Science Fiction and Fantasy…”501 Must See Films” So Far

I’m growing increasingly anxious to get back to working at my goal of watching each
and every one of the “501 Must See” movies.  As such, I’m going to provide an abbreviated recap of the movies that I’ve seen from the remaining two sections.  That way I can still get everyone caught up and get back to the movie watching more quickly.  I’ll be providing
the basics for each (year, director, cast, awards, my rating) and highlighting a few from the section with a bit more depth.

First up, Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Seen to date: 23 out of 50

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and Linda Harrison

Academy Award Wins – Best Costume Design and Best Original Score

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (56 Reviews)

Silent Running (1972)

Director: Douglas Trumbull

My Rating – 0.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 68% (25 Reviews)

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Director: George Lucas

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher

Academy Awards: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, Best Sound and Special Achievement for Sound Effects Editing

AFI Top 100: #15 (1998) #13 (2007)

Princess Leia (Fisher) sends two droids to a distant planet in the hopes of securing the help of war hero and jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) for the rebellion.  Obi-Wan, along with Luke Skywalker (Hamill) boards the Millennium Falcon in the hopes of helping the princess in her fight against Darth Vader and the evil empire.

Star Wars is one of the best movies ever made.  I don’t even feel like a nerd saying
that.  By now, it’s just common knowledge.  Even the American Film Institute put it in the top 15 in both editions of its “100 greatest movies” list.  This movie has everything that you
could want in an epic adventure: a damsel in distress, a rouge hero, a mysterious villain and an underdog among other things.  Personally, I think Empire is the best of the Trilogy, but A New Hope couldn’t have been a better opening chapter and couldn’t have had a larger cultural impact.

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94% (67 Reviews)

Superman (1978)

Director: Richard Donner

Starring: Christopher Reeve, Marlon Brandon and Gene Hackman

Academy Awards: Special Achievement Award for Visual Effects

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94% (54 Reviews)

Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt and Ian Holm

Academy Award Wins – Best Visual Effects

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96% (83 Reviews)

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Director: Steven Speilberg

Starring: Henry Thomas, Dee Wallace Smith and Drew Barrymore

Academy Awards: Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score and Best Sound

AFI 100: #25 (1998) #24 (2007)

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 98% (91 Reviews)

Tron (1982)

Director: Steven Lisberger

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner and Barnard Hughes

Academy Award Wins – Award for Technical Achievement (awarded in 1997)

Hacker and arcade junkie Kevin Flynn (Bridges) gets turned into a software program by a computer at the office of his former employer, ENCOM.  After becoming a program, he must compete against other programs with his life on the line.  Meanwhile, Tron (Boxleitner) attempts to disable the Master Control Program that runs everything.

This is an incredibly hard film to review and rate.  It’s one of those that you say, “It was ahead of its time.”  But if you look it today, it’s sort of awful.  The graphics and effects seem laughable, almost as if it were an intended parody of effects.  But, then you realize just how
revolutionary this film was.  After that it’s much more easily appreciated.  Plus, Jeff Bridges is and was the dude…I mean the man.

My Rating – 2 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 70% (46 Reviews)

Ghostbusters (1984)

Director: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 93% (46 Reviews)

The Terminator (1984)

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton

My Rating – 3  Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (44 Reviews)

Back to the Future (1985)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd and Lea Thompson

Academy Awards: Best Sound Effects Editing

Thanks to the brilliant and eccentric Doc Brown (Lloyd), teenager Marty McFly (Fox) accidently travels thirty years into the past.  His arrival threatens his own existence as he
inadvertently interferes with his parents’ relationship.  He must work to convince them that they are destined to be together or he will disappear.

Back to the Future could have been a bust.  Originally Eric Stotlz was cast as the lead, but he was no Marty McFly and shortly after he was replaced by Michael J. Fox.  It’s Fox that takes this SciFi Comedy so likeable.  Combined with Lloyd’s Doc Brown, they might be the best old scientist and teenage slacker duo in film history.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (61 Reviews)

Robocop (1987)

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Peter Weller and Nancy Allen

Academy Awards: Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing

My Rating – 2 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 88% (42 Reviews)

Batman (1989)

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Kim Basinger

Academy Awards: Best Art Direction-Set Decoration

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 71% (52 Reviews)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum

Academy Awards: Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (45 Reviews)

Independence Day (1996)

Director: Roland Emmerich

Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman and Jeff Goldblum

Academy Awards: Best Visual Effects

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 60% (55 Reviews)

Men In Black (1997)

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Rip Torn

Academy Awards: Best Makeup

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 91% (68 Reviews)

The Matrix (1999)

Director: The Wachowski Brothers

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne and Hugo Weaving

Academy Awards: Best Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 87% (128 Reviews)

X-Men (2000)

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 82% (154 Reviews)

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Director: Chris Columbus

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 80% (186 Reviews)

Spider-Man (2002)

Director: Sam Raimi

Starring: Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe and Kirsten Dunst

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (215 Reviews)

Serenity (2005)

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk and Morena Baccarin

In a totalitarian future, America and China have combined into a singular super power known the Alliance.  Malcolm Reynolds (Fillion) captains a ship which is concealing River Tam (SciFi Queen – Summer Glau) who the Alliance desperately seeking.  The captain and his crew find themselves in unimaginable danger as they discover the Alliance’s darkest secret.

Joss Whedon’s third TV series, “Firefly” got cancelled by Fox part way through its premiere season in spite of critical support.  However, Fox under estimated the fan base and “Firefly” saw unexpected sales numbers when released onto DVD.  This gave Whedon the chance to finish his space western on the big screen.  The final product is Serenity.  Due to the necessary structure of a film, it lacks a lot of the humor that separated Firefly.  However, the film does an admirable job of wrapping up the story and provides a proper send off to some of the small screen’s most interesting characters.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 81% (177 Reviews)

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez and Doug Jones

Academy Awards: Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best

My Rating – 2 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 95% (194 Reviews)

The Dark Knight (2008)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger and Gary Oldman

Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Ledger) and Best Sound Editing

Batman (Bale) and Gotham’s new District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are working together to cut off Gotham’s mob bosses.  However, their success forces the mobs to turn to the psychopathic Joker, who turns his focus to Batman, Harvey and their shared love interest Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Batman Begins was a phenomenal movie and a great franchise starter.  Just based on
past experiences, it wouldn’t have surprised many people if the follow-up faltered.  However, thanks to Nolan’s direction and outstanding on-screen performances, The Dark Knight was a far superior film to its predecessor.  Above everything else, The Dark Knight will be remembered for Heath Ledger’s tour de force performance as The Joker and his tragic death before the film’s release.  Personally, I thought we gained one of the
all-time great performances and unfortunately lost an all-time great film actor.

RIP Heath.

My Rating – 5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94% (280 Reviews)

District 9 (2009)

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Starring: Sharito Copley, Jason Cope and Nathalie Boltt

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 91% (251 Reviews)


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Western Genre | 501 Update

Much like the War section, before starting this project, I hadn’t seen any Western films
off of the list.  Growing up my dad was (and is) a huge Western fan, but it just never really appealed to me.  Now, I’ve grown to appreciate the genre.  Below is the recap of the Western films that I’ve since beginning on this project.

Seen to date: 8 out of 51

Stagecoach (1939)

Director: John Ford

Starring: John Wayne, Claire Trevor and Thomas Mitchell

Academy Award Wins – Best Supporting Actor (Mitchell) and Best Score

AFI Top 100 – #63 (1998)

In 1880, a diverse group boards a stagecoach heading east through territory in the midst of Apaches on the warparth.  The group includes a prostitute (Trevor), an alcoholic doctor, a worried wife and a whiskey salesman.  Along the way, they take The Ringo Kid (Wayne) into custody and deal with war being waged around them.

In addition to being legendary director John Ford’s first western with sound, Stagecoach is considered to be the breakout role of John Wayne’s career.  Everyone aboard the stagecoach brings something different to the picture and contributes to the overall quality.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (28 Reviews)

High Noon (1952)

Director: Fred Zinnemann

Starring: Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly

Academy Award Wins – Best Actor (Cooper), Best Score, Best Film Editing and Best Original Song (“High Noon”)

AFI Top 100 – #33 (1998) #27 (2007)

Moments after marrying and turning in his badge for good, Will Kane (Cooper) finds out that a criminal who vowed revenge is returning to town at noon.  After leaving with his new bride, Kane returns and reclaims his badge.

High Noon is a rare film in that it is told in real time.  This pacing is as much of a character as anyone with a physical presence on-screen and that is a rare accomplishment.  Additionally, screen legend Gary Cooper won one of his two ‘Best Actor’ statues for his role as Will Kane.  Also, the American Film Institute listed Kane as the fifth greatest film hero of all-time.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96% (46 Reviews)

The Naked Spur (1953)

Director: Anthony Mann

Starring: James Stewart and Ralph Meeker

In the Rocky Mountains, Howard Kemp (Stewart) is tracking a wanted murderer, along the way he pays an old prospector for his assistance and then meets discharged Lieutenant Roy Anderson (Meeker).  Once the trip finally tracks down the alleged murderer he informs them that Kemp is not a Sherriff and that the actual price on his head is much higher than they had been told.

Anthony Mann and James Stewart are one of those director/actor tandems with multiple features to their credit and The Naked Spur is the third of their movies together.  Unlike most westerns of its day The Naked Spur received an Academy Awards nomination for its Original Screenplay.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (11 Reviews)

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966)

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach

The Good (Eastwood), The Bad (Van Cleef) and The Ugly (Wallach) compete with and against each other to find a buried fortunate of confederate gold during the American Civil War.

