Ay To Zee: My Favorite Films By The Alphabet
In this sequel to the non-plural installment of the series, Ripley, believe it or not, is back. And this time, she arms herself with some big guns and with an even bigger attitude of instead of squaring off against just one alien, she's taking on a whole hive full of them.
And their momma too.
For me, Aliens has everything that I look forward to in a summer blockbusting sci-fi adventure-thriller. Suspenseful action (full of plenty of high-tech gun shoot-outs and military sized grenade explosions), a solid story (one which doesn't require the brain to be left at the door), distinct characters (with great chemistry), great visuals, the most kick-@ss aliens ever produced for motion pictures (xenomorphs, a hive-race of double-mouthed acid-blooded slick black visitors who take the role of their hosts quite literally), a turning plot-twist (we all thought for sure, that Bishop couldn't be trusted), and of course, a catch-phrase that made the entire theater that I saw this movie in to roar ("Get away from her, you b#tch!").
Mannnn.... I wish I had acid for blood.
As over-obvious as it may be to say this, Steven Spielberg has a filmography that is pretty vast in terms of success and subject matter. In a career in which not only did he set the bar of just what it meant to have a record-breaking film at the box office, he pretty defined of a summer blockbuster was. And yet, as successful as these movies were financially, very few of them didn't have to sacrifice success on a critical level either. Which is evident by the fact that many of 'em are considered classics. And out of such a extraordinary list of accomplishments, as far as I'm concerned, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the best out of that really big bunch.
In this one, the aliens have made contact.
And at first, that makes us humans afraid.
But when we finally come face to face with 'em, we realize that the fear we felt was based more on own insecurities than it was on these bug-eyed long-fingered lil' grey angels from space (though, you have to admit, the fact that they have a knack of kidnapping a few of our jet-fighters, not to mention a kid or two, and then instill mental images of their landing site in own minds, urging us to ruin a plateful of perfectly good mash potatoes, doesn't help much to quell our apprehension of the little buggers).
For me, there is no other way that I can describe this movie other than to say that it's just plain stupid, simple and funny.
Which is probably why it is not only my favorite comedy of 1994, but also my favorite movie ever that started with the letter "D".
First of all, movies don't scare me all that easily. A few did when I was a kid, but not anymore now as an adult. Therefore I rarely watch "scary" movies with the idea that I'm going to get frightened in any way. These days, I just judge 'em based more on the quality of entertainment that I get from the story, art direction, acting, blah blah blah....
boy, when I think of the time that this movie was first released & watching it as a kid, I know now why there hasn't been a movie since that has been able to scare me. This one got it all out of my system all in one shot (my mentality is probably still scarred from this flick in a manner that I, even as an adult, have yet to realize). From here on end, all other horror flix are just a step down for my traumatized pimp-ass.
Even before I saw the movie, I remember catching a preview of this on T.V., as it depicted the scene of when the girl was on the bed, cryin for help as it shook on it's "own" volition. That night, I was scared as hell to go upstairs to my f#ckin' bedroom.
That f#ckin' movie.......
If it weren't for Dr. Frankenstein's electrode-studded mumblin' monster, Frankenberries would be just be a breakfast product called Strawberry-Flavored Cereal That Will Make Your Kid Poop Pink-Colored Poopoo.
Actually, the main reason I include Franky on any of my favorite movies lists is because the top three of the early Universal monster flix (Franky, Dracula & The Wolfman) have always been a regular staple on the television sets of The Mighty Celestial household every Halloween night now for generations. Heck, probably even before television sets were invented.
For me, the night of All Hallow's Eve wouldn't be the same without the most famous of freaky flat-tops shambling about on the ol' boobtube.
Whenever I'm asked what my favorite film of all time is, my answer is always The Godfather.
Now, I'm not really gonna go much into why this such a great movie, or why it's my favorite film of all time, because, seriously, as one of those movies that is continualy listed on so many cinema lovers' list of favorites (whether they be fans or critics), I'm only going to end up repeating what has already been said about this film so many times before, and by people who are far better wordsmiths than I is.
What I will mention is that one of the times when I first realized just how much this film had ingrained itself into my very being as a result of countless times that I watched and rewatched it. It had to do with one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie, Vito Corleone's "...And that I do not forgive" speech which he gives during the meeting with the various top family leaders. Now, before this event occurred, I had always thought that people who memorized large chunks of dialogue from movies as a way of entertaining and impressing others, were just huge nerds. But then one time, I was on a first date with a girl who was really hot, and TBH, way outta my league. And at one point during the dinner, as we were discussing movies, I found myself actually reciting this entire speech, word for word, to this young lady, which now, with hindsight and all that, I see how it must've been a subconscious, not to mention, subtly desperate, act on my part to somehow impress her. The thing is, up until then, I didn't even realize that my mind had somehow managed to memorized the whole thing, from watching that scene so many times.
It's amazing the things one can find out about one's self when they're trying to get into a girl's pants.*
*(BTW, I was young when this occurred. Due to lack of experience, I didn't really know what it took to impress the ladiez back then....)
Growing up, it always frustrated me whenever the majority of big budget action flicks or martial arts movies of the time often seemed to sacrifice on story to make room for the expansive bangs and the expensive effects. It was generally said, that in these types of movies, you couldn't really have both, particularly, at a consistent high level. And I was one those kids who always asked "Why not?"
And then came the House Of Flying Daggers. And with it's beautiful story of love and intrigue, combined with lavish costumes, great performances and unique individually themed action sequences (which combined with the vivid colors, gave me the same effect as when reading a really kick-ass comic-book) it seemed to asked the very same question.
So far one of my favorite in the burgeoning genre known as wuxia.
This movie has one one of my favorite memories attached to it, of me and my best friend from high school sneaking in to see it. Now, I know that I shouldn't be typing anything that might encourage any younger cinema fans out there who might be reading this to refrain from paying to watch this flick, but back on 1981, as was typical for any 17 year old high schooler, funds for flix were limited. We only had enough money to go see the second Superman movie (which was ending it's almost one year run playing on the big screen). After it was over, my buddy went to call his big brother to pick us up. At the time, the payphone in the cineplex was located right next a theater at the very end of the buiding. When my friend noticed this, he pretended to be making the call and looked around to see if any of the employees working that evening were lookin' our way. Then he whipsered to me to sneak thru the two theater doors, to which he quickly followed in after me. We ended up watching a movie called Raiders of the Lost Ark, which neither of us knew anything about. But by the time it was over, we both knew that we had just watched one of the greatest films of out young movie-going lives. And altho, we didn't pay for it that night, we did dish cash the four other times we went back to rewatch it that summer.
These days no matter how much I try to assimilate with all the other adults my age, most of whom have had they're childhood spirits crushed along time ago, this first installment into the Indy franchise is a reminder to me of what it was like to watch a movie with starry eyes and childlike awe. This is a film with a lot of affection for me, that never fails to bring a smile to my now grown-up hairy pimp-ass.
This early blockbuster not only shaped the way I enjoy watching movies, but also, it also contributes to the foundation of why going to the theater and having the experience of being swept away by what is playing on the big silver screen has become one the greatest joys in my life.
The year that this film was released, I had a girlfriend who liked to go out with me, but only when she planned it and was in control of the date. On one week-end night, I was supposed to go see Joy Luck Club with her, but since it was at my suggestion, she, as always, phoned me to tell that she felt like maybe she was (conveniently) coming down with something. Now don't get me wrong, she wanted us to see this film, just not at my suggestion (I'll skip any psycho-analyzations as to why she was always like this).
Well I had finally had it, so I called her bluff, and told her that if there was a chance she'd get sick or somethin', we should just call the whole night off.
Before she could respond, I hung up the phone and then went to go see this movie by myself, more to piss her off than anything else.
By the time this stunningly moving, mother-daughter generation-crossing epic-fare was over, my hairy pimp-ass found it quite difficult to refrain from repeatingly dabbing at that "something in my eye" that seemed annoyingly persistent during the final two sob-strewn scenes. Because of my gf, there I was sitting alone in a theater, effeminately misty-eyed over a god@mn chick-flick.
Right there and then, I knew that my relationship with my then-girlfriend was over.
Cuz no one makes me cry my own tears.
Only two words can be used to describe this movie: Bad @ss.
Not only is this Quentin's homage to martial arts flix, but it also includes homage's to anime & those funky, grainy 70's Bruce Lee's wannabe's that made us laugh with their unsynchronized voice-overs, jagged camera movements and b-level musical sound effects. And yet, he was able to combine all this in a manner that was just plain...
Oh, and by the way,
out of sheer curiosity, I just performed the Five Point Palm Exploding Heart technique on myself, just to see if it works. Now, as I post this, I have just completed taking the 5 steps forward, and am now waiting to see if anything will actually happ
The lead actors for this movie portray their characters with a true down to earth awkwardness that is usually found with kids at this age, along with a longing that is both sincere and convincing.
As far as vampire love stories go, I find myself agreeing with those who compare this one with another human-falls-for-bloodfeeder film that was released around the same time :
the 15 year old girls can have their Twilight. I'll take LTROI.
Or in other words, this is a film that had me at "Mo Cuishle".
Is it a Halloween movie with a Christmas twist, or a Christmas movie with a Halloweenic slant? Or is it both?
For me, I like to describe the feeling that comes from watching The Nightmare Before Christmas as very similar to the feeling that one might get when discovering that your trick-or-treat bag has been filled with presents instead of candy.
And no rocks. Well...
maybe one lump of coal.
In my opinion, TNBC is the best piece of cinema, by far, to have Tim Burton's name on it. Such a great cast of creative and endearingly maniacal characters. Innocent enough for kids who can still see the world thru bushy-tailed bright-eyed glasses, yet twistedly dark enough to keep the interests of those of us adults who've had that part of our spirits crushed a long time ago.
An inter-holiday movie for all ages on either side of the perspective spectrum.
Whenever I watch this movie, I'm always reminded that, for me, this is about as good as it gets (...sorry). Randall McMurphy is a mischievous criminal who first ends up becoming a leader of squirrelly rebellion and then, eventually, a friend to Billy and the rest the cracked eggs residing in the Cuckoo's Nest.
Jack's portrayal in this movie is determined not to follow the feel-good formula of a self-centered man with a salt-encrusted background who then becomes overly or angelically transformed. Instead, Randall is someone who is so deeply steeped in his own irresponsibility and with a hard to reach ability to care that is only gradually bought up to the surface by the only type of people who could cause such a subtle and internal catalyst in his dysfunction: a group of guys who are crazier than he is.
No matter how many times I view it, no matter what time of the day it is, I never get tired of watching this film.
Because Pulp Fiction is like pie.
And any time is a good time for pie.
Nowadays, whether it be with quiz shows that an average junior high schooler could pass or through so-called reality shows, most TV programs seem to reward people for being dumb.
John Turturro turns in, IMO, his best performance as a voice for the craggy intellectual type of the time, who is smart enough to realize and yet does not want to accept that the visual medium of television has crossed over to favoring style over substance.
Oh, and I'd like to buy a vowel.
Definitely my favorite of his works.
When it comes to cape crusading crimefighters, there are hardcore purists who will say that there were a few obscure names in superhero game who came before the Superman (the most obvious one is the Phantom). But the truth is, it was ol' Supe himself who put the concept of super-powered do-gooders on the map of modern day society's consciousness.
And even though the whole thing started out as mindless, empty entertainment that was printed on cheap newsprint paper and aimed at a prepubescent audience, as time went on, that particular target audience grew up. And so did some of their favorite comic books.
As a result, superheroes began to spring out of the four color magazines and onto television, serials and even movies. However, since the camp never left the cape, none of it was really ever taken too seriously.
It was a slow process, but finally, in 1978, a motion picture was produced with the kind of serious consideration required for a big budgeted theatrical release that was aimed at mainstream audiences. Backed by a blockbuster sized budget, quality team of film staff (such as a script by Mario Puzo, and directed by Richard Donner), a cast of award winning actors (Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, etc) and up'n'coming stars (Christopher Reeves and Margo Kidder), the box office and critical success demonstrated that the movie going public was willing to suspend their sense of disbelief for the sake of believing that a man could fly.
A big, muscular humanoid who likes to steal biker clothes, swing his shotgun on a high speed motorcycle, wear his sunglasses even at night, and is programmed to speak with a heavy-@ss Austrian accent.
This movie is one of those rare times where an original that was already pretty bad-ass is followed up by a sequel that is even more bad-asser.
As someone who enjoys the category of science fiction probably more than any other genre when it comes to films, I seriously think that Judgment Day, along with his efforts on Aliens, shows why there should be a law that states that James Cameron should be in charge of directing all sequels from now on.
After a going thru a summer recently that was epitomized by listlessly plotted blockbusters such as the other movie known as T-2 (Michael Bay's), this T-2 is a reminder that even though a certain degree of suspension of belief is required from one's brain in order to accept a movie about battling robots, you do not have to completely revert to the mind level of a five-year old in order to enjoy it.
I wish I was made outta liquid metal.
He was once a real tough hombre who was good with a gun and wasn't afraid to use it.
But now, after so many years of trying to build a "normal life" away from that of the wild, wild west, Will Munny comes to realize that when times get hard, old habits, even in old cowboys, die hard.
Push all the right buttons, and the habits of a killer are just like riding a bike (or in this case, riding a horse)...... he never forgets.
The manner in which the icon of the ol' western gunslinger is portrayed here,
as a man with a mysterious past which he would preferred forgotten, yet soon ultimately, comes to rely on for the survival of the redemptive life he has built, shows how this film could've also been called The Final Chapter Of The Man With No Name, But Now We've Given Him A Name.... Punk.
Newman's performance in the Verdict sets up very well the desolation and loneliness that the main character moves his life thru as he goes up against the legal system that gigantically favors the "big guys" over the "little guys". One can really get the sense that Newman knows that he stands no chance of winning the case, but continues moving on forward because he is, for the first time in his barely negligible career, fueled by the honesty and goodness of what is right. A feeling that is so new to this character, that, combined with the realizaton that a human life is totally dependent him for justice, it becomes emotionally exhilarating enough to keep an almost broken old man to keep fighting on, no matter how high the price.
One of those rare times when the performance comes thru real enough to make us (oh, what am I'm talkin' about this "us" bullsh#t? What I really mean is "me") almost believe that even under the most insurmountable odds, there is always some kind of hope.
It seems like these days, every season, an animated movie comes out displaying the next level of computer-generated visuals. For the year of 2008, it was this film and Kung Fu Panda. While not so surprising in that I (we?) expected the details in the graphics to be as detail and realistic as they were, it's still quite stunning to behold.
And even though Wall-E contains the basic formula elements one would expect from such a family film, it's still quite surprising how often and consistently filmmakers are able to integrate the amazing graphics into the quality of the storytelling in a manner that seems fresh and keeps the messages from feeling too cliche. At the rate that these types of highly sophisticated computer animated flicks are being released, it's remarkable that the ratio has been so much more good than bad.
A futuristic story that despite it's epic themes of environmentalism, technological over-dependence and the effects of idleness on the soul of humanity when it is stripped away from the natural strife of life, at it's heart, it's also an effective story of loneliness and longing between two computer-animated robots that despite their mechanical make-up, offer up enough heartfelt human emotion that is depicted with just a simple vocabulary that consists of nothing more than their names and a directive.
Oh sure, "Q", "Y" and "Z" aren't so easy either,
but when it comes the highest level of difficulty when thinking up of an answer, no matter what the category, "X" always marks the spot.
Fortunately, in my favorite films list for the year 1998, in the top ten I have a movie that came straight out a television series, The X-Files;
Fight The Future.
A sci-fi thriller that remains true as a chapter to the on-going series yet with enough self-containment in it's story to allow non-followers of the TV show (a la me) to enjoy it as stand-alone feature.
Which is lucky for me and my list here, because it gives me an entry to put in this usually difficult spot.
Oh sure, I guess I could use either X2: X-Men United or X-Men: First Class,
but the truth is,
as much as I liked those two films,
they still didn't make within the top ten of their particular years.
And with X-Files, now I have an answer with a bit more X-uberance in my enthusiasm.
Akira Kurosawa's answer to "The Man With No Name" type of cowboy flicks. And of course, I'm sure it goes without saying that the Clint Eastwood classic "A Fistful of Dollars" was basically a remake of this.
So, I guess you can say that Yojimbo is sorta like a sushi eastern with a splash of spaghetti western on it.
Wait, that doesn't make any sense, does it?
Ah, screw it.
Let's just say that when it comes to Kurosawa klassics, this is one of those must-sees for anyone who considers themself to be a serious film student.
I've never been really big into the horror-comedy genre. It always felt to me that the comedy sorta cancels out the horror aspect of the film. Fortunately, Zombieland seems to focus more with the comedy area of it's premise, and the story centered more on the main characters dealing in world with few human survivors than it does on these characters battling their way thru flanks upon flanks of zombies (though, there are enough of those scenes to warrant the name of this movie). So, even though I'm not a big fan of zombie apocalypses, I found that I was able to sit thru this one with a bit more of an appreciation not only for the sub-genre itself, but more importantly, with an appreciation for a certain actor* with the initials BM. And yet, even more importantly, with an appreciation for the fact that I live in a time when I don't have to worry about life's little Twinkie gauge going on empty.
*Kind of a spoiler if I mention the actor's name.
I've decided to take a crack at it.
Other lists by The Mighty Celestial:
My Top 20 Female Movie Bad-Asses www.listal.com/list/my-top-10-female
10 Movies That Feature A Dancin' Travolta In 'Em www.listal.com/list/my-list-9158
My Top 15 Guilty Pleasure Movies www.listal.com/list/guilty-pleasures-thecelestial
Can't We Be Dysfunctional Like A Normal Family? www.listal.com/list/dysfunctional-family-movies
A - Z
My Favorite Movies By Genre:
WAATAAAH!! My Top 10 Favorite Martial Arts Flix!
- When Aliens Attack ....Or At Least, Go Bad www.listal.com/list/aliens-attack-at-least-go
- Aliens Who Come In Peace www.listal.com/list/good-aliens
- Sci Fi Faves Of Like....Ever. www.listal.com/list/scifi-movies
- Run For Your Lives! My 25 Fave Giant Monster Films www.listal.com/list/my-top-10-favorite-giant
- Superhero Movies www.listal.com/list/yep-am-huge-comicbook
- Non-Superhero Movies www.listal.com/list/my-favorite-nonsuperhero-comicbook-movies
My Top Favorite Westerns, Pard'ner www.listal.com/list/westerns-thecelestial
- Romantic Comedies www.listal.com/list/my-top-30-romantic-comedies
- Straight-Up Romance www.listal.com/list/romance-movies
- 3D www.listal.com/list/animate-this-my-favorite-animated
- 2D www.listal.com/list/my-favorite-animated-movies-thecelestial
- From Around The World www.listal.com/list/my-top-10-favorite-foriegn
My Top Favorite Movies By Year:
Lists by decades:
Of all time: