Category Archives: Epic

Best of 2017: Outsiders 11-15

Let’s continue to look at those just outside of my top ten of 2017. You can also read my #16-20. I’ve seen most of these on other people’s top ten lists and I think that they could all be up there if I was in a different mood. You’ll notice that on most of these mini reviews, I’m not focusing on technical merit or acting unless it was hands down better than anything else I’ve seen this year. Instead, I’m choosing my top films by selecting the ones that resonated the most with me. I hope that you will read my thoughts on these five and give me your thoughts. Link me to your top 10s, Tell me why I’m wrong or what I got right. Continue reading Best of 2017: Outsiders 11-15

2000 Best Movie Bracket

We’re beginning to get into years that I haven’t seen as many movies. I was a minor in 2000 so I couldn’t go see R rated movies without my parents and I lived in a pretty conservative home. However, I’ve seen many films since that time and tried to fill in the gaps. This list has always been a subjective one, but I like to be fair in my judgments so I will try to take the advice of other critics and moviegoers into consideration as we move forward in this process.

I’m also going to try and move quickly through these, because I think the real fun is going to be when we have the head -to-head match-ups of the bracket. With that in mind, I’m just going to list my top 3 and then any honorable mentions will be in the read more section. Here we go.

#1 – Requiem for a Dream

I’m glad this is the Best Movie Bracket and not the most re-watchable or most entertaining movie bracket. Requiem for a Dream will stay with you and make you feel like you might never be happy again. It is like a film Dementor. We follow four people involved with drugs as their lives spin more and more out of control; the devoted mother (Ellen Burstyn), her junkie son (Jared Leto),his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly), and their friend (Damon Wayans). Everything is spinning out of control, because when it comes to drugs, once you are hooked, you are hooked.

Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, The Fountain, and Pi) brings the camera so close to the characters that you can almost feel their sweat dripping on you. As they stumble confused through their addictions and the consequences of them, Aronofsky makes us feel every emotion until we feel like throwing up in unison with these poor souls. The last half hour of the movie is a crescendo of these stories and it is the most effective part. He cuts between all four stories as they go deep down the rabbit hole each in their own way. Ellen Burstyn was deservedly nominated for an Oscar for her performance as Sara, the lonely mother who puts up with everything just to get a visit from her son.

#2 – Almost Famous

Set in 1973, it chronicles the funny and often poignant coming of age of 15-year-old William, an unabashed music fan who is inspired by the seminal bands of the time. When his love of music lands him an assignment from Rolling Stone magazine to interview the up-and-coming band Stillwater — fronted by lead guitar Russell Hammond and lead singer Jeff Bebe William embarks on an eye-opening journey with the band’s tour, despite the objections of his protective mother.

Cameron Crowe (Writer of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Director of Say Anything and Jerry McGuire) directs this nostalgic story as if it was his own childhood. I am personally not a big fan of 70s music, but it is used very well in this film, most of my favorite scenes are made all the more memorable by the music, which includes Simon & Garfunkel, Elton John, Joni Mitchell, Black Sabbath, and The Beach Boys. Most of the actors and actresses in this film give the performance of their lives, Frances McDormand being especially comical as William’s mother, and many of the best moments are all hers. William himself has an endearing quality about him to the audience, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen Patrick Fugit in any other films since this one.

#3 – Gladiator

Ridley Scott (Alien and Blade Runner) created this shields and sandals epic. It is considered by many to be the best movie of 2000. It was nominated for 12 Oscars and won Best Picture, Actor, Costume, Sound, and Effects. The acting in the movie more than lives up to expectations.

Russell Crowe is brilliant in his role as Maximus, the “general who became a slave, who became a gladiator, who defied an emperor.” Crowe’s intense style is perfect his character’s relentless determination and confidence. Joaquin Phoenix is equally wonderful in his role as the corrupt emperor. He plays a great villain because he is able to give Commodus depth by showing certain vulnerable or fragile sides, while at the same time instantly transforming to let the ruthless nature of his volatile character shine.

Honorable mentions: Continue reading 2000 Best Movie Bracket

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Review

With Independence Day: Resurgence, Roland Emmerich is giving Michael Bay a run for his money and solidifying his status as the Director you call if you are looking for global catastrophe.

I try to watch a movie for what it is. This is not an artful indie flick with snappy dialogue. This 20 year old cluttered sequel to the 1996 smash Independence Day is a summer popcorn movie. That usually means destruction in between bursts of vapid or humorous dialogue, Resurgence delivers according to those expectations. But for some reason, Emmerich feels the need to continually remind us that this is an Independence Day sequel instead of just making an Independence Day sequel. It seems like we can’t go more than 5 minutes without some visual or auditory clue that we are watching the child of his most accomplished work.

Continue reading Independence Day: Resurgence (2016) Review

If You Liked… Independence Day

As we prepare for the sequel that has been 20 years in the making, lets take a look back at this alien invasion film. Independence Day is a 1996 American epic science-fiction disaster film co-written and directed by Roland Emmerich. The film stars Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Judd Hirsch, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, Vivica A. Fox, and Harry Connick, Jr. The film focuses on a diverse and interesting group of people who converge in the Nevada desert in the aftermath of a destructive alien attack and, along with the rest of the human population, participate in a last-chance counterattack on July 4th.

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Has anyone not seen Independence Day? Seriously? I want to meet you if you’ve never seen it. I would be highly surprised if you could find anyone between the ages of 30 and 50 in the United States who hasn’t seen Independence Day.

That doesn’t mean everyone loves it. In fact, according to icheckmovies.com, only 2.6% of those that have seen the the movie listed it as one of their favorites, and 1.1% disliked it. This is one of those guilty pleasure movies for me. I saw this film in the theater on opening weekend during the summer between 7th and 8th grade. If you can find a more formative time in a kid’s life I don’t know what it is. It was then that I decided I really liked Jeff Goldblum’s stilted speech and acting style and found out that the Fresh Prince could do more than dance.

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If you are like me and like Independence Day you might be looking for some other movies to watch while you wait for Independence Day: Resurgence to be released next weekend. I told my oldest son (12) that he could only see the sequel if he watched the original with me, so he obliged his old man and we sat down and watched this movie a few nights ago. Time has not been great to the effects on this film. Director Roland Emmerich loves to destroy New York City and threaten the annihilation of all mankind (Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla, 2012), it will be nice to see what he can do with the technology that 20 years has given him. In keeping with the guilty pleasure nature of Independence Day, all of my selections will also be selections that I might not often openly admit to loving.

Continue reading If You Liked… Independence Day

The Internet Has Already Named The Passion of the Christ Sequel

Yesterday it was reported that Randall Wallace, the writer who worked with Mel Gibson on 2004’s The Passion of the Christ, is currently at work on a script for the sequel. The writer, who recently wrote and directed the 2014 faith-based film Heaven Is For Real, told The Hollywood Reporter that he and Gibson are working on a sequel and that the project has become too difficult to keep under wraps.

 Despite the fact that Sony just put out Risen, a film that tells the story of the resurrection, Wallace says that there’s an underserved community of moviegoers that is clamoring for more undead Jesus of Nazareth. “The evangelical community considers The Passion the biggest movie ever out of Hollywood,” he explained. “And they kept telling us that they think a sequel will be even bigger.”

While the project is yet to find funding — as Wallace explains, “It’s too early to talk money. This is such a huge and sacred subject.” — We know that coming up with the perfect name for your movie can be difficult. So, the Internet has already taken up the mantle of naming the new film. Here are a few titles being thrown around the internet:

  • Christ Harder
  • Passion of the Christ 2: Electric Bugaloo
  • Muhammad v. Jesus: Dawn of Justice
  • 22 Jesus Street
  • Passion 2: Double Cross

Whatever title they pick, it is going to be the best Zombie movie to ever grace the screen. Do you think that it could help to provide some legitimacy to Mel Gibson and help to bring him back into the Hollywood community?

Source:

Spotlight (2015)

With about 4 weeks until the Academy Awards, I’m still watching these highly lauded films to be as knowledgeable as I can. I still have a bit of a list to watch, but I have made some good progress and I think I will make it. I just wish the Academy would make it a little easier on me by sending me screeners of all the movies. But one of the most recent that I was able to catch was Spotlight. It tells the story of how the Boston Globe shined their Spotlight, also the name of their long-running investigative unit, onto the cover up of abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. You can read a great article on the Boston Globe’s website about how the real story unfolded and how it was transformed into a movie.

In a nutshell, the Spotlight team was lead by its editor Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), who was born in raised in Boston. His team of reporters: Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo), Sasha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Matty Carroll (Brian d’Arcy James) who were all known for their reporting skills followed the leads and uncovered the ugly truth. The investigation took five months, and countless hours, but the finished product was a story that would change so much.

Over time, there have been many jobs that have been held in high esteem. I’m thinking of pilots, astronauts, police officers, and firefighters. While some of those jobs have lost their luster in the public eye, we have not seen a fall from grace quite so drastic as that of the Priest. Going back to the middle ages, the Priests were among the most highly educated people in a given city or town, and as a Christian, it disgusts me to even think about the scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church.

spotlight2A few isolated incidents of priests (or pastors) falling into sin is unavoidable. However, the story that Spotlight tells goes deeper to reveal the ugly truth that the Catholic Church as an institution collaborated to cover-up these incidents, protect the offenders from justice, and create an environment where further atrocities could take place. This pains me as a believer knowing that we are all fallen and corrupt people in need of grace, but I can only imagine the collective effect that these scandals have had on the church (Catholic and Protestant alike) as non-believers and marginal attenders have left in droves in the past decade. An article at Salon.com reveals that, “Catholic defection is the single greatest factor driving the much-heralded rise of the nones, who now account for just under 23 percent of the population. Almost one-third (28 percent) of nones are former Catholics, the single largest share of any religion.” I hope Churches, organizations, and businesses will learn from this story and know that when something like this happens it affects a lot of people, and they must understand that some bad press is not as important as a person’s life and emotional well-being.

spotlight3Oddly enough, reporters have perhaps lost just as much respect as priests but for a completely different reason. I mean, how much more respect can you get than being the job that Superman choose to do as his alter ego. But I miss the day when news was actually news. Why does anyone care that Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose are having a feud over a couple of selfies and social media posts? Why was Tom Brady sentencing and appeal over “Deflategate” headline news while Greece’s economy was tanking and Turkey was stepping up to fight Daesh. This film reminded me that journalists used to investigate and break real stories. I hope that the pendulum swings back to the American people valuing the reporters that tell real stories that impact the community and not which celebrities just broke up.

spotlight4Channeling great films like All The President’s Men and Network, Spotlight, written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, honors the account of events with their writing but never loses sight of the story they are telling. The writing is outstanding. They don’t have any agenda in this film except telling the story. I was afraid that as this subject was handled in film we would see a vilifying of the Catholic Church. On the flip side, it was also good that they didn’t try to make heroes out of the Boston Globe. It felt like they tried to be completely unbiased while writing the story. It could have been very easy for this film turn into a Lifetime or ABC Family movie and be a manipulative mess, but instead it became a polished and well-wrought film.

spotlight5McCarthy, also the director, lets his actors and the shocking truth take center stage. Mark Ruffalo gives a fantastic performance as a highly driven investigative journalist and has really been knocking them out of the park lately. Michael Keaton also gives another awards season-worthy performance as the leader of the Spotlight team. Stanley Tucci was amazing, though I don’t think Tucci is capable of giving a bad performance. Also, Liev Schreiber gives one of the best performances of his career. His turn as Marty Baron was calm and understated, but he takes charge in every scene he’s in, which is saying something considering the caliber of the other actors and actresses with whom Schreiber shares the screen.

Spotlight is one of those movies that will stand the test of time and is deserving of the awards credit that it is receiving. I really enjoyed this film as it takes the time to deal with a heartbreaking story that needs to be told. Everything from the writing to the acting is amazing. I doubt that Spotlight will make it to the top of the Oscars heap, but it definitely deserves to be widely seen and given all of the praise that we can give.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

The familiar scrolling yellow text setting the scene as the grand John Williams score blares to alert all that things just got real. Yes, Star Wars is back, and I for one am very excited about where this series is going in the next 30 years. This is the first Star Wars movie we have seen in 10 years, and the first real one in 32 years. I’m sorry but the prequels were just not good. I’m not sure if it was Hayden Christensen’s awful acting, the invention of midichlorians to science away the force, or Jar Jar Binks’ zany comedy relief, but the three prequels need to be lost to the annals of time and maybe we can let J.J. Abrams have a shot at recreating them. With The Force Awakens, he manages to perfectly blend the old and the new and makes a powerful and dramatic next step in the epic saga.

swfa1The movie features a blend of new characters as well as actors reprising their roles from the original movies as we join them 30 years since the destruction of the Death Star and the fall of the Empire. We are treated to Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew as Han Solo and Chewbacca, Carrie Fisher as Princess turned General Leia Organa, and Mark Hamill even makes a brief albeit epic appearance as the nearly mythical Luke Skywalker. There are plenty of other visuals and references that caused the theaters to erupt with fanboys (and girls) gushing their praise. However, some have said that this film was too close to the originals and it should be called more of a reboot than a sequel. I disagree.

swfa3.pngI see the presence of the original characters as a way to pass the baton on to a new generation as we step into new adventures. John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, and Oscar Isaac as Poe bring a delightful on-screen chemistry reminiscent of the original trilogy but setting a course for a new direction. The new characters are at home in the Star Wars universe, nothing feels forced, and they welcomingly provide a lighthearted and fitting next generation of heroes. Both the old and new cast work beautifully together, and the result is a film jam-packed with classic banter, references to previous movies and suspenseful action.