The third installment of ‘The Dollars Trilogy’ is an epic western that is commonly considered among the best westerns ever made.  And, Eastwood’s ‘Man with No Name’ character is one of the most iconic in movie history.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (66 Reviews)

True Grit (1969)

Director: Henry Hathaway

Starring: John Wayne, Glen Campbell and Robert Duvall

Academy Award Wins – Best Actor (Wayne)

Mattie Ross (Kim Darby) travels to Ft. Smith and hires Marshall Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn (Wayne) to bring her father’s killer to justice.  The unlikely pair, travels together in search of Tom Chaney.  Eventually, they pull their efforts with a young Texas Ranger (Campbell).

Wayne’s performance in True Grit earned him the only Academy Award for ‘Best Actor’ of his career.  He is outstanding as the rough, but kind hearted aging US Marshall.  The recent remake was also outstanding. Interestingly, Jeff Bridges also earned an Academy Award nomination for his performance as Rooster Cogburn.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (46 Reviews)

High Plains Drifter (1973)

Director: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood and Verna Bloom

A mysterious stranger (Eastwood), shows up in the small town of Lago.   He seems to have returned from the dead to get his revenge on the townsfolk who once stood by and watched him, as sheriff, get whipped to death.  Believing that he will protect them, the town quickly puts him in charge.  He uses his new found power paint the town red and change its name to hell.

Eastwood is a screen legend for a reason.   A big part of that reason, are the gripping
nature of his performances.  High Plains Drifter is a perfect example of that.  He is completely focused on his sadistic mission and it’s hard to look away.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96% (23 Reviews)

Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Director: Ang Lee

Starring: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway

Academy Award Wins – Best Director (Lee), Best Score and Best Adapted Screenplay

Ennis Del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) are hired to herd sheep during the summer in Wyoming.  One night, they have a sexual encounter that starts a life time long physical and emotional relationship which they attempt to hide from their wives and

Commonly referred to as ‘that gay cowboy movie’ when it debuted in 2005, Brokeback Mountain features a watershed performance in the career of Gyllenhaal.  But, in my opinion Ledger steals the show.  It is a shame that we lost him so
early.  His ability to morph himself in voice, mannerism and look into his roles was unparalleled by any of his peers.  From his quiet, mumbling Ennis Del Mar to his portrayal of the criminally insane, clown prince of crime; Ledger was a true screen gem.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 87% (232 Reviews)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Director: The Coen Brothers

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin

Academy Award Wins – Best Director (Coen Brothers), Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bardem) and Best Adapted Screenplay

Methodical hitman Anton Chigurth (Bardem) is hired to hunt down
Llewelyn Moss (Brolin) and recover the two million dollars that he found at the
aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong.

The Coen Brothers are on my personal Mt. Rushmore of modern directors and No Country for Old Men is their fourth and newest film featured on the “501” (in addition to, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo and The Big Lebowski).  No Country for Old Men finally earned the directing duo their first ‘Best Director’ Oscar and deservedly so.  On the strength of an edge of your seat performance from fellow Academy Award winner Bardem as the methodically serial killer, No Country for Old Men is one of the best western films to date in the 21st century.

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 95% (223 Reviews) qj


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A Genre That I Need to Work on: War Films

Going into this project, there were two genres that I had seen literally 0 films off
of the “Must-See” list: War and Western.  When I was younger, neither of these genres appealed much to me.  So, now I am behind the 8 ball on watching the 50 films from each genre.  Below is a recap of the two War films I’ve seen so far from the list.

Seen to date: 2 out of 50

M*A*S*H (1970)

Director: Robert Altman

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould and Robert Duvall

Academy Award Wins – Best Adapted Screenplay

AFI Top 100 – #56 (1998) #54 (2007)

M*A*S*H is a film about the highs and lows of life set in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War.  Hawkeye (Sutherland) and Trapper John (Gould) are two of the unit’s best surgeons, which allows them to get away with their hijinks and pursue nurses.
All this goes on much to the chagrin of Major Burns (Duvall).

Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H has won its share of accolades, the Palme d’Or and an Academy Award for its screenplay.  But, often it is overlooked in favor the subsequent TV show which many feel is the one of the best of all-time.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (36 Reviews)

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Tom Hanks, Edward Burns and Matt Damon

Academy Award Wins – Best Director (Spielberg), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Sound

AFI Top 100 – #71 (2007)

An army captain (Hanks) is given a special assignment when he is tasked to take seven men into France to find one solider, Private Ryan (Damon), whose three brothers have all been killed in combat.

Spielberg and Hanks combined to make one of the gems of the 90s.  Saving Private Ryan was awarded with multiple Academy Awards and among them was Cinematography and Sound Effects Editing.  Both of these were extremely well deserved for an extremely beautifully shot film that is accompanied by an intense audio experience.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 91% (93 Reviews)


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Romance Recap – Part 2

Sorry for my brief hiatus.  Here is the remaining romantic movies that I’ve seen from “501 Must-See Movies” so far…


Seen to date: 16 out of 50

Annie Hall (1977)

Director: Woody Allen

Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton and Christopher Walken

Academy Award Wins – Best Picture, Best Actress (Keaton), Best Director (Allen) and Best Original Screenplay

AFI Top 100 – #31 (1998) #35 (2007)

Alvy (Allen) is a neurotic comic who attempts to have a relationship with the eccentric Annie (Keaton).  After years of arguments and reconciliations, the couple realizes that they are too different and decide to call it quits.  Annie moves to LA and Alvy realizes he still loves her and tries to persuade her to move back to New York with him. 

Woody Allen is one of America’s most recognizable directors and Annie Hall represents a changing point in his career.  For the first time, he stepped aside from zany comedies and molded his style into an emotionally rich film.  His work paid off with Oscar statuettes for directing and writing.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 98% (47 Reviews)

The Princess Bride (1987)

Director: Rob Reiner

Starring: Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and Peter Falk

A grandfather (Falk) reads his sick grandson (Fred Savage) the story of “The Princess Bride”, which details the love of a Farm Boy named Wesley (Elwes) and Buttercup (Wright).  Wesley leaves Buttercup in the hopes of seeking his fortune abroad so he can return and marry his true love.  After years he never returns or sends word and a local prince selects Buttercup as his bride to be.  Eventually villains for hire, kidnap Buttercup and she is rescued by the mysterious Dread Pirate Roberts.

The Princess Bride is easily one of my ten favorite films of all time.  My fiancée asked me the other day, why I liked it so much.  I guess I just feel like it has everything and is wildly entertaining.  It’s extremely romantic and has outstanding comedic performances (including an unrecognizable cameo by Billy Crystal as Miracle Max).  It’s got sword e, fights, giants, revenge, battles of wit and like I said and extremely romantic story about true love.

My Rating – 5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 96% (46 Reviews)

Dirty Dancing (1987)

Director: Emile Ardolino

Starring: Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze

Academy Award Wins – Best Music, Original Song (The Time of My Life)

Seventeen year old, “Baby” (Grey) is on vacation with her family at a resort in the Catskill Mountains.  While there, she meets and falls for the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle (Swayze).  Despite being forbidden by her father, the romance blossoms and eventually Johnny is fired for having a relationship with a guest.  All in all, you might say that they ‘had the time of their lives.’

This seems to be a movie that has more appeal for female movie fans, but has become a staple of the genre and one of the classic examples of forbidden love romances between lovers from different classes for our generation.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 68% (44 Reviews)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Director: Rob Reiner

Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan and Carrie Fisher

Academy Award Wins – Best Music, Original Score

The first time they met, they hated each other.  Well, Sally contends that Harry didn’t hate her, but she hated him.  Either way, they met randomly; thrown together to drive across the country from college back to New York.  Five years later, the story picks up as they find themselves on the same flight.  They meet again five years later and this time begin a friendship, before eventually developing romantic feelings.

Another of my favorite movies from this genre, When Harry Met Sally deals with the differing ideas about relationships between men and women.  Harry believes members of the two sexes can never be true friends.  Because of this theme, it is a timeless film that seems contemporary more than 20 years later.

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 91% (47 Reviews)

Pretty Woman (1990)

Director: Garry Marshall

Starring: Julia Roberts and Richard Gere

Businessman Edward Lewis (Gere) is in need of directions when he happens across a prostitute named Vivian (Roberts).  Lewis then hires Vivian to stay with him for the week and escort him to social events, paying her $3,000 and giving her his credit cards for the week.

Pretty Woman is one of the most financially successful romantic comedies of all-time and established Julia Roberts as one of the most iconic and beloved actresses of her era.  In many ways, Pretty Woman is a modern fairy tale and has become one of the 90s most beloved movies.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 62% (55 Reviews)

Sleepless in Seattle (1993)

Director: Nora Ephron

Starring: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan

Sam Baldwin (Hanks) moves to Seattle with his son after losing his young wife to cancer.  A year and a half later his son calls into a radio talk show to talk about his dad and he is convinced to do the same.  Hundreds of women hear the show and write to Sam.  One of those women is Annie (Ryan) who is engaged, but feels her relationship is missing something.  Her letter encourages Sam to meet her on the Empire State building.  However, his son is unable to convince him to do so.  Eventually the son goes to New York; unbeknownst to his father to meet the woman who he feels is right for his dad.

Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are both fan favorites and also worked together later in You’ve Got MailThey are equally outstanding on opposite ends of this distant love story.  Hanks’ Sam Baldwin is heart breaking at times as he mourns the loss of his wife while still being a caring father, and Meg Ryan seems extremely realistic as someone in a stable, but lacking relationship. 

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 73% (44 Reviews)

Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes and Paul Rudd

Romeo + Juliet is an abridged modern version of Shakespeare’s most famous play.   It keeps the Shakespearean dialogue, but the warring families are represented as warring business empires and swords are replaced by guns (manufactured by ‘Sword’).

Before Titanic, Leo (along with Claire Danes) took on the stage’s most famous star crossed lovers.  Hearing the famous dialogue told against a modern backdrop with cars and guns make this film unique even though we’ve seen the story countless times before.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 70% (56 Reviews)

Titanic (1997)

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Billy Zane

Academy Award Wins – Best Picture, Best Director (Cameron), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, Best Original Song (“My Heart Will Go On”) and Best Art Direction

AFI Top 100 – #83 (2007)

Told as the memories of a survivor named Rose (the younger version played by Winslet), Titanic is the story of lovers from different social circles who find each other on the doomed ship.

Titanic broke box office records in the late 90s and is easily one of the most decorated films of recent history and may be the most recognizable of Cameron’s epic career.  It made a superstar out of DiCaprio and solidified Winslet as acclaimed female lead. 

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 83% (98 Reviews)

Punch Drunk Love (2002)

Director: P.T. Anderson

Starring: Adam Sandler, Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Barry Egan (Sandler) has a plan to exploit a loophole in a Healthy Choice promotion and collect a million frequent flyer miles, by buying a large quantity of pudding.  But, a chance encounter with Lena (Watson) and the pursuit of extortion thugs related to a phone sex line complicate things.

PT Anderson (of Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood fame) is one of America’s hottest directors.  In Punch Drunk Love he managed to do the unthinkable and take Sandler out of his typical comedy films and put him in position to garner positive reviews for his depth as an actor.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 79% (180 Reviews)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Director: Michael Gondry

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet and Elijah Wood

Academy Award Wins – Best Original Screenplay

Joel (Carrey) has decided to have the memories of his relationship with Clementine (Winslet) erased by a revolutionary new procedure.  Joel’s memories play in reverse and once he comes across some of their happier memories from the beginning of their time together he struggles to preserve some of them.  In the meantime, the employees of the company performing the procedure deal with its impact on their own lives.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the most unusual, remarkable films of recent memory.  It shows that Jim Carrey’s range extends past his inane comedies of the 90s.  This combined with his performance in The Truman Show prove that Carrey is more capable than often given credit for.

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 93% (217 Reviews)

Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Director: Danny Boyle

Starring: Dev Patel, Freida Pinto and Rubina Ali

Academy Award Wins – Best Picture, Best Director (Boyle), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, Best Original Song (“Jai Ho”) and Best Sound Mixing

Jamal Malik (Patel) a former street child is a contestant on the Indian version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and is close to the grand prize.  However, because of the improbability of a “slumdog” doing this well, he is suspected of cheating and detained by the police.  Through flashbacks, Jamal recounts the incidents in his life that led him to know each answer.

The expression ‘Cinderella Story’ gets thrown around quite a bit.  But, that doesn’t make it any less appropriate to describe the unbelievable run of this film.  After originally being released in just 10 U.S. theatres, Slumdog Millionaire went onto major success at the Academy Awards (winning 8 categories).

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 94% (222 Reviews)


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Romance Recap Part 1

Great romantic films have a way of emotionally connecting with audiences that other
genres lack.  They are able to capture audiences across generations and are able to make people happy or make people cry.  Romantic heroes and heroines seem
to live on forever in the way that their love is implied to.  It’s one of the oldest genres of film, really it’s the basis of centuries worth of great plays before film existed.  Today, I will be covering the first five romance movies I’ve seen from the list.

Seen to date: 16 out of 50

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Director: Ernst Lubitsch

Starring: James Stewart, Margaret Sullivan and Frank Morgan

In Budapest during the 1930s, Alfred Kralik (Stewart) works in a gift shop (which is located ‘around the corner’).  He is currently having a pen-pal relationship with his dream girl.  Meanwhile, Miss Klara Novak (Sullivan) gets a job at the shop and gets off on the wrong foot with Alfred.  Six months later, their working relationship is even rockier, but Alfred’s pen-pal romance has grown even more loving.  When Alfred agrees to
meet his pen-pal face-to-face, he is shocked when he realizes that he is meeting Klara and stands her up.  He is undecided as to how to proceed with his working and written relationships.

If you’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, you might like The Shop Around the Corner as
the former is a remake of the latter.  James Stewart is wonderful as the romantically inclined shop manager.  The story of star-crossed anonymous lovers seems timeless and holds up over 70 years later.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (23 Reviews)

Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz

Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains

Academy Award Wins – Best Picture, Best Director (Curtiz), Best Writing, Screenplay

AFI Top 100 – #2 (1998) #3 (2007)

Wartime refugees in search of freedom escape to Casablanca.  Most find their way to Rick’s Café run by American Rick Blaine (Bogart), who helps refugees acquire the necessary
paperwork.  He gets his hands on two such documents before an underground leader and his wife Ilsa (Bergman) show up.  Rick and Ilsa are former lovers and now he has a chance to turn her husband over to the SS and flee with the girl.

Casablanca is one of the most celebrated films of all-time and a personal favorite of mine.  The American Film Institute listed in the top 3 of its top 100 in both versions.  Even
if you haven’t seen it, you’re likely familiar with some of the most famous lines which include:

“Here’s looking at you kid.”

“Louis I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

“Round up the usual suspects.”

“We’ll always have Paris.”

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

My Rating – 5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (59 Reviews)

Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Director: Blake Edwards

Starring: Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard

Academy Award Wins – Best Music, Original Score and Best Original Score

Holly Golightly (Hepburn) left her life as a young farm wife in Texas behind in favor of a luxurious life in New York.  If she is ever feeling blue, she takes herself to Tiffany’s.  Any hint of a real relationship terrifies her, especially when she starts to grow fond of her new
neighbor (Peppard).

Hepburn’s Holly Golightly with her huge sunglasses, black dress and gloves, cigarette holder and pearls has become one of the most iconic female characters of all-time and of her epic career.  But ironically, Hepburn always felt miscast as Holly (a role originally
offered to Marilyn Monroe).  One stain on the legacy of this film was the casting of Mickey Rooney as Holly’s Asian landlord, which many view as offensive.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 88% (49 Reviews)

Love Story (1970)

Director: Arthur Hiller

Starring: Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal

Academy Award Wins – Best Music, Original Score

Oliver Barrett IV (O’Neal) is a law student at Harvard who meets Jenny Cavalleri (MacGraw) a music student at Radcliffe.  They are constantly at each other’s throats,
until one long kiss reveals a deep love.  Jenny intends to leave for Paris, until Oliver proposes.  Oliver’s affluent father is less than pleased and cuts off the couple financially.  The newlyweds preserve and then tragedy strikes.

Love Story is one of the most recognizable romance movies of the 1970s and was placed 9th on the American Film Institute’s list of best Romance movies.  It’s most famous line, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry” immediately entered the pop-culture lexicon.  Also, its Academy Award winning score helps make the movie.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 59% (22 Reviews)

The Way We Were (1964)

Director: Sydney Pollack

Starring: Barbara Streisand and Robert Redford

Academy Award Wins – Best Music, Original Score and Best Music,
Original Song

Katie Morosky (Streisand) and Hubbell Gardner (Redford) meet at
university.  They are from completely backgrounds.  She’s a jewish, political
activist and he’s a protestant who wants to be a writer.  Between the two is an underlying attraction, but neither follows up.  Eventually their paths cross again and they start a romance.  They get married and move to LA where Hubbell will be adapted one of his
novels into a movie.  When Katie’s political activism threatens Hubbell’s career, they decide to separate.

The Way We Were is a classic love story about opposites attracting.
Streisand (who was nominated for an Academy Award) and Redford are two
of the biggest movie stars of all-time and they share the screen in an
excellent balance.  It’s one of those movies that suffered at the pens of the critics initially, but was loved by movie goers.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 63% (19 Reviews)

Next up is the rest of the 16 romance “Must-See” movies, I’ve seen
starting with Annie Hall.


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The “Must-See” Musicals I’ve Seen So Far

Musical is the one genre most likely to have you singing along and tapping your
toes.  These films have made icons out of
actors and actresses like Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and Julie Andrews.  And, it’s always attracted stars looking to
expand their horizons for example Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and more
recently Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep.

Seen to date: 15 out of 50

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Director: Victor Fleming and King Vidor

Starring: Judy Garland, Frank Morgan and Jack Haley

Academy Award Wins – Best Song “Over the Rainbow” and Best Original Score

AFI Top 100 – #6 (1998) and #10 (2007)

A farm girl from Kansas named Dorothy (Garland) is carried away in
a house on the strength of a twister to Munchkinland.  Glinda the Good Witch sends Dorothy off to see the Wizard of Oz and on her way she encounters a cowardly lion, a scarecrow without a brain and a tin man without a heart and is attacked by the Wicked
Witch of the West.

The Wizard of Oz stands out as one of the most beloved and acclaimed American films of all-time.  In addition to being in the top 10 in both editions of AFI’s to 100 Movies, The Wizard of Oz ranks as the number 1 fantasy film of all-time.  It’s one of a few that you could say, “Everyone’s seen it” and be pretty close to correct.  Personally, I prefer the stage musical Wicked to The Wizard of Oz, but I still recognize its significance.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs (Out of 5)

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (74 Reviews)

Singing in the Rain (1952)

Director: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds

AFI Top 100 – #10 (1998) #5 (2007)

Don Lockwood (Kelly) is a celebrated leading man during the silent
film era.  After the success of The Jazz Singer, Lockwood’s studio head
decides to turn his most recent film into a talkie, the only problem is the
leading lady (Lina Lamont played by Jean Hagen) has a voice like nails on a
chalk board, so they decide to use the voice of newcomer Kathy Selden (Debbie
Reynolds) while keeping Lamont on screen.

One of the most celebrated musicals of all-time with one of the
most recognizable songs of all-time; Singing in the Rain is another example of a musical that ranks in the top 10 of the AFI top 100 movies.  Gene Kelly is brilliant as a silver screen leading man adjusted to the change to talkies.

My Rating – 5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (45 Reviews)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and Charles Coburn

Showgirls and best friends Lorelei (Monroe) and Dorothy (Russell)
sail together to France in advance of Lorelei’s wedding.  However her father-in-law to be does not trust Lorelei and hires a private investigator who is also on board.  Despite being warned to be on her best behavior, Lorelei meets a rich diamond mine owner (Coburn) and her gold digging ways get the best of her as she tries to charm him (inspiring the classic musical number, “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend”).  In the meantime, Dorothy falls in love with the private investigator.

Marilyn Monroe is one of America’s most iconic stars and enduring sex symbols and among her films, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is one of the most beloved.
In classic comedy duo form, Monroe plays the straight person to a T, while Russell handles the comedic barbs with a sarcastic wit that would fit in today’s cinema.

My Rating – 3 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 97% (36 Reviews)

Funny Face (1957)

Director: Stanley Donen

Starring: Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire

While commandeering a local book shop for a photo shoot, fashion
photographer Dick Avery (Astaire) meets Jo Stockton (Hepburn) who thinks the
entire fashion industry is nonsense.  Avery sees something new and interesting in Jo’s
‘funny’ face and convinces to model in exchange for an all-expenses trip to
Paris where she can attend lectures of her favorite philosopher.

Funny Face is certainly a movie from this list that surprised me.
Unexpectedly it became one of my favorite examples of the genre.  Hepburn and Astaire play off each other to perfection and are just as brilliant dancing as they are singing.  Also, the 1950s Technicolor is brilliant.

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 87% (23 Reviews)

A Hard Day’s Night (1964)

Director: Richard Lester

Starring: The Beatles

The Beatles travel from Liverpool to London, by train, to perform
a concert on a TV show.  After finally escaping the crowds, the group tries to relax on the train but is harassed by Paul’s grandfather and their manager.
Eventually, they arrive in London and have to overcome obstacles before
finally performing and meeting the press.

The plot is pretty pedestrian, but at the same time seems plausible.  During the height of Beatlemania, it’s likely that they had to go to great lengths just to travel in peace.  Also, the band members seem to joke at theirown expense adding to the laugh total.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (74 Reviews)

MaryPoppins (1964)

Director: Robert Stevenson

Starring: Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke

Academy Award Wins – Best Actress (Andrews), Best Visual Effects,
Best Original Song “Chim Chim Cher ee”, Best Original Score and Best Film

Set in London in 1910, Marry Poppins (Andrews) floats down from a
cloud to serve as a nanny for a pair of rambunctious children.  Mary and her chimney sweep friend Bert (Van Dyke) take the kids on a handful of magical adventures.

Mary Poppins was Julie Andrews film debut and announced her presence as a force in musical films in a big way.  Personally this was never one of my favorites when considered as a children’s film or a musical, that’s not to say its place on this list isn’t justified.
Fans and critics alike hold Mary Poppins in high regard.

My Rating – 2 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 100% (39 Reviews)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Director: Jim Sharman

Starring: Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick

Janet (Sarandon) and Brad (Bostwick) are newly engaged when their
car breaks down during a thunderstorm. They seek help in a mysterious castle, which happens to be occupied by strange characters from the galaxy of Transylvania led by the transvestite Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Curry).

I’m always interestedcby films that achieve cult status and establish a culture all their own.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show is certainly one of those films. Even 35 years after its release, fans turn out (in full costume) in droves for midnight showings.  It wasn’t
a favorite of mine, personally.  But, I can understand why some folks like it and certainly admires what the culture represents to outsiders.

My Rating – 2 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 76% (37 Reviews)

Grease (1978)

Director: Randal Kleiser

Starring: John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John

The leader of the T-Birds, Danny Zuko (Travolta) comes back from
vacation bragging about his ‘Summer Lovin’ with an Australian girl Sandy (Newton-John).  But, romance gets more complicated when Sandy
shows up at Danny’s high school as part of an exchange program.

Grease is one of the most beloved high school movies and musicals of all-time.   Travolta plays the conflicted tough guy well and Newton-John’s transformation from good-girl to bad-girl is one of the most famous in film history.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 82% (55 Reviews)

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Director: John Landis

Starring: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Carrie Fisher

In the hopes of raising $5000 in 11 days to save the home where
they were raised by nuns, the Blues Brothers (Belushi and Aykroyd) decide to
stage a concert.  To set about their ‘mission from God’ they try to re-form their Blues band.

The Blues Brothers could easily be in the comedy section on this list.  For example, this film like so many others started out as a sketch from SNL.  It has become a cult classic every since it hit video shelves.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 85% (46 Reviews)

Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Director: Frank Oz

Starring: Rick Moranis, Ellen Greene and Steve Martin

Seymour (Moranis) works in a flower shop and is in love with his
co-worker Audrey (Greene).  Much to Seymour’s dismay, Audrey is in a relationship with a sadistic dentist (Martin).  Seymour finds a strange plant, which feeds on human blood and grows to be enormous.  The plant makes the flower shop and Seymour famous, but its appetite gets to be bigger and bigger.

This remake has the indelible touch of puppeteer extraordinaire Frank Oz.  He directs with a careful eye on the movie’s most unique character, Audrey II.  In
addition to Moranis and Martin, this film features cameo appearance by comedic
legends like John Candy and Bill Murray – making this an outstanding blend of
the comedy and musical genres.

My Rating – 4.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 89% (47 Reviews)

Moulin Rouge (2001)

Director: Baz Luhrmann

Starring: Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor

Academy Award Wins – Best Costume Design and Best Art Direction

In Paris, during the late 1880s a society of bohemian lifestyle exists with a focus on truth, beauty, freedom and love.  Christian (McGregor), young penniless writer, writes a show for the Moulin Rouge.  The Moulin Rouge is close to being considered a real theatre, but needs the financing of The Duke of Worcester who only wants favors from the Moulin Rouge’s
star (Kidman).  During production of the show, the star and the writer strike up a secret affair which risks the future of the Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge is a visual treasure trove and deservingly won Best Art Direction.
Kidman and McGregor both turn in outstanding performances in this modern
musical classic.

My Rating – 3.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 78% (174 Reviews)

Chicago (2002)

Director: Rob Marshall

Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger and Richard Gere

Academy Award Wins – Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress
(Zeta-Jones), Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and
Best Sound

Set in the 1920s, Roxie Hart (Zellweger) will do anything to be a
famous performer in Chicago.  To this end, she has an affair with a connected guy only to find out that he was lying and simply wanted to sleep with her.  She
kills him, resulting in her being sent to the same jail as her stage idol Velma
Kelly (Zeta-Jones).  Both woman turn to flashy lawyer Billy Flynn who turns Roxie into an overnight sensation making Velma extremely jealous.

An Academy Award winner for Best Picture (among other things), Chicago explores the nature of fame with the help of outstanding performances by an all-star cast (including Queen Latifah, Taye Diggs, John C. Reilly and Lucy Liu in supporting roles).  The musical numbers (specially “Cell Block Tango”,  “All That Jazz” and “We Both Reached for the Gun”) are masterfully done.

My Rating – 4 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 88% (211 Reviews)

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)

Director: Kenny Ortega

Starring: Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale

Seniors at East High, prepare for life after high school and along the way win a state title in basketball, decide on colleges, try for scholarships and plan the year-end musical.

I have absolutely no justification to this film being included.  Especially when you consider
all of the snubs that were not included on this list (would’ve preferred Across the Universe in this spot).

My Rating – 0.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 65% (127 Reviews)

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

Director: Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman

A villainous judge (Rickman) exiles an innocent man in the hopes
of having his young wife.  The man returns to London under the alias of Sweeney Todd (Depp) and learns that his wife committed suicide after being raped by the judge.  He sets out for revenge and partners with Mrs. Nellie Lovett, a meat-pie shop owner who’s shop is directly under Todd’s murderous barber shop.

Johnny Depp earned his third Oscar nomination for his performance
of the killer barber, Sweeney Todd (also for Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Finding Neverland).  But, to me he shines more in some of his reputation
building roles (ie Blow, Edward Scissorhands and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).  I like Depp, Carter and Rickman all, but I found Sweeney Todd didn’t live up to
my expectations for it.

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 86% (218 Reviews)

MammaMia (2008)

Director: Phyllida Lloyd

Starring: Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried and Pierce Brosnan

Sophia (Seyfried) lives with her single Mom (Streep) on a Greek island.  As she prepares for her wedding, she secretly sends invitations to each of the three men that she believes could be her father.  Much to the surprise of her mother, the each show up and Sophia tries to determine which of the three actually is her father.

Mamma Mia uses all songs from Abba and sees Meryl Streep try her hand, er vocal cords, at the musical genre (she received a Golden Globe nomination).  Mamma Mia
also has the distinction of being one of the most financial successful musical
films of all-time (over $600 million in gross revenue).

My Rating – 2.5 Ticket Stubs

Rotten Tomatoes Score – 53% (174 Reviews)


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In Honor of Captain America: The First Avenger Premiere

Check out my 2007 Kent Stater article, about the [then] death of Captain America at the  end of the ‘Civil War’ storyline and the perspective of his number one fan.

Posted in Comics, Entertainment, Film, Movies | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment