Now, the key to this list is that there will be no fantastical aspects to the list. That means that there will be no Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Guardians of the Galaxy etc.

There was a guest on this week’s podcast as Steve Morris, Rocha’s co-host on the Cinefiles, came to add his list.  He was very entertaining and made a nice addition to the guys.  Special guests on Top 10 never seem to fail.

Image result for interstellar#10.  Interstellar.  I almost made this the James Bond Moonraker, but I decided it was just too bad to make the list.  I am really not a big fan of Interstellar, because I believe that the final hour or so of this movie really takes this film off the track.  I did enjoy the first part of the film, but, once they arrived on Matt Damon’s planet, things really go downhill for me.  However, it is a stunning visual accomplishment and has wonderful music.  That alone should justify its inclusion on here.

 

Image result for armageddon movie#9.  Armageddon.  A really stupid movie that I kind of like.  I was always a fan of Bruce Willis and he is in all of his Bruce Willis-goodness here.  There is a great cast here and, if you do not think too much, you can have a lot of fun with Armageddon.

 

 

Image result for space camp movie#8.  Space Camp.  A group of kids go to space camp and winds up accidentally launching them into space.  There is a group of well known actors here including Lea Thompson, Tom Skerritt, Kelly Preston, and Kate Capshaw.  John Williams does the music for the film.  There is also a robot here called Jinx who befriended Max, played by a young Joaquin Phoenix.

 

Image result for hidden figures#7.  Hidden Figures.  Rocha mentioned this film but poo-pooed this by saying they never go into space.  However, the idea behind the film directly involves NASA and being able to launch John Glenn into orbit.  I found this very surprisingly good and I did not expect that.  There is a great cast here too with Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe.  Plus, this is a true story and a story that needs to be more well-known.  The story of African-American women coming into the world of NASA and race relations is really important.

 

Image result for planet of the apes 1968#6.  Planet of the Apes.  The original from 1968.  Thanks to Steve Morris who put this film on his list and that made it possible for me to include it on my list.  I love this movie and it has so many iconic moments that it is a classic.  It is in the EYG Hall of Fame and it deserves it.  The film tells the story of how humans wind up destroying the world and losing their place at the top of the chain.  And the ending scene is as shocking and brilliant as any movie ever.

 

Image result for gravity movie#5.  Gravity.  The Oscar winning film starring Sandra Bullock as a medical engineer astronaut who winds up isolated in space desperately trying to find her way back home.  Bullock is tremendous here as is George Clooney, who plays one of the other astronauts who winds up lost in space prior to his retirement.  The imagery of the film is amazing and the film is tense and anxiety-ridden.

 

Image result for 2001 space odyssey#4. 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The Stanley Kubrick film that is an epic mind f###.  I saw this recently on the big screen and it was quite a bizarre experience.  The computer Hal is one of the great movie villains of all time, but it really felt like you needed to be stoned in order to truly understand what is happening in the screen.  It is another film on this list that is visually stunning, with colors and images flying everywhere.  It also has one of the strangest and most bizarre endings of any movie.

 

Image result for moon movie#3. Moon.  Sam Rockwell is wonderful in this great film that features him on the surface of the moon, working for an earth corporation that is trying to find a solution to the problems on earth.  Rockwell is preparing to retire and return to his wife on the planet.  However, he begins to have problems and some truths are revealed.  This is a great sci-fi movie and a great performance by Sam Rockwell.

 

Image result for the martian movie#2.  The Martian.  Matt Damon is stranded on Mars, believed to be dead,  and, when they realized their error,  they have to try and rescue him.  He spends several years on the planet, growing potatoes and trying to survive until he could be saved.  The Martian was a Golden Globe winning film in the wrong category of Comedy/Musical (It did have its moments of humor).  That should not be held against it  Damon was tremendous here and the film was a real return to form for director Ridley Scott.

