Saturday, April 30, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 25 - My Favorite Documentary Film

This has to be the classic rockumentary by Marti DiBergi, This Is Spinal Tap. This candid look behind the scenes at the world's most punctual rock band is a must see for any fan of music, rock, documentaries, or mime films. It chronicles the bands modest beginnings in Squatney, England to their Blitzkrieg tour of the world and other places in 1983. It beautifully captures the sights, the sounds, and the smells of one of the premier heavy metal rock bands.

Friday, April 29, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 24 -My Favorite Animated or Children's Film

The Incredibles. Hands down. Pixar took the animation medium and owned it, and in my opinion The Incredibles is the acme of that ownership. It's a story of a family of superheroes who live in a world where heroes are no longer allowed to be super. It's a tale of middle-age crises, family togetherness, and finding out who you really are, and it is absolutely brilliant! Plus the extras are worth the price of the DVD alone! Kids will love this for the fun, and funny action, and adults will love it for the humor and performances. It's a win/win all around.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 23 - My Favorite Thriller/Mystery Film

This is not a genre I spend much time in, and I just had to use my Google-Fu to figure out if I've even seen any, but after an exhaustive search, most of which I've never seen, or hated seeing, I'll go with The Usual Suspects. I don't have much to say about it other than I liked it, and found the resolution to be satisfying. Like I said, not really my genre, but if you do like thrillers then check this film out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 22 -My Favorite Horror Film

Horror's not really my bag, baby, but there are a few that I really enjoy, and the top of this, admittedly, short list is An American Werewolf in London. This John Landis masterpiece captures all the flavor of a good, old-fashioned monster movie with the Oscar winning makeup effects of Rick Baker for a film that will scare the shit out of you, while making you laugh at the same time. The cast is awesome: David Naughton and Griffin Dunne as the hapless American tourists who stumble into an English werewolf's hunting grounds, Jenny Agutter as the deliciously tragic nurse who falls in love with David, and John Woodvine as the incredulous doctor who must reassess his view of the natural world. Make no mistake, while this is a very funny movie at parts, it is also grim, gory, and truly frightening. And the transformation scene, which may seem familiar to you younger folks now since it's been copied in nearly every werewolf movie since, was groundbreaking:

Keep in mind that CGI was still years away. This was all done with prosthetics and a marvelous performance by David Naughton.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 21 - My Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

As you might imagine, this was a tricky one. How could I narrow it down to just one? Well, actually, it soon became clear that there can be only one...Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan. I tried to recall my first viewing of this movie, but I can't, and that puzzled me for the longest time, but I just finally figured it out. We were so disillusioned by Star Trek: The Motion Picture that even though there was no chance we wouldn't see Wrath of Khan, we didn't expect much. Boy, were we wrong! This film had everything a Star Trek fan could want. The characters got along and actually liked each other again. The uniforms were wildly impractical but looked awesome again. And the space battles were AMAZING! And then, of course, there is Ricardo Montalban's magnificently malevolent performance as the mad superman, Khan Noonien Singh. Sure it had plot holes you could drive a starship through, and silly melodramatic moments like Scotty bringing his injured nephew to the bridge instead of sickbay, but the overall feel and flavor was quintessentially Star Trek, and it remains my favorite Trek movie, and my favorite Science Fiction film.

Monday, April 25, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 20 - My Favorite Romantic Film

I was just about to give up on this category, but I went to my DVD collection to see if there was anything there that could be considered romantic. I was almost to the end, trying to figure out if Wrath of Khan could be considered romantic in any possible way, when there it was...possibly the most romantic, yet fun movie of all time. The Princess Bride. This tongue in cheek swashbuckler starring Carey Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Chris Sarandon, and Andre the Giant (among many, many others) is based on the book of the same name by the somewhat less than real S. Morgenstern, and is a beautifully shot, lovingly performed, and amazingly choreographed fairy tale that will thrill you, chill you, and leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart that will last for hours. Rob Reiner's direction is flawless, as are the performances, plus it has the best sword fight since Flynn and Rathbone hung up their tights. If the phrases 'As you wish', and 'Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.' mean nothing to you, get a copy of this fantastic film NOW! And if those phrases make you smile and nod, dig the DVD out and watch it again...I'm going to.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

