Category Archives: Top 10

Because Top Ten lists are fun!

Woody Allen’s 10 Best Recent Films

midnight in paris  woody allen

Woody Allen’s latest film curiously titled Irrational Man, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival recently. Though, I’m a huge fan of his movies I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it all that much. The plot about an aging college professor falling in love with one of his students who is considerably younger than he makes me cringe a little. Added to this unease, is the fact that although I respect Joaquin Phoenix a great deal, I don’t care for a lot of the other actors in it. Furthermore, his previous effort Magic In The Moonlight, was in my humble estimation a great disappointment from an American master, which makes me less than enthusiastic about his latest offering. Some might argue that Woody’s best days are behind him and that the period from Annie Hall to Husbands And Wives was his best. But, I do think he’s done some exceptional work in the last twenty years. So, what follows are what I believe to be the 10 best Woody Allen films from 1995 on. (This list is not chronological.)
 

Top Ten Characters That Need To Be In The Marvel Cinematic Universe

As we all know Marvel Studios is doing the unprecedented. They have been since 2008 with the release of the very first Iron Man film. Here’s a studio with a gigantic stable of character that has not only managed to give us really fun, entertaining and well made solo pictures for their heavy hitting comic book heroes, but then turned around and brought all those superheroes together not once, but TWICE, with a numerous other multi-character outings on the horizon, in a construct their calling the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, as a fan of those ambitious folks over at Marvel I can’t help but be greedy. So let’s take a look at all the characters I think deserve their chance in the brilliant MCU!

Top Ten: Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars Concept Art

Ralph McQuarrie Darth vader

With the upcoming release of the new trailer for The Force Awakens just days away I thought it’d be an appropriate time to take a moment and look back at Star Wars’ earliest beginnings before we become engulfed in all things Episode VII. Back before the prequels, before the special editions, before there was even a Star Wars itself. Back when there was just an early, and almost unrecognizable, draft of the movie and a bunch of amazing concept art of a galaxy far, far away nobody had been to yet.

As you’ll see a lot changed between the original ideas on display here and what eventually made it to the big screen. Something to keep in mind as we get closer to the new film’s release and and continue to pour over every leaked detail, interview, and rumor that makes it’s way onto the internet. (And if you’re interested, I’ve already gone over each leaked piece of concept art for The Force Awakens with a fine toothed comb with the following links. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.)

There’s no denying Star Wars is as big an entertainment juggernaut today as it’s ever been. With a 4 billion dollar purchase of Lucasfilm and the rights to the franchise by Disney in 2012 fans were promised a constant stream of new movies and shows that are finally coming to fruition. Star Wars Rebels, a new cartoon set between episodes III and IV, began airing on Disney XD last year to a warm reception and The Force Awakens, the first film of a brand new trilogy, will break box office records next Christmas. Recent talk of stand alone spin-off movies, such as a rumored Han Solo, Boba Fett, and recently announced Star Wars: Rouge One look to make sure Star Wars stays firmly in the public’s consciousness and imagination for the foreseeable (and profitable) future.

There are two men we can thank for being directly responsible for creating everybody’s favorite galaxy, a long time ago. George Lucas obviously, and Ralph McQuarrie.

Ralph Mcquarrie

Who is Ralph McQuarrie? Ralph McQuarrie was the head designer and illustrator of the three original Star Wars movies. He designed everything from C-3P0, Star Destroyers, X-wings and even Darth Vader. His concept art and unique visual style which focused on simple geometric shapes and iconic designs helped to convince the heads at 20th Century Fox Studios to greenlight the risky science film much to McQuarrie’s surprise. When asked to create art for the film McQuarrie let his creativity loose and responded with large grandiose concepts and images that would become the visual foundation for the billion dollar franchise.

“I just did my best to depict what I thought the film should look like, I really liked the idea. I didn’t think the film would ever get made. My impression was it was too expensive. There wouldn’t be enough of an audience. It’s just too complicated. But George knew a lot of things that I didn’t know.”  Ralph McQuarrie

McQuarrie is credited with creating the lived in universe look of the original films where even though the technology may have been advanced it was worn out and broken down. A far cry from the stale and sterilized worlds of most other sci – fi movies and TV shows until then.

These are the images that made Star Wars. Without them, and without Ralph McQuarrie, there’s a good chance that the films that so many love and hold dear today would never have even be made.

Not Dead Yet: Ten Best Modern Westerns

Ten Best Modern Westerns

“You’d be William Munny out of Missouri. Killer of women and children.”

“That’s right. I’ve killed women and children. I’ve killed just about everything that walks or crawled at one time or another. Oh, and I killed the Western.”

When William Munny rode out of Big Whisky he left more than the corpses of Little Bill and his men behind him. The Western as we all knew it was as good as dead. Released in 1992, Unforgiven was Eastwood’s near flawless and unapologetic take on the genre that helped make his career. The film took a long hard look at violence and the real world consequences it brings after the camera cuts away. Cowboys and gunslingers had always been mythologized in American movies from their earliest beginnings. It’s no coincidence that 1903’s The Great Train Robbery, widely considered one of the world’s first modern movies, centered on short tempered rowdy cowboys with a penchant for shooting first and asking questions later.

 

After Unforgiven rode through theaters what else was there to say? Many critics declared the Western, long on life support at the time, officially dead. And they appeared to be right as what was once a Hollywood staple soon became an endangered species. Only a small dose of Westerns have trickled out in the years since as the genre tried to regain it’s footing to varying degrees of failure. Jonah Hex anyone?

But, like William Munny, you can’t keep a no good son of a bitch down and Westerns have started to crawl their way back into theaters and find success. In truth these films have never gone away and they never will because Westerns are as American as apple pie. They define our culture and are an integral part of our society because they remind Americans of how we like to see ourselves. Rough, independent, and wild. The best Westerns from the past (The Searchers, High Noon) were never about history so much as they were statements about the present day. Because of this Westerns will always be timeless.

Unforgiven did however draw a line in the sand when it came to genre. Hell, it is the line. Going forward people will look back and pass judgement on all the Westerns made before Eastwood’s swan song and everything that’s followed since. And despite many critics dire warning’s the Western never went away. As a matter of fact some of the genre’s best offerings have come out only recently and stand as excellent movies in their own right.

15 Movies That Turn 15 in 2015

Gladiator bday 2

It’s hard to believe that Y2K was fifteen years ago, yet here we are. The years since have been filled with some great cinematic wonders, but today we focus on 15 films that were released 15 years ago in the year 2000. There is no order or preference, just a reminder of some films you may have forgotten from the turn of the century. Enjoy and if you have a favorite movie from 2000 that’s not on the list, be sure to mention it in the comments below!

8 Awesome 80’s Movies Every Kid from 1998 Needs to See

 

The 8 Best 80’s Movies

It happens all too often in my house.

“What are you watching?”

“What the heck is this?”

“Seriously?”

As my tweener daughter walks past the flat-screen and throws a look of confused disgust in my direction. She can’t believe I’m watching something other than the Kardashians on TV.

“But wait!” I say. “You should watch this. It’s a classic. Haven’t you heard of….”

“…Why are all those guys crammed into a telephone booth? And is that Abraham Lincoln? This looks stupid. I’m going to go watch Vampire Diaries”” As she walks away to go plug into  Netflix.

Kids these days. They have no appreciation for good movies anymore. It’s not their fault though. They’re used to films today being so jammed full of high definition and CGI that it’s hard to go back and watch anything that isn’t. I’m sure watching old movies from the 80’s is as jarring t them as watching old black and white films, or technicolor depending on your age.

But the old adage still rings true. They just don’t make them like they used to.

As such I’ve compiled a list of 8 of the most awesome 80’s movies every kid from 1998 needs to watch. Why? Because the 80’s was such a different time than the one we live in today. A better and more simpler time if I may, forever gone. But these 8 awesome movies can take you back better than any time machine as examples of what kids today missed out on. Let these movies take you back to a time when Ronald Reagan was President, Saturday Night Live was awful, and nickel arcades were a thing. These aren’t the BEST movies from the 80’s. But they are the ones that best represent everything that was totally rad in the decade.

How many have you seen?

 

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 Dishonorable Mention 1 – Police Academy (1984)

I really don’t want to include this film. I hate Police Academy. I actually hate ALL the Police Academy movies. I never understood them and never thought they were funny in the slightest. Think of the Police Academy movies as part The Naked Gun and part Animal House without the funny. The film has the distinction of being one of the few movies Roger Ebert ever gave ZERO stars in his reviews. But adults in the 80’s loved them and the franchise was so popular they made 6 of them within the decade.

I refuse to take responsibility for a lot of what happened in the 80’s.

Like a backed up New York City sewer, this film is overflowing with so many bad 80’s cliches it’s hard not to include it on this list as one of the defining movies of the decade. The premise centers around a group of one dimensional stereotypes who enlist in the police academy to begin their careers in law enforcement. You have the cool and smug ladies man Mahoney played by walking 80’s stereotype himself, Steve Guttenburg. Jones, who was a walking sound effects board and one of the few highlights of the film worth watching. Hightower was overly large. Baby faced Tackleberry was the gun nut. Cadet Thompson had the power of invisibility. She only appeared in the first movie and was utterly forgettable. Women weren’t written well in the 80’s. Case in point, the  soft voiced Hooks who would always find a way to become overbearingly loud and bitchy at least once in each movie. Blonde bombshell Callahan’s gag was her large breasts (NSFW) and drill instructor mentality. To keep the fraternity theme going the super strict Dean character was provided by Lt. Harris. And finally Commandant Lassard was a Leslie Nielson rip off in every way minus the humor.

mahoney

Police Academy will always be a constant reminder of all the tasteless and crude things from the 80’s we wish we could forget. Things like man perms and the super short shorts men felt comfortable wearing at the time, to headbands and wood paneled cars. The worst of the worst is the introduction of the gay blue oyster bar full of leather clad Village People which somehow made an appearance in every sequel. There was goofy gun play, tacky sexual innuendo everywhere, and like every good 80’s movie you had your obligatory car chase accompanied by the smoothing sounds of a saxophone. Katy Perry must have had Police Academy in mind when she brought the sax solo in her 80’s themed video for the song T.G.I.F.

I can’t help but think of a police cruiser scoring insane air off a small hill during a chase in Police Academy whenever I hear that solo. I’m surprised she didn’t get Tackleberry himself to jam away for the video shoot.

Like I said, goofball movies like this were all over the 80’s. Stripes, Animal House, Revenge of the Nerds, and Caddyshack were some of the other famous examples of the slobs vs. snobs setup that packed theaters back in the day. Regardless of which Police Academy movie you had the misfortune of watching the set up in them was always the same. Mahoney would act like a schumck as he hit on a bimbo while Jones would recreate the sound of something like a a microwave to distract the bad guys long enough for Tackleberry to barge in through a wall dual wielding double grenade launchers to arrest them. Hightower would lift something large next to the diminutive Hooks who was probably shouting something crazy. Then Lt. Harris would walk in to yell out “MAHONEY” as the punchline. That’s Police Academy in a nutshell. All 7 of them. OMG they made 7 of them? I know  I said there were 6 but those were all the 80’s Police Academies. The last one, Police Academy 7: Mission to Moscow, was released in 1994. But the 90’s don’t play and that decade finally put this series down for a much long overdue death.

Did you Know? Kids were so crazy for Police Academy in the 80’s that a cartoon and line of toys was developed around it in 1988? The cartoon lasted two seasons. 

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Ten Coolest Star Wars spaceships

Battle_of_Endor

I love Star Wars.

Like most grown men my age I will refer to my embarrassingly large box of Star Wars toys (all opened) as evidence to support the fact. But what I love most about Star Wars isn’t the light sabers, slave Leia, or even Darth Vader. It’s the amazing space ships and space battles sprinkled throughout the movies. They dazzled me and sparked my imagination like nothing else. As a kid the sole purpose of my lego collection was to build my own fleet of Star Wars spaceships and have them fight my brothers. I must have completed the trench run and blown up the Death Star a hundred times on the old PC version of X-wing on my friend’s computer. Without a doubt, my favorite scene in either trilogy by far is the final space battle in Return of the Jedi. Watching X-wings and TIE fighters dodge and weave between fleets of Star Destroyers and Rebel cruisers still fills me with excitement. In my opinion there hasn’t been a better space fight put on film since and that is truly depressing, some 30 years later. (I’m looking at you J.J. Abrams, you better deliver where the prequels did not.) An awesome cut of just the space battle can be seen here if you don’t believe me.

That said, there is hope. A New Hope if you will, as leaked photos from the set of episode VII seem to imply X-wings will be integral to the new film. And hopefully a massive space battle on par with Jedi’s. As more and more information about the movie leaks out I thought now might be a good time to look back at my favorite ships through six movies and everything else in-between before we get a gaggle of new ones. So without further ado I give you my top ten list of the coolest Star Wars spaceships.

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10. Star Viper

What the heck  is this beast and why haven’t you seen it before you may ask? And why is it so……freakishly cool looking?

The Star Viper comes from episode 4.5, better known as Shadows of the Empire. Back in 1996, when Jar-Jar Binks was just a delusion tucked safely away inside George Lucas’s brain, Lucasfilm decided to test the market’s appetite for more Star Wars by creating a book that filled in the missing gap between Empire Strikes back and Return of the Jedi, then market the hell out of it as if it was an actual movie. In the book we got cool stuff like seeing Luke Jedi train in Obi Wan’s cave back on Tatoonie, as well as an explanation why Leia and Lando have taken up bounty hunter aliases in the beginning of Jedi. The book introduces us to the the Black Sun criminal organization, it’s leader Prince Xizor, and his personal fleet of Star Viper fighters . A heavy fighter used by Black Sun almost exclusively it was expensive and so never mass produced and rarely seen. But that didn’t stop it from being cool. Like all good Star Wars fighters it can transform for hyperspace travel when it’s four wings fold back with those honking huge guns tuck away to become sleek and elegant. The Star Viper looks very different from any other ship seen in Star Wars at the time, yet still feels like a Star Wars fighter. That’s not easy to do with expansion material. Also, this ship always reminded me of Star Wars attempt to clone The Last Starfighter’s Gunstar, which is a-ok in my book. As fast as a TIE Interceptor but as heavily armed as an assault ship the Star Viper was not to be taken lightly. While in flight it’s four wings could move around as they had small thrusters on the sides which increased the ship’s maneuverability and made the ship look like a jellyfish in combat. It’s too bad the design got sandwiched between episodes V and VI because I would have loved to see Star Vipers blow up Rebels and Imperials on the big screen.

Top Ten Star Trek Captains (Besides Kirk and Picard)

Top Ten Star Trek captains (besides Kirk and Picard)

Who’s the greatest captain ever in Star Trek?

Trekkies can argue for hours, and thanks to the internet, months, about who’s the best captain in the history of Trek? In the end the debate always comes down to a genitalia measuring contest between Kirk and Picard. Compelling arguments can be made for either. Kirk was first! Picard is more centered! But doing so ignores plenty of other Starfleet captains worthy of discussion, but always eclipsed by Kirk’s ego and blinded by Picard’s shiny head. So who would be best if you took those two 900 pound gorillas out of the captain’s chair and opened up the playing field?

What makes a good starship captain? Are they quick on the trigger? Diplomatic with alien species? Do they uphold the Prime Directive as gospel? Or do they tend to break it from time to time? Have they overcome insurmountable odds? Or simply bedded the most alien species? Do they command the coolest ship?

Read on to find out.

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10. Morgan Bateson – USS Bozeman –  “TNG: Cause and Effect”

Poor captain Bateson. One day he’s off exploring the Typhon Expanse and the next he’s blindly slamming his ship, the Bozeman, into the USS Enterprise-D causing the catastrophic destruction of both. Turns out the USS Bozeman had set a course into a temporal causality loop while exploring the Expanse where it was flung 90 years into the future and straight into the Enterprise. The explosion of both ships caused a further tear in space time where the fatal collision was doomed to wash, rinse, and repeat, for 17 days. Not many captains can come back from death but captain Bateson did well into the teens and would have gone on living an interstellar groundhogs day if it wasn’t for that meddling crew of the Enterprise and their android Data too. Turns out the crew of the Enterprise suffered from bouts of deja-vu and thanks to some positronic coding within Data’s brain they were able to send clues to their future selves about the impending collision. You know what they say, the 17th time is the charm, and eventually the message gets through to Data in time to dodge captain Bateson for not looking both ways before crossing the street and break the loop. Initially convinced he had left on his mission only three weeks ago, Picard invites the time displaced captain to beam over for a small stardate reality check. You would think most capatains in Bateson’s position would retire and  live off their healthy retirement pension or go teach history at the Academy but not Captain Bateson. He’s still sitting in the chair of the Bozeman years later in Star Trek Generations. No starship captain has ever served longer than him.

On top of that he bares a striking resemblance to the somewhat famous 20th century actor Kelsey Grammer, so that’s a plus.