 

Image result for apollo 13 movie#1.  Apollo 13.  Houston, we have a problem.  This is a true story and tells the story of how NASA took the biggest failure of the space program at the time and turned it into its biggest success.  Starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Xander Berkeley, Apollo 13 is tense and nerve-inducing.  It is full of both humor and humanity.  It is exciting and thrilling.  It promotes intelligence and shows how the brains at NASA was able to do the impossible.  The chemistry of the three on the shuttle is great.  Directed by Ron Howard, Apollo 13 is a easily rewatchable film that is always enjoyable.

 

Honorable mentions:  As I mentioned, I considered Moonraker, but I came to my senses.   Contact was on my side list because I have not seen this in a long time.  Space Cowboys is another ridiculous one.  I actually have not seen The Right Stuff so I could not include it.  Mission to Mars is not that great either.

 

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A Star is Born (2018)

This is the fourth feature adaptation of the story of A Star is Born and there is a reason why they continue to remake this film.  The movie is a classic.

Actor Bradley Cooper makes his feature film directorial debut with the remake, and he does an admirable job as director.  It cannot be easy to choose something so well known as your first directorial job, and then to be the lead actor as well can only make that even more difficult.  Cooper does a remarkable job considering all of the challenges he could have faced.

However, it was not just as a director that Cooper shined.  Playing the lead role of Jackson Maine, Cooper knocked it out of the park, practically making himself one of the leading candidates for an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

The story is familiar and this version does not detour from it in any real substantial manner.  Cooper plays Jackson Maine, a rock singer and kick ass guitarist who is on the edge of a downward path of his career.  He meets Ally (Lady Gaga), a young and shy singer.songwriter with a powerful voice, and he help introduce her to the world of super stardom.  The two of them fall in love, but the celebrity of Maine brings with it pitfalls galore that he has to try to overcome and that make their love story harrowing.

Cooper is tremendous, but so is Lady Gaga.  She is exceptional in the role of Ally.  She brings so much soul and heart to the role that a lot of seasoned actresses would be unable to accomplish what she did.  I have heard some criticisms that Cooper “tailor-made” the role for Lady Gaga and focused on her strengths and that seems to be a reason some people are downgrading her performance.  That is an obnoxious comment, as if actors and actresses aren’t having their strengths targeted by directors in every movie.  The attempt to belittle the achievement of Lady Gaga is unnecessary and borders on misogynistic.

The music in A Star is Born is unbelievable, and not just the Lady Gaga songs.  Sure, Lady Gaga is one of the best vocal performers in the entertainment biz today, but who knew that Bradley Cooper was as awesome as he turned out to be.  The first song performed by Cooper, “Black Eyes,” was a rocking smash.  There are so many emotional hits and rocking good times on the soundtrack that it is one that I am going to be looking into on iTunes.

Some of the side characters had amazing performances as well.  In particular, Sam Elliott, who plays Jack’s older brother, is just out of the world.  Sure, Sam Elliott is always great, but this is next level work.  Every second he is on the screen, Elliott is breathtaking.  Andrew Dice Clay plays Ally’s father and he is amazing here as well.  I did not expect to see Clay be such a transcendent figure in the film, despite his smart part.  David Chappelle makes a small, but memorable role as one of Jack’s old friends.  I do have to say that Chappelle’s part just kind of came out of nowhere, but that is a minor gripe as he was great when he was on screen.

The story itself is an emotional one, and will definitely require tissues before it is over.  There are amazing moments of joy and other moments of heartbreak as well, as Jack deals with his addictions and Ally deals with her new found fame.

The one problem is that the story is a bit predictable.  It follows a formulaic pattern and it does not deviate from those beats much at all.  Since it is the fourth version of basically the same story, I can see where some people might not be surprised with the events that happen in the film.

There are also some pacing issues and, because of this, the film does feel a little long.  However, the amazing chemistry between Cooper and Lady Gaga helps to push those issues to the side.

A Star is Born has been remade four times, once in 1937, 1954, 1976 and now in 2018.  This new version works on a ton of levels and should be one of the big Oscar nominated films for this year.  The film is carried by two powerhouse performances by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, whose seamless chemistry makes even the doubters change their tune.  It is a great movie and a remarkably entertaining time at the movies.

4.5 stars

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

As we are now in October, I have started a watch of some of the horror/thriller genre films that either I haven’t yet seen or ones that I haven’t seen in a long time.  The remake of Invasion of Body Snatchers falls into that second category.

I remember watching the film as a youth, but I honestly did not remember much about it so this rewatch today was very much like watching it for the first time.

Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, Jeff Goldblum and Veronica Cartwright were the main actors in the cast.  They all were very solid in the well acted remake.  Sutherland, in particular, was great as Matthew Bannell, a health inspector, discovers that people are being replaced with emotion-less pod creatures after they sleep.  Bannell, along with a small group of his friends, try to find a way to stop the creatures before it is too late.

The film creates an effective feeling of paranoia as the story progresses.  You immediately distrust everyone and some of the imagery of the film was fairly frightening, especially for the time.

I did have a couple of issues.  I did not understand the relationship between Bannell and Brooke Adams’ character, Elizabeth.  Through much of the film, I wondered if they had been related, until later when they were kissing and proclaiming their love for one another.  I’m not sure if they were intended to be exes, just friends or acquaintances.

The invasion also seemed to arrive without much reasoning.  I think that is part of the idea though, indicating that something like this can come from nowhere and you might never see it coming.

The sound of the movie really works well, helping to create that feeling of anxiety and helplessness that the film fosters.  The cries of the pod creatures was also very unnerving.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a strong remake and works in many manners.

classic

 

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Image result for the fantastic mr fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a lovely to look at, fun to watch and enjoyable time at an animated movie. Based on a story from Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox blends the best of Dahl with the traits of Wes Anderson in a wonderful mishmash of styles.

George Clooney voices the lead character, Mr. Fox, who is a proud “wild animal” that gives up his life of chicken stealing when he discovers that his wife,  Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) is pregnant with his first child.  After years of a dull, domesticated life, Mr. Fox feels the pull of his life of crime once more when he discovers three big time farmers just begging to be pilfered.

Many of Anderson’s normal crew is involved in voicing characters in this animated classic, including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe and Eric Chase Anderson.

The animation style is great in the stop action animation style.  The herky-jerky style showed an even more artistic flair from the director, who insisted on the film not being too finished in the animation.

There is a lot going on in this story besides the apparent midlife crisis of Mr. Fox.  The film deals with the relationships between parents and children as well as the jealousy that can develop between family members.  Mr. Fox’s son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) was not an athlete like his father no matter what he did, but his cousin Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) was a natural and created a ton of tension inside Ash.

Some of the bits in Fantastic Mr. Fox are extremely funny and entertaining.  They show the wit of Wes Anderson very well without completely losing the darkness of Roald Dahl.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a fine film that the entire family can enjoy.  The movie is not just for kids despite the fact that they will probably enjoy watching it.

funtime

Image result for the fantastic mr fox

Batman v. Superman Two-Voice Poem

bvs

Batman v. Superman Two-Voice Poem

Batman                                                        Both                                         Superman

________________________________________________________________________________________________

Versus

I am the night                                                                                      I am the son of Krypton

He is a dangerous alien

His carelessness cost lives

friends…

I am a hero                   He is a crazed vigilante

Burning bats into shoulders

I should do something…

Protect my city

Gotham                                                                                                  Metropolis

From him

I…                                                                                                              I…

Must fight

To kill the alien                                                                                       Manipulated by Luthor

Face off

Special suit-Kryptonite                                                                         No time for talk

Fight

God will die by man’s hand                                                                   Martha

Why’d you say that name?                            Mom?                             Martha

WHY’D YOU SAY THAT NAME!                                                              Lois

Friends now

I will save your mother                                                                            I will face Lex

Trust me

Brutality.  Violence                                                                                     Kryptonian vessel

Doomsday

What can I do?                                                                                             He’s powerful

Is she with you?

Wonder                                                                                                           Woman

The Trinity

Death

He’s gone

An inspiration

My fault

Together from now on.