Die Hard

     Die Hard – Remember when Bruce Willis was cool?  I do…It just happens to be the year I graduated high school.  Wow….How old am I?  But, I gotta tell you, when he was cool, he was DAMN cool.  Released in 1988, Die Hard has become an ICON of the action film genre.  Rated 94% at Rotten Tomatoes & 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this film is under-rated.  With one of the most famous lines in cinema history, “Yippee Kai Yay, Mutha*******”, it has dominated American pop-culture as this line was uttered by nearly every teenager in America.  The beauty of this film is that the villian is as smart as he is deadly.  He’s a true intellect that understands and plans for every outcome.  At the same time, realism permeates the film as John McClane acts how a cop would in many of the decisions such as trying to get assistance in various ways rather than just trying to be the Lone Ranger against all of the bad guys.  However, that ends up being the case in most of the film, but the initiators of the action are the bad guys rather than McClane.  It was also refreshing to see the hero make several mistakes rather than being perfect the entire film.

The plot is excellent.  A group of “terrorists” take over the Nakatomi building on Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately for them, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is an NYC policeman in town to see his wife and kids.  While in the bathroom, the terrorists strike and he escapes to unfinished areas of the building.  Hahns Gruber (Alan Rickman) is the leader of the terrorists organizing the operation.  We soon learn their intentions.  John tries to notify the authorities with a radio, fire alarm, gun fire, and even makes good use of one of the terrorists to get their attention.  They proceed with their operation sending team after team after McClane.  Using all of his detective skills, he must win the intellectual battle with Hans as well as the physical battle with the muscle in the terrorist group.

This would have to be considered one of the ultimate “man movies” with non-stop action, suspense, and intellectual drama throughout.  Neither John or Hans is perfect and makes mistakes which is refreshing, yet they make some brilliant moves as well in their constant game of “cat and mouse”.  They are constantly trying to out-wit the other.  In between the action scenes, add numerous man-style jokes and testosterone driven one-liner comedy and you’ve got one great action flick.  This is an all-time great and an all-time favorite.  When it comes to action films, it doesn’t get much better than Die Hard.  While themed at Christmas, most of the movie is so action packed that you barely notice the few holiday scenes.  So, don’t let this hold you up.  You can watch this movie anytime.

** Just click the images to check out “Die Hard” at Amazon.com **


Alien (1979)

     Alien (1979) – “In space no one can hear you scream.”  Very haunting words from this Sci-Fi horror flick.  This film is amazing and spawned a numerous sequels, prequels, and countless merchandising of novels, comic books, games, etc.  Rated 96% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon, this movie is an icon in Sci-fi cinema and the alien monster is instantly recognized by anyone who likes movies.  I loved this movie.  It’s a bit different from most.  It’s slow and builds suspense allowing realism and normal anxiety and worry to build in the crew.  The relationship of the crew is more realistic than most films with some petty bickering.  In 1979, movie technology for non-actors was still limited and the minimizing of the alien’s scenes aids in building the suspense.  Granted, you can ultimately tell it’s a guy in a suit, but the director did his best to disquise it as much as possible.  The result is a classic film that stands the tests of time.

The plot is a towing space ship has heard a unrecognizable distress call.  According to the inter-galactic rules, they must investigate.  They land on the strange planet and 3 of the crew explore.  During the expoloration one of the crew, Kane (John Hurt), is investigating these strange egg things when BOOM this thing’s all over his face!!!!  The crew rushes him back, but is denied entry due to the quarentine rules by Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) who is 2nd in command.  She’s over-ridden by the Science Officer, Ash, which leads to some conflict in their relationship.  The Captain, played by Tom Skerritt, and Ash, try to get the “face hugger” off, but can’t.  The next morning, it’s gone and Kane seems fine.  Ummm, this is strange.  At dinner, “CHESTBURSTER” appears in one of the most frightening, disturbing, and absolute best scenes in film history!!!!!!  Whoa, now the alien’s on the loose and they gotta find a way to stop it.  But, they don’t know what they’ve got.  Unfortunately for them, the alien is a perfect survivor and picks them off one by one.  You can’t beat him.  Ultimately, it takes a brilliant idea to survive against the perfect survivor.   

The “chestburster” scene is iconic in film and, if you don’t know it, then you’ve really missed out.  It was interesting how the director brought in realism.  The cast knew the scene was coming, but had no idea on the realism and squirting blood the director was going to use.  The reactions in the film were real and it really added to the scene.  I saw this movie as a kid and this scene has stuck with me for 30 years.  As I watched it again, it brought back the fun of this movie.  While the movie is not graphic in a sexual nature, it does maintain strong sexual imagery to disturb and scare the audience.  The “facehugger” is likened to male rape as it lays an egg in a man and it grows inside him, “chestburster” is essentially a painful birth and very phallic shape.  The hero in this film is a woman instead of being the helpless victim.  Dan O’Bannon, who wrote the screenplay said that he intended to attack the male audiences instead of the women with his vision and imagery.  He wanted to expose the sexual fears that men have of being penetrated, raped, and the misconceptions of child birth.  Well, it’s a disturbing mindset he has and the images are freaky, but frankly, you do not feel like this movie is man-bashing porn when you watch it.  You’ve got a big, nasty alien to worry about running around the ship.

The movie is truly an icon.  While a little dated compared to what modern technology could have done to this film, it is a trip back to when movies were created by acting and technique rather than computer generated monsters.  The movie still holds up very well for an enjoyable time.  Frankly, you gotta watch this movie just for the “chestburster” scene…That is the king scene in movie history to me.

** Just click the images to check out “ALIEN” at Amazon.com **


Treasure of the Sierra Madre

     Treasure of the Sierra Madre – OUTSTANDING FILM !!!!  I’ve said before that Westerns aren’t my main movie genre to enjoy, but good is good is good.   This movie was made in 1948 and had I not researched for the best films, I might have never seen it.  Some of the best movies are lost on the modern generation because we’re always looking at today’s movies.  That’s why I look and go back to find these absolute gems.  Ironically, this is the film that includes a couple of the most famous movie lines in history.  Bogart’s famous, “Hey Mister, would you stake a fellow American to a meal?”.  I heard this line numerous times in Bugs Bunny cartoons and never knew it was a parody of a classic movie.  And finally, “Badges, we ain’t got no badges.  We don’t have no badges.  I don’t need to show you no stinkin’ badges.” is practically known by everyone.  The best parody of this line is seen in Blazing Saddles, which is also reviewed here.  Listed as #30 on AFI’s top movies of all time, a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and an underrated 4.5 stars on Amazon.com, you know this movie’s a hit.

The plot is that Fred Dobbs (Bogart) and Bob Curtain (Tim Holt) are down on their luck in a small Mexican town.  Offered a job by a scoundrel, they work to make money.  When the guy tries to stiff them, they have to fight to get their money.  Ending up in a bunkhouse for the poor, they meet Howard (Walter Huston) who is an old prospector.  With no other promising future, they pool their money and set out prospecting for gold.  Howard warns them about what gold does to a man.  As their luck should have it, they strike it rich, but as they start accumulating the wealth, Dobbs starts wondering if he can trust his partners.  Bandits and a stranger force them to work as a team and calms the fears temporarily, but as they begin back down the mountain those thoughts start creeping back in.  Howard has to leave Dobbs & Curtain to see some indians that he helps.  He doesn’t have a choice in the matter.  Unfortunately, the desert heat gets the minds wondering again.  I won’t spoil the ending.  You’ll have to watch this classic to see if they make it back down rich men.  The ending was perfect and likely not what you would expect…..I didn’t.

The movie is an absolute classic and is “dirt cheap” (pun intended) at Amazon.com.  Highly rated by every movie site and in 1990, it was selected for preservation by the United States Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being culturally, historically, or esthetically significant.  Finally, our Congress got something right.  It also won several oscars for performances and directing, but lost best picture to Hamlet by Lawrence Olivier.  This movie is one for the ages.

** Just click the image to see “Treasure of the Sierra Madre” at Amazon.com **


Bambi

     Bambi – Until recently, I had never seen Bambi.  So, when it was finally re-released on dvd, I wanted to get it.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a huge animation fan and this one is considered a classic.  It’s ranked the #3 best animated movie by AFI and 91% at Rotten Tomatoes.  Amazon reviews has it at 4.5 stars.  Therefore, I had to get it.  Frankly though, I believe I let my expectations get ahead of me and I was somewhat disappointed.  The story is very good and the animation was outstanding, but the delivery could have been better.  There were several gaps that left me puzzled.  They keep calling him “young prince” and his father is later considered as “great prince”.  Wait…WHO’S KING?!!!  Also, at no point is there any real “princely” duties performed.  Also, being such a short film, I felt the characters and relationships could have been developed better.  Regardless, this is still a classic and should not be missed, but I would drop it in the rankings a little bit on its greatness.  It’s beautifully animated and Disney tried to make the characters move like real animals, but it was just a little short on the story.

The plot is a growing up tale about a young deer in the woods.  He must first learn to talk, walk, and learn how to survive in the forest.  He meets a few friends in Thumper the rabbit, Flower the skunk, and a Friend Owl.  His mother teaches him the ways of the forest and the dangers of man.  Unfortunately, Bambi’s mother is shot while he’s still a young deer and his father takes over his teaching.  The following Spring, Bambi’s older and runs into Faline, a girl deer that he meets earlier.  They start to fall in love when Bambi is challenged by  Ronno, a rival buck.  Bambi defeats Ronno and wins Faline.  That’s when hunters get into the forest again.  His father shows Bambi while Faline is sleeping that they must run deep into the woods, but when Bambi returns to get Faline, she had fled searching for him.  When Bambi finally catches up to her, she is trapped by the hunter’s dogs.  Bambi must fight to save her and is wounded in the process, but Faline escapes.  Bambi’s father returns demanding him to “Get up”.  In the meantime, the hunter’s fire now has the forest on fire and they must run for their lives.  The following Spring, the forest is jubilent at the news that Faline has given birth to 2 baby deer.  Watching over is Bambi & his Father, who appears to silently to “pass the torch” over to Bambi.

Bambi is still a beautifully animated classic and should be seen by people of all ages.  However, it was about 15 minutes short of character development from being the greatest.  One bonus of the DVD is that you get the 1937 oscar winning, animated short “The Old Mill”.  This is a real gem for anyone who enjoys animation.  The classic Disney short is an abandoned wind mill inhabited by animals that must suffer through a terrible storm.  There world is so calm and peaceful before the storm hits.  During the storm, their life is in chaos.  After the storm, they go back to their lives with just a little adjustment for the damage.  It’s a simple story, but the animation is outstanding and you worry so much for the animals.  Then, everything is good again.  The combination of these 2 classics makes this dvd excellent.  You’ll enjoy some of the most beautiful animation in the history of film.

** Just click the images to see “Bambi” at Amazon.com **


Rocky III

     Rocky III – In 1982, the third installment of the Rocky series was unleashed on America.  I have to say, I enjoy this movie the most of all of them.  I am not saying that this is a better “movie” than the original Rocky classic, but this one is more fun.  It is, in my opinion, better than Rocky II and it did better at the box office than Rocky II.  It was only given 60% by critics at Rotten Tomatoes, but the fans rated it a 75%.  It’s given 4 stars at Amazon as well.  Unfortunately, I think “enjoyment” is sometimes left out when evaluating films by these sites.  This drama has more and better action sequences, but still maintains the level of the drama that you would expect from a Rocky film.  In addition, this movie uses new techniques than the previous movies to get the intensity and story across such as the training sequences of Clubber Lang and his scouting of Rocky.

The plot is excellent with Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) now the boxing superstar and fan favorite.  He has successfully defended the title several times and considering retirement.  At a ceremony of a new statue, an up & coming challenger in Clubber Lang (Mr. T) introduces himself.  He’s a vicious challenger on rise to the top and wants the “Champ”.  Rocky accepts the challenge, but Mickey (Burgess Meredith) is against it.  He realizes that Rocky’s forgotten who he was and that the Lang will destroy him.  During a pre-fight altercation, Mickey suffers a heart attack, but pushes Rocky to fight.  Clubber gives him the beating of his life.  Step in….Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers), who takes Rocky under his wings for the re-match.  But, Rocky’s got issues now.  Never suffering a vicious beating before like Clubber put on him, he must learn a new way to fight and he must find his inner self.  Well, is it the wife, training, or finding that inner soul going to get him back?

This is an excellent film and, as I said, I enjoy this film the most of the entire series.  All of the cast is back keeping the continuity of the story and now add Mr.T as the new enemy with a real mean streak.  Mr. T gives the acting performance of his career.  The structure of the film is better and used some different techniques to tell more of the story without wasting valuable screen time with tiresome dialogue.  The story continues to follow a normal pattern of successful people forgetting where they came from and who they are….and sometimes, “Life” has a way to put you back into your place.  So, you can rise above it or you can wallow in self pity.  Normally, sequels get bad very quickly.  Rocky III is the best sequel of the franchise and, in fact, after Rocky III, you can pretty much put this series to bed.  But, don’t miss Rocky III.  It’s an entertaining movie from start to finish and isn’t that what a great movie is supposed to be?

**  Just click on the images to see “Rocky III” at Amazon.com **


The Incredible Shrinking Man

     The Incredible Shrinking Man – This 1957 Sci-fi classic really caught me off-guard.  I was surprised at what a deep and thought provoking movie this really is.  I obtained this movie with the “Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection” dvd set which I purchased primarily for 2 other sci-fi favorites (Tarantula & The Deadly Mantis).  In checking out the remainder movies, this one instantly became a favorite.  This film was well received by critics and rated 88% by Rotten Tomatoes movie site.  In 2009, it was received into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for being culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant and will be preserved for all time.

The plot is an advertising man, Robert Carey, is on boating vacation with his wife, Louise, off the coast of California when a strange, radioactive mist over-takes them.  Louise is down in the hull getting refreshments and only Robert is exposed.  Initially, he dismisses it, but later on, he starts noticing that his clothes are bigger and he’s losing weight.  He visits doctors and they try everything, but ultimately, they can’t stop the shrinking.  He continues to shrink becoming more of a spectical to the public and more emotionally bitter.  Louise stands by her man regardless of his emotional venting towards her.  He eventually lives in a dollhouse.  After nearly being killed by his own cat, he becomes trapped in the basement continuing to shrink all the time.  Eventually, to survive, he must go to battle with the resident spider for the last bit of food in the basement.  Louise, believing he is killed by the cat, moves away unknowingly leaving him on his own.  Ultimately, he accepts his fate and ponders his future.

This movie is reknowned for its special effects for how the shrinking process happens.  It is impressive that everything fits at each stage of his shrinking.  But, the best part of the movie is that it will really get you thinking.  Ultimately, it will make you ponder your own existance in this world and the existance of the things around you that you presently take for granted.  I found myself looking at my own cat a little bit differently after watching this film.  You don’t know what you have until it is gone and you don’t realize how lucky we have it being on top of the food chain.  You don’t realize your place in the universe until those roles are switched.  Could you find the mental will to survive?  Could you find another way to live or avoid being the prey?  This movie will have you questioning many different aspects of your life and the universe around you.  I stumbled on this excellent film.  I hope you will check it out.

** Just click the image to check out “The Incredible Shrinking Man” at Amazon.com **

(This movie is currently available as part of the Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection or it will be available individually on Aug 30th.)


Smokey and the Bandit

     Smokey and the Bandit – “What we are dealing with here is a complete lack of respect for the law.”  Wow, what a travel back in time this movie is, but it’s one hell of a ride.  Rated 4.5 stars with Amazon and 77% at Rotten Tomatoes, this movie is definitely under-rated.  Many people today may have already forgotten this era in America due to modern technology and that all car makers seem to steal their designs from Toyota, but this movie alone might have sold a million black Pontiac Trans-Ams and CB radios and only Star Wars was able to keep this movie out of the #1 spot in 1977.  Back in the late 70’s, truckers were cool and everyone wanted a CB radio and a cool nickname.  In fact, CB radio could probably be described as the original Twitter or Facebook.  This action/comedy brings it all together with fast action car chases, comedy, and a little romance for the hour and a half of non-stop excitement.

The plot begins with 2 rich wheeler dealers at a Southern Classic Truck Show in Georgia who wants someone to bring them some Coors beer for refreshment.  Back in the 70’s, Coors was only distributed to certain western states and illegal to come East.  So, he offers a bet of $80,000 ($290K in today’s money) to get the Coors in Texas and back to Georgia in 28 hours to a driving legend at the show, The Bandit (Burt Reynolds).  Bandit gets his trucker buddy, Snowman (Jerry Reed) and they’re off to Texas to get the beer.  They arrive in Texas ahead of schedule and get the truck loaded.  Starting on their way back, Bandit picks up a run-away-bride named Carrie (Sally Field) and in doing so, becomes the personal target of one bad-ass lawman, Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason).  Carrie was supposed to marry Justice’s son and he’s rather ticked that she didn’t show up at the alter.  Now, it’s a non-stop car chase back to Georgia.

Reynolds may be the star, but Jackie Gleason steals the show.  Gleason’s performance is legendary and numerous quotes are available for best in movie history.  I started off the blog with one and my personal favorite might be when he’s talking to his son…”There’s no way, *NO* way, you could have come from *MY* loins.  Soon as I get home, the first thing I’m gonna do is punch yo mama in the mouth.”  An interesting note, is that Buford T. Justice’s name was the name of a real lawman in Florida that Burt Reynold’s dad knew.  Reynold’s dad was the Chief of Police in Jupiter, FL.  He was also the inspiration for the repeated mispronounced “sumbitch” (son-of-a-bitch) that became so famous as he tended to say it that way.

The movie is hilarious and action packed from start to finish.  A classic in every sense of the word.  Some of the technology may appear out-dated and some people may not relate to trucker’s style, but watching this movie is a guaranteed good time.  Raised in the 70’s, I can attest that they don’t make movies like this anymore.

** Just click the images to check out “Smokey and the Bandit” at Amazon.com **