30 Day Fiilm Challenge-Day 19 - My Favorite Action Film

This is another movie that I actually remember the first time I saw it. Raiders of the Lost Ark came out in 1981 when Lucas and Spielberg could do no wrong, and we all awaited the premier with great anticipation. I can't recall which theater we went to, but I do remember the whole gang was there, including G, who was babysitting her 8-year-old nephew. At this point in time Spielberg had not created the need for a PG-13 rating, so we all assumed Indy would be family friendly. The genius of this film is it hits the ground running, and barely lets up until the final credits, but when the decomposing body of the archeologist Forrestal slides into the screen impaled on numerous spikes, and we hear Ben Burtt's brilliant, if icky sound effects G immediately freaked and asked 'What was this movie rated?!' As far as I know the movie did not have any lasting effect on her young charge, and we were all, G included, quickly sucked in to the genius that was Raiders. Some will claim that Last Crusade is the best of the films, and I won't quibble as I love it nearly as much, but since I consider both Raiders and Last Crusade to be equal as film, the first Indiana Jones adventure wins as my favorite action film on the power of having been first. It was a truly unique cinematic experience for my generation, and will always have a spot in my heart, and my DVD collection.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 18 -My Favorite Comedy Film

This one's easy. Young Frankenstein. Written by Gene Wilder, directed by Mel Brooks, this film should be used as a textbook example of how to do comedy. If you are unfamiliar with this movie it is a gorgeous parody of the 1950s monster movies, shot in black and white, and starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Madeline Kahn, Teri Garr, Marty Feldman, and Cloris Leachman. In most of Mel Brooks' movies there are a couple of gags that just don't work, and you overlook them because the rest of the film is so wonderful. There is not a single bad moment in Young Frankenstein. I could go off on a quote fest here, but I'll resist the urge. Suffice to say that this is my all time, hands down, no contest favorite comedy film. Now you take the blonde and I'll take the one in the turban! :-D

Oh, and I almost forgot this brilliant cameo by Gene Hackman.

Friday, April 22, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 17 - My Favorite Drama Film

Those who know me would probably guess that the list of dramas that I like is short. I am an unapologetic escapist, so the drama category rarely entices me. I've never quite understood the desire to share in someone else's misery, so you will never hear the phrase, 'that was so great; I cried my eyes out' come from me. But, since there are a few dramas that I have enjoyed, and one that stands out, I give you Kenneth Branahg's 1989 masterpiece, Henry V. It may seem cliche for someone who works in Theatre to pick a Shakespeare movie, but to be honest I'm not all that huge a fan of the bard. I think his skill with words and poetry are still unmatched, but his abilities as a playwright were sadly overstated. But, be that as it may, Henry V is a brilliant bit of both directing and action from Branagh. He plays the young king as a man unsure of himself, yet determined to pursue his goals to the bloody end. The dialogue is spoken with a conversational, understated realism that makes Shakespeare's poetry shine, and the cast is the stuff of dreams. Derek Jacobi, Brian Blessed, Ian Holm, and a wonderful cameo from Emma Thompson along with hundreds of extras bring the, admittedly not overly accurate portrayal of the Battle of Agincourt to stunning, muddy, absolutely brilliant life. And Branagh's delivery of the St. Crispian's Day speech is nothing short of genius.

This is not a short film, nor is it always easy to watch, but it is one of, in my opinion, the best films ever made, and my favorite drama.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 16 - A Film I Used to Love, But Now Hate

Mel Brooks used to be funny. He's written and/or directed some of the most iconic, and hilarious comedies in history, and his send-ups of the movie making industry itself, such as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety, and of course Spaceballs were not only entertaining and laugh riots, they also exposed the sometimes ridiculous nature of the biz itself. So when he decided to poke fun at the popularity of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves we medievalists and role players were ecstatic. Robin Hood: Men in Tights came out in '93, and I recall loving it, while at the same time realizing that Brooks's humor was showing its age. I think I only saw it once, but there were many a quote bandied about during the ensuing decade and a half. Well, a couple of years ago I found Men in Tights in the 'we can't give this shit away' bin at Wally World, and excitedly grabbed it. I flew home, popped the DVD in the player, and prepared myself for a gigglefest. Wow, was I wrong. Most of the jokes were either stale retreads from previous films, or were so grounded in the pop culture of that particular time in history(the 90s, not the Middle Ages) that they fell totally flat. And what wasn't a repeat or a reference to a long forgotten film was on the level of something a 12 year old might say to an 8 year old to try to get them to snort milk out of their nose in the lunchroom. While I love living in the future where we can revisit our faves from the past whenever we wish, sometimes memories are best left as just that...imperfect, inaccurate, but enjoyable memories.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 15 - The Film That Depicts My Life

I can't for the life of me think of a single movie that fits this category, so instead here's episode one of Jeri Ryan's new web series, Mortal Kombat: Legacy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 14 - The Film That No One Expected Me To Like

I had to ask my wife about this and she said Big Fish. As she recalls I wasn't too keen on seeing it, but she really wanted to see it so I acquiesced. I was pretty shocked at how much I enjoyed it. It's a kind of twisted remembrance of a man's life as seen through the filter of a very active imagination. It's a Tim Burton movie, but contrary to much of his current work it is light, and bright, and mostly cheerful. While I don't feel much need to see it again, I remember enjoying watching it, and would gladly recommend it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 13 - A Guilty Pleasure

I love the movie Ice Pirates. It's a silly, campy, sometimes stupid 80s send-up of Science Fiction films that take themselves too seriously like Dune or the Mad Maxx movies. It stars Robert Urich, Mary Crosby, Ron Pearlman (without tons of latex on his face for once), Angelica Huston, and many others. It takes place in a future where feudalism and technology are hand in hand, and water is so rare it is used as a commodity. It jumps around from seedy space bars, to imperial war ships, to desert planets and is replete with weird aliens, robots, and many a swashed buckle. It is very clear that the cast had a ball making this movie, and despite the fact that it is riffing on movies that think too highly of themselves, Ice Pirates never falls into that trap. This is a B movie's B movie, and I love to love it.

(this trailer makes the movie seem a lot stupider than it really is, but it's the only one I could find.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 12 - A Film By My Least Favorite Director

This one I truly do not have an answer for, so here's the cutest video you will ever see of a baby penguin being tickled:

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Starbaby Update

Yesterday my wife was scheduled for her next ultrasound. As you may recall the last time we peeked into the oven, the little beastie was being modest and would not let us see the necessary bits. Any time you do an ultrasound there is the possibility that the baby won't cooperate, and will evade the scanner, so it was with no small amount of trepidation that we went into the darkened room. The blue gel was squirted onto my wife's belly, and we watched the big screen. Success! It took less than 10 seconds for the technician to zero in our our new daughter's, um, lady business. While neither of us had a particular preference, we are thrilled to be having a girl. Also the scan showed a properly formed, four-chambered heart. Ten fingers and toes all in the right places. Well formed arm and leg bones. A brain case of the proper size and shape, and an overall size and weight perfectly within expected norms. I usually decry normalcy, but in this case it is not only hoped for, it is a relief.
We will be naming the baby Sharon, after my mother, but we haven't settled on a middle name yet, but we do still have a bit of time to figure that out. The due date of August 30 has not changed.

Thanks to all of you for your wonderful support and encouragement, and I'll keep you posted as events warrant.

Love to you all,

Daddy Marius

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 11 - A Film By My Favorite Director

Here's another category where I'm at a loss. I generally don't pay much attention to directors, mostly because when I have in the past they always end up disappointing me eventually. Tim Burton and Kevin Smith are two best examples of that. I loved both of their work, but eventually they seemed to fall into the trap of believing that they were more important than their movies, and they lost me. But there is one director who has yet to, as the British say, climb up his own ass...Guillermo del Toro. Not only have I loved his two Hellboy movies, and Pan's Labyrinth is sheer, if disturbing, genius, but he frequently uses his fame to further the careers of other filmmakers who might otherwise be ignored. Case in point El Orfanato. This brilliant ghost story was directed by Juan Antonio Bayona and probably would not have made it to American shores if not for del Toro putting his name behind it. I generally don't like horror, but this creepy tale of ghostly children and horrors from the past is a beautiful, disturbing, yet ultimately satisfying bit of story telling that everyone should see...just not alone.

Friday, April 15, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 10 - A Film With My Favorite Actor (Female)

I do, actually, have a few favorite female actors, such as Jeri Ryan, Felicia Day, Zoe Saldana, and Heather Graham, but as for whom I would rank at the top of my faves it's a dead heat between Dame Judi Dench, and Dame Helen Mirren. Both bring an amazing gravitas and dignity to whatever roles they portray, yet both have a spritely sense of humor that keeps them fun to watch as well. If forced to choose one, I'd go with Mirren simply because she's been in more of my favorite movies, i.e. 2010 and Excalibur, and after seeing her in RED last year it's clear that her sex appeal has not diminished one iota with age. So I choose her performance in 2010 as my film with my favorite actor (female).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 9 - A Film With My Favorite Actor (Male)

Y'know, I'm sort of a mutant when it comes to favorite actors. I don't really have one. I'm not the kind of person who will see a movie just because so-and-so is in it. So I'll just pick a film with my favorite male performance, and that would be Enrico Colantoni in Galaxy Quest. Colantoni plays Mathesar, the leader of a group of aliens who think the actors in a popular TV SciFi series are actual space warriors and take them from Earth to their part of the galaxy to fight a war for them. It's a comedy, and is sometimes quite silly, and it would have been so easy for Colantoni to have portrayed Mathesar as a one-dimensional caricature, but through the odd vocal cadence and strange body language he brings such depth and truth to his character that I never once doubted him. Such commitment to a role is the sign of a truly talented actor, and he stands out as one of the brightest gems in this classic film. And this is, in my opinion, the highlight of his performance (around 3 minutes in)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge- Day 8 - The Film I Can Quote Best

Without a doubt it's got to be Aliens. "They mostly come at night...mostly." "Marines, we are LEAVING!!" "Game over, man!" "Nuke the sight from orbit. It's the only way to be sure." "Get away from her you BITCH!!" "Is this gonna be a stand-up fight, sir, or another bug hunt?" "Hey, Vasquez, you ever been mistaken for a man? No, have you?" "I keep this handy for close encounters." "You always were an asshole, Gorman." "Somebody wake up Hicks."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 7 - A Film That Reminds Me of My Pas

Well, all of these films so far have reminded me of my past, but for the sake of this post I'll choose one that always makes me think of my childhood...Blazing Saddles. Now I won't contend that a Mel Brooks movie is especially high brow or thought provoking, but at 7 or 8 years old I doubt I got most of the humor as we watched it on my dad's new Home Box Office (yes, kids, HBO actually means something) service. It had cowboys, and guns, and a big guy punched a horse...all good for a kid. But then there came a scene around a campfire that was the holy grail for pre-pubescent comedy. The cowboys are sitting in a circle, eating beans. Then one leans over and farts. Then another, then another. The flatulence increases in both tempo and volume until it is a veritable minuet of methane. Like I said, not exactly high-brow, but I remember laughing so hard I couldn't breathe. It would be years before I'd actually hear any of the dialogue that followed, and I still chuckle to myself at that scene.
Of course the rest of the film is a comedy classic, but that particular moment always brings me back to my childhood.

Monday, April 11, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 6 - A Film That Reminds Me of Somewhere

Saturday, December 16, 1978. I was 14, and wanted to believe a man could fly. My mom dropped my brother and me off at the Village Green movie theater, each of us with $5 in our pockets for tickets to see Superman, which, at the time, was enough for the movie and some popcorn. The next two hours or so were amazing, even given the ridiculous portrayal of Lex Luthor, and we left the cinema elated. I remember walking across the parking lot, and leaping up onto the sidewalk, and being slightly disappointed when I did not keep going into the sky. Whenever I think about Superman, the movie, I think of the Village Green, and miss it. It was one of the first multi-plexes in our town, and it had, I think, 8 screens. My favorite being the one on the second floor that was reached by the steepest, narrowest staircase I've ever seen in a public building. It was located just off a major freeway exit, and across the street from the mall, but it had the worst parking lot design in history, and it was often easier to park at the mall and walk across the 6 lanes of serious traffic rather than try to get into the cinema parking lot. I have many fond memories of that place. It was where I saw Star Treks I and II for the first time, the above mentioned super flick, and so many others that they all blur in my memory. I might even have applied for a job there once or twice, though it never got me anywhere. It closed down a few years ago, and of all the cinemas that once were in my home town, I miss the Village Green the most. So if you ever find yourself passing through West Palm Beach, heading north on I-95 and approaching Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, that Best Buy on your right used to be a window to other worlds, other dimensions, other lives both wonderful and terrible, and used to be the favorite place to escape for a short, pudgy, very blonde teenager who believed a man could fly.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 5 - A Film That Reminds Me of Someone

This is another category with a legion of answers, but I'm going to choose...and here I'm pausing while I try to actually choose...The Empire Strikes Back. Most of my all time favorite films are such a part of my life experience that I have trouble remembering the time before they were ingrained in my consciousness, but I remember going to the opening of Empire with Duke, and Targon, and Turtle, and Rico very clearly. Well, almost very clearly. I know I tried my best to dress like Han Solo (and I thank all the gods of technology that digital cameras were still decades away at that point) but I don't recall if anyone else in our group did. The cinema we went to that day, the Plaza Twin, I believe, is now a car dealership. The day was sunny, and not too hot for a South Florida May, and it stands out in my memory as one of those halcyon days of youth when a group of friends, totally unconcerned with a future that would scatter them hither and yon all too soon, took part in what would become a bit of pop culture history. We watched in rapt enthusiasm and afterward debated whether Vader was lying or not, and tried to mess with the folks waiting in line for the next showing by lamenting the death of Luke.(although none of us could keep a straight face) I don't recall what we did after, or how we got there, got home, etc. But when I think of my group of friends, all but one of whom is still close and probably reading this, that is one of my favorite, and most vivid memories.

Oh, and I'm also glad none of them have any pictures of my post-Empire tee shirt I had made. ;-)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

30 Day Movie Challenge-Day 4 - A Film I Watch to Feel Down

Why in the screaming Hell of Bratz dolls and My Little Ponies would I ever purposely watch something to make myself feel down?!

Friday, April 08, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 3 - A Film I Watch to Feel Good

This one's easy...Steve Martin's wonderful modern fairy tale L.A. Story. It was a film that could easily have been missed, but it hit me at just the right time in my life, and on a day when things were going well, and I just loved it. The movie is about a television weatherman who is having a mid-life crisis while dealing with the surreal weirdness that was life in Los Angeles in the early 90s. It's silly, moving, sad, and bizarre, with lots of great cameos by people like Billy Crystal, Kevin Pollak, and even Patrick Stewart. It also was the big-screen debut of a very young, and surprisingly hot Sarah Jessica Parker. If you like sweet but slightly cockeyed tales that also paraphrase Shakespeare liberally, and take full advantage of their cast's talents, I highly recommend L.A. Story. It left me smiling for days, and still gives me a warm glow when I think of it.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge Day 2: My Least Favorite Film

Wow, this one is another toughie because, again, it depends on my mood. There are also so many totally shit movies out there it's kinda hard to pick just one. So to narrow the field I'm going to restrict myself to big-budget, big studio crapfests, and in this cinematic sewage treatment plant of Armageddons and Independence Days one turd sinks to the bottom to take the lowest place in my Pantheon of Putrescence...The Core. This film is so awful it can't even reside in the 'so bad it's good' category for me as the basic premise is so ludicrously preposterous, and the depiction of almost everything that happens in the film so unbelievably implausible that my willing suspension of disbelief muscles completely shut down after the first five minutes of the movie. The basic story is that something the military did has caused the Earth's core to stop spinning, thus depriving us of our magnetic field, and wreaking havoc on the planet. So a stalwart team of appropriately self-sacrificing scientists get in a homemade tunneling machine built out of 'unobtanium' that gets stronger the more it gets squished, or some such bullshit, and dig down to detonate some nukes and restart the core. Adventure ensues. And by adventure I mean 90 minutes of mind-numbingly stilted dialogue, brain-twisting ridiculousness, and the most improbable happy ending since Nicholson and Hunt got together at the end of As Good As It Gets. I cannot decry this film enough, and I urge you not to see it. Even if you get it free you will have lost nearly two hours of your precious and finite time on this Earth, and you will regret it.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

30 Day Film Challenge-Day 1

Several of my online friends are taking part in this, and it seems a good mechanism to get me posting again, so here we go. The challenge is to post about a film each day for a month using the following criteria:

Day 1 - Your Favorite Film
Day 2 - Your Least Favorite Film
Day 3 - A Film You Watch to Feel Good
Day 4 - A Film You Watch to Feel Down
Day 5 - A Film That Reminds You of Someone
Day 6 - A Film That Reminds You of Somewhere
Day 7 - A Film That Reminds You of Your Past
Day 8 - The Film You Can Quote Best
Day 9 - A Film With Your Favorite Actor (Male)
Day 10 - A Film With Your Favorite Actor (Female)
Day 11 - A Film By Your Favorite Director
Day 12 - A Film By Your Least Favorite Director
Day 13 - A Guilty Pleasure
Day 14 - The Film That No One Expected You To Like
Day 15 - The Film That Depicts Your Life
Day 16 - A Film You Used to Love, But Now Hate
Day 17 - Your Favorite Drama Film
Day 18 - Your Favorite Comedy Film
Day 19 - Your Favorite Action Film
Day 20 - Your Favorite Romantic Film
Day 21 - Your Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film
Day 22 - Your Favorite Horror Film
Day 23 - Your Favorite Thriller/Mystery Film
Day 24 - Your Favorite Animated or Children's Film
Day 25 - Your Favorite Documentary Film
Day 26 - Your Favorite Foreign Language Film
Day 27 - Your Favorite Independent Film
Day 28 - The Most Obscure Film You've Ever Seen
Day 29 - Your Favorite Film As a Kid
Day 30 - Your Favorite Film This Time Last Year

So, my favorite film. That's tricky since it kind of depends on what mood I'm in, but the most consistent disc I grab when I just want to watch something and have no particular agenda is 1984's sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: The Year We Make Contact. It's a wonderful little slice of Science Fiction at its purest, with fantastic performances by Roy Schieder, Hellen Mirren, John Lithgow, and Kier Dulea. It's an adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's novel of the same name, and is quite faithful to the book. It's also an interesting view into what life was like during the Cold War, as even so visionary a writer as Clarke never foresaw the fall of the Soviet Union. All in all I love this flick, cheesy 80s special effects and all, and I will always own a copy.