Thursday, December 28, 2023

Top 103 Favorite Movies: #49 - 40

We're counting my favorite 103 movies. The first list was here, the next here, the next here, the next here, and the last one here.

49: Aliens (1986)

After The Terminator ripped through movie screens, James Cameron moved on to the science fiction action flick, Aliens. Alien was a gothic horror set on a space ship. Aliens was an action movie through and through with space marines battling xenomorphs. And the twist climax gave us one of the more memorable lines from the movies. Sigourney Weaver reprises her role as Ripley and Michael Biehn (an under-rated actor in my opinion) is Corporal Hicks. "It's the only way to be sure." Available on Hulu.

48: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Another Billy Wilder movie (the fourth on our list). Norma Desmond is a washed-up movie star and William Holden plays Joe Gillis, a screenwriter who gets caught up in Norma's net. "You used to be big," Gillis says. "I am big. It's the pictures that got small," Norma replies. But Norma is slowly going mad and thinks she's going to make a comeback film. When, of course, she isn't. Contains the classic line, "I'm ready for my closeup, Mr. DeMille." I haven't seen this is years; maybe I should watch it again. Available on YouTube and Amazon Prime Video (both paid).

47: Casablanca (1942)

I am shocked, shocked this movie is only number 47. It's such a good film with Humphry Bogart and Claude Rains and Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. Yes, that almost sounds like a reunion of the Maltese Falcon cast. Then there's Ingrid Bergman playing Ilsa. The Germans wore gray; she wore blue. So many memorable lines from this movie. Rick is a cynical café owner in Casablanca who has a history with Ilsa. "Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine," Rick says. The drama builds from there with Nazis and both turncoats and patriotic French. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

46: Blade Runner (1982) 

Harrison Ford as a cop who hunts and "retires" robots that look human (replicants). The only way to tell them apart is something called the Voight-Kampf test. Which is slow when a possibly murderous robot is sitting across the table from you. Directed by Ridley Scott, the movie is visually stunning (again, no CGI) and with a score by Vangelis (Chariots of Fire), it's an immersive ride that asks questions about the nature of humanity. There are several versions of the film out there. Avoid the one where Ford narrates. Based on the Phillip K. Dick book Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Available on YouTube and Apple TV (paid).

45: The Terminator (1984)

Speaking of robots. This was James Cameron's second feature film and it made a name for him. For some reason, playing an emotionless robot also made Arnold Schwarzenegger's acting career. Interesting trivia: Schwarzenegger's pay for this movie was $500,000. For Terminator 2, it was $15 million. This movie is a fast, pounding, action film with a science fiction plot. There are shootouts and car chases and fun little bits ("machines need love too"). This movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video

44: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Based on the true story of Desmond Doss who, during World War II, refused to touch a weapon or kill people due to religious reasons. He became a medic and, for his bravery in saving his fellow soldiers at the battle of Hacksaw Ridge on Okinawa, he won the Congressional Medal of Honor without firing a shot. Mel Gibson directs this movie with intense, bloody battle sequences. Rated R for good reason. I recently watched the beginning of this film and was reminded the hell Doss was put through in basic training because he wouldn't touch a rifle, but he refused to quit. Available on Sling TV (free) and Amazon Prime Video.

43: Die Hard (1988)

The film that made Bruce Willis an action star. With Alan Rickman playing the suave villain, this is a fun movie with lots of shootouts, explosions, and tense moments. A movie about family and redemption and love. Really. Not a lot of plot but lots of action. Watch it at Christmastime with someone you love.  Available on Hulu, Fubo, and Sling TV.

42: Back to the Future (1985)

"You built a time machine out of DeLorean?" This fantasy movie about an 80s teenager transported to the 50s has a fun fish-out-of-water vibe along with nostalgia and a bit of romance, unfortunately, with his mother. Christopher Lloyd is the scientist/inventor of the time machine and plays the part with enthusiasm. Forget the sequels, this is the best of the movies. Available on Hulu and Sling TV.