While the aforementioned prequel trilogy received criticism for its excessive use of CGI among other things, The Force Awakens returned to its roots, using models and miniatures whenever possible. John Williams provides yet another great soundtrack, however upon my first watching I did not hear another song that would compare to Duel of the Fates. But there were beautiful call backs in tone and melody to the original series especially the Imperial March. Ultimately, the music did what it is designed to do enhance both the action-packed battle and chase sequences and touching personal scenes. Also, I don’t think there were any lulls in the movie, meaning that if you do go and see it in the theater, make sure you go to the bathroom first and don’t drink too much because there are no good opportunities to leave for 5 minutes.

 

swfa2I will not spoil anything here, though if you have waited as long as I did to watch the film you will need to watch out for sneaky spoilers already creeping their way into pop-culture. My recent favorite being Adam Driver reprising his role on Saturday Night Live as Kylo Ren becomes Undercover Boss.

The movie is very good and provides a great introduction to the next trilogy. There are several shocking reveals throughout, and the conclusion leaves many questions unanswered while pointing to more movies to come. However, would you expect anything else from the guy who brought us Lost. All in all, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a wonderful addition to this saga and I can’t wait for my kids to get hooked on this new series.

 

Day 08 – 30 Day Movie Challenge

A Movie You’ve Seen Countless Times

This one was a fairly easy choice. I don’t tend to re-watch many movies, only those that I really enjoy. But I remember seeing Braveheart in theaters three times when I was only 12. That means that begged my parents or friends parents to take me because I was too young to go by myself. This was the first DVD I ever bought. I watched it so many times in High School that I now have the movie memorized. I’m not sure of my heritage, I’ve never done the ancestral digging to find out where my origins truly lie, but because of this movie, I tell people I’m Scottish. And I am proud to be a Scotsman.

I completely understand that this movie is not an accurate depiction of the real story of Scotland’s fight for independence. Wallace was a towering figure, charismatic and powerful. But this is a movie, not a history book. I would wager that if this movie wasn’t made, with all its embellishments, then most of the Western world would have never known the name, William Wallace. I’m not exactly sure what made it my go to film as a young man (my favorite until just a few years ago). It probably had something to do with the gory violence, and the comedic writing probably helped as well. But what really got me, I think, was the fact that I was able to lose myself in the film and become William, joining him on his journey.

We first meet him as a boy, no older than 10. And we see the heart-crushing loss that he suffers and delight in the beauty of a love so pure as a child comforting another child. We see that love grow and mature as William returns to rebuild his home and family years later. Then there is the wedding that I dreamed of having when I was a teenager; hidden in the woods, completely private, joined as one, and consummated in the moonlight. It is absolutely beautiful and so it is completely gut-wrenching when we see her abused and murdered. From this point on we are on the side of the liquid blue eyed vigilante, even though he is a savage and a brutal killing machine, he is our protagonist. I bet if the queen of England watched this film, she would cheer for William. Why? Because he fights for freedom and for justice. These are two desires for which all people’s hearts beat.

Looking back, it has been a while since I sat down and critically watched this film. It does suffer a bit from it’s length as it tends to drag a bit in the 2nd and 4th acts. That would be the background story of Robert the Bruce (little known fact: the title Braveheart was historically attributed to him, not Wallace.), and the love affair with the princess, which is total historical rubbish (she would have been in France at the time and only about 13 years old) and completely unnecessary, and contrary, to the heart of the film. That being said, this is still a film which I plan on showing to my sons and daughter when they are on the brink of the teenage wasteland. I hope that it can teach them what it taught me. That a life that is lived without purpose is not lived at all.

What about you? What movie have you watched until the disc wore out? What special connection does that film hold for you? Please leave your choices in the comments below, or let me know on Twitter or Facebook. Also, if you pluck up the courage to blog through your 30 Day Movie Challenge, leave me a link. I’d love to follow along with you.