41: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

When this Australian-made movie came to the US, it was shocking for its violence (these days it would be only typical). It also made Mel Gibson a star. There are car chases and brutal violence as people try to find the "precious juice," i.e., gasoline. The climax with the tanker truck is heart-pounding. Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

40: Rear Window (1954)

Probably Hitchcock's best movie. Staring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, it's the story of a man laid up with a broken leg who watches what goes on in the apartments around him through his rear window. And did he just witness a murder? How can he find out?  Suspenseful and fun. Available on YouTube and Apple TV (both paid).

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Top 103 Favorite Movies: #59 - 50.

Once again into the breach. We're counting down my favorite 103 movies. Why 103? Because there were just some movies I couldn't leave off the list.

The first post is here, the next one here, the next one here, and the last one here.

So here we go, with #59 through 50:

59: Aladdin (1993)

Before Disney went all woke on us, it made great cartoons such as Aladdin. The hand-drawn animation is amazing and the story is one of redemption. Aladdin goes from being a "street rat" to having the princess fall in love with him with the help of a genie voiced by Robin Williams. There are enough jokes to keep adults entertained, too. Available on Disney+

58: The Lion King (1994) 

First of all, the hand-drawn animation is beautiful, especially during the opening. And Simba's story arc is amazing, from "no worries" (hakuna matata) to facing up to his past and taking responsibility. Jeremy Irons is perfect as the villain, Scar. You can hear the evil in his voice. Even the music is wonderful. A real treat to watch. Available on Disney+

57: Dumbo (1941)

Old, classic Disney, with lovable characters and beautiful hand-drawn animation. Catchy songs, too. The title character, Dumbo, never says a word. He doesn't have to, his facial expressions do it all. The story of someone who took their biggest problem and turned it an asset. This short film (only about an hour), is one of Disney's best animated movies. Available on Disney+

56: Twelve O'clock High (1949)

One of the first movies to portray the horrors of aerial combat in World War II. Gregory Peck takes over a "hard luck" B-17 bomber group and through discipline and psychology, gets them into fighting shape. Includes actual combat footage in the final, climactic battle. Available on YouTube (free) and Amazon Prime Video (paid).

55: The Untouchables (1987) 

Written by David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross), this is a nearly perfect law-and-order movie. Elliot Ness is moving in on Al Capon in Chicago during Prohibition. Not very historically accurate, it's still not only fun but a good action film. The final scene in the train station on the stairs is a classic (parts of it stolen from Sergei Eisenstein). Who doesn't love a good gangsters vs. cops movie? Available on Showtime, YouTube (paid), and Hulu.

54: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

My favorite Star Trek film. There's so much that's good here, you ignore some plot holes. Introduced Lt. Saavik (played by a young Kirstie Alley) and brought back Khan from the series. The tension of the first space battle is thick. We get a little back story on Kirk who, at age 50, is starting to feel old. Sit back and enjoy this space ride. Available on Paramount+

53: Young Frankenstein (1974)

Another Mel Brooks film on my list, and the best. With laugh-out-loud humor and silly setups, it's just a fun movie to watch. Shot in black and white, it also is a tribute to old horror movies of the 1930s. Watch out for those "Abby Normal" brains. Available on Max, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.

52: Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Another Billy Wilder movie! This murder mystery is set in London and stars Marlene Dietrich as the wife of a man (played by Tyrone Power) on trial for murder his mistress. Charles Laughton plays the lawyer (solicitor) hired to defend the man. With great acting and twists, this is a wonderful movie. Available on YouTube, Pluto TV (both free), and Amazon Prime Video (with subscription)

51: Forrest Gump (1994)

"Stupid is as stupid does." I'm not sure why I like this movie so much. Tom Hanks plays Forrest Gump, a low-IQ man who is dragged along by the events of the 1960s and '70s and has an influence on history. The Vietnam battle scene is scary and realistic (except when Forrest outruns a napalm bombing). There's no quest and not much of a plot. And through it all he loves Jenny. Poor Jenny, who is always trying to find herself and nearly does. Available on Paramount+ and Amazon Prime Video.

50: Jaws (1975)

There are a lot of Steven Spielberg on this list and the is the first one. It was Spielberg's second feature film after The Sugarland Express. Here Spielberg honed his craft to give us thrills and chills and characters we want to like (or not). No CGI (too early) and yes, sometimes the shark looks fake. But that doesn't take away from the taut direction and frightening scenarios. And that John Williams score is amazing. On Tubi (free).

What do you think of my list? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Top Favorite 103 Movies: #69 - 60

Once again we dive into my list of 103 favorite movies. The first part is here, the next part is here, and the last part is here.

Without further ado, here's #69 - 60:

69: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room." I don't agree with this movie's anti-war message, but I admire the way they said it. A comedy about nuclear war with Slim Pickens and an early roll for James Earl Jones. A departure for director Stanley Kubrick from his usual serious fare. And Peter Sellers plays three roles including Dr. Strangelove. Everyone needs to watch this at least once. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

68: Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)

In the middle of this movie there's a car chase. And I thought "oh, dear, another boring car chase." But, no, it was an amazing car chase. That's just part of the appeal of this movie. The climax is (nearly) nuclear explosive. The helicopter chase is also astonishing. An action-packed thriller. Available on Paramount+

67: Interstellar (2014)

Earth's ecosystem is failing (never said why, probably climate change). NASA wants to send astronauts to a system of planets to see if one is inhabitable. But there's a black hole and time dilation and time travel through the black hole and… it's a very interesting movie worth watching. Like a lot of Christopher Nolan movies, it's deep, intellectual, and a bit hard to follow. Available on MGM+ and Amazon Prime Video.

66: Seven Year Itch (1955)

A family man with too much imagination is tempted by Marilyn Monroe while his wife and son are away for the summer. While his thoughts run away with him, he finally decides his family comes first before his job, his over-active imagination, and his desires for the girl. Contains the iconic scene of Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate and her dress being blown up. It's not as salacious in the movie as they try to make you think. Directed by Billy Wilder. Available on Tubi and YouTube (paid).

65: Blazing Saddles (1974)

Mel Brooks sends up racism in this hilarious movie. And westerns and Hollywood. While the end is a little convoluted, this flick so funny through most of the film. Cleavon Little plays the black man sent to be the sheriff of a small town, and the towns people aren't happy about it. If the N-word offends you, don't watch this movie. Just an amazing, funny movie. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

64: Some Like it Hot (1959)

A classic Billy Wilder comedy with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and of course, Marilyn Monroe. Not uproariously laugh out loud funny, but just amusing situations as Curtis and Lemmon dress like women to escape a mobster by joining an all-girls band. Contains the immortal closing line, "Well, nobody's perfect" which in context is hilarious. Available on Max and Hulu.

63: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

This is a lot of people's favorite Star Trek movie. And it's one of the better ones. The fish-out-of-water plot of the crew of the Enterprise in 1986 San Francisco is good for a lot of amusing moments. It gets a little preachy at times but that's easily overlooked. And Spock did too much LDS in the '60s. Available on Paramount+

62: Ford v Ferrari (2019)

One of the few good movies about car racing. It has its accuracy issues (downshifting to pass cars on the track), but a compelling storyline and great acting by Matt Damon (as Caroll Shelby) and Christian Bale. And it explains how the whole Ford GT racing project was to get back at Ferrari for spurning Ford's offer to buy the company. If you enjoy cars, this is a fun movie. Available on Hulu and Sling TV.

61: Top Gun (1986)

This movie was a sensation when it first came out. The dogfighting scenes were amazing and, for the first time, it seemed, you could understand what was going on. Tom Cruise is Maverick, a hot shot F-14 Tomcat pilot. Kelly McGillis is the love interest and is more believable because she's not a typical anorexic Hollywood actress. If you know anything about the military and/or military jets, you have to ignore some things, but still, this movie is a wonder. Available on Paramount+.

60: Cars (2006)

I am convinced that the people who made this movie love cars and racing. These are so many little things like the types of cars the characters are. Michael Schumacher appropriately voices a Ferrari, for example. The plot is a little thin but the fun never stops. And while Lightning McQueen learns how to drift, he also learns how to care for others than himself. In my opinion, one of the better Pixar films. Available on Disney+

That's it. What do you think of my choices. Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Top 103 Favorite Movies: #79 - 70

Welcome back to my top 103 favorite movies. The first part is here, the second part is here.

So here we go:

#79:  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

A Spider-Man cartoon? Yes, and it's amazing. And hard to describe without giving away the story. But there are a lot of different Spider-Man characters, including one woman. Just a fun movie with a big, bad villain. Available on FuboTV, Hulu, and Sling TV.

#78: Serenity (2005)

A science fiction movie based on a short-lived series called "Firefly." I always wonder if the writer/director, Joss Whedon, realizes he made a film with strong libertarian/conservative vibes. "I aim to misbehave." "People don't like to be meddled with." Plus, the story is good and the action is amazing. Summer Glau beating up a bar full of hoods is only one reason to watch this. Available on YouTube (paid), Apple TV (paid), and Amazon Prime Video.

77: Mission Impossible III (2006)

This movie is surprisingly effective thanks to a smart script and tense direction from J.J. Abrams (yes, the man who ruined both Star Wars and Star Trek). The action is fast and the suspense is tight. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a scary villain in how calm and cool he is. The bridge scene is worth the price of admission. Available on Paramount+

76: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

Arnold Schwarzenegger is back as the Terminator (a robot from the future) but this time he's been reprogramed to protect John Conner, not to kill him. The machines send the T-1000, a "liquid metal" terminator from the future to kill Conner. This was one of the first movies to extensively use CGI and it works brilliantly as it's not overused. Fun to watch with just enough humor to take the edge off. Available on Netflix.

75: The Maltese Falcon (1941)

"You're a good man, sister." The classic Bogart film noir movie about "The stuff that dreams are made of." Bogart's Sam Spade is an unflappable private eye caught up in a scheme to find a jewel encrusted falcon figure. Or is it? If you watch one Bogart movie, this has to be it. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

74: Batman (1989)

First of all, Jack Nickolson as The Joker. That should be enough to sell this movie. Then Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne. And a lovely Kim Basinger playing Viki Vale. We see The Joker's backstory, and his pain and his trauma. And Bruce Wayne's pain and trauma that sent him in a different direction. Occasionally silly, but still worth watching. And the end leaves a mystery that's never been solved. Available on Max and Amazon Prime Video.

73: Risky Business (1983)

Tom Cruise is a suburban Chicago teenager left home alone while his parents travel. Rebecca De Mornay is a call girl he hires. When his father's Porsche goes into Lake Michigan, things get out of hand and he needs a lot of money fast. The call girl has an idea.... An early role for Joe Pantoliano as the bad guy/pimp. Not a belly-laughs kind of movie, just entertaining and amusing. Available on Paramount+.

72: Shrek (2001)

The first and best Shrek movie. A featured-length fractured fairy tale with questions of true beauty and true love. It's meant for kids but has enough jokes that adults will enjoy. Satires a few movies including The Matrix. For pure entertainment, there is little better. Available on Peacock and Hulu.

71:  Double Indemnity (1944)

Another classic film noir with Fred MacMurray as the chump and Barbara Stanwyck was the femme fatale. Edward G. Robinson plays the good guy (for once). Stanwyck wants MacMurray to kill her husband to collect the insurance money from a policy that MacMurray sells him without his knowledge. But, of course, it all goes awry. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).

70: Key Largo (1948)

Edward G. Robinson is the bad guy and Humphry and Bacall are the heroes (mostly Humphry). Set in the Florida Keys, Bogart and Robinson have it out in a climax on a boat. Did I mention there's a hurricane, too? Great performances all around. Available on YouTube (paid) and Apple TV (paid).