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Top 5 Screenplays of All-Time: Movie Making Recognition

August 24, 2016
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Hollywood is the place where dreams are made (…or crushed, but who wants to think about that!). Our desires and fears leap out at us from the silver screen and we live vicariously through the characters we want to emulate. The film industry has been big business since the 1930’s and continues to grow. Movie-making is magical, films take people away. In a sense, movies are kind of like a drug or addiction where they make us forget about who we are for a while. They fill that need within all of us that makes us yearn for something more. And there are those of us out there (you know who you are) that binge-watch the shit out of Netflix and Amazon Prime! Guilty!

But little do people realize that movies start with a screenplay! Before any of the actors get cast, or the director starts yelling, or the stunts and special effects take shape, a screenplay is written. It’s that script that acts as the starting point for movie-making magic. Look at all the movies out there, thousands of them, each and everyone of them have a screenplay. There are lots of writers in Hollywood and they need some more recognition than just the Best Screenplay Category at the Oscars. Well…I guess there’s the Writers Guild Awards too, but who watches that?

So, in matching fashion along with My Movie List — The Top 5, Honorable Mentions, and The Top T.V. Shows Ever lists, I’ve decided to acknowledge, recognize, and applaud the top 5 screenplays of all-time. As I think they are, obviously!

The Top Screenplays of All-Time…

First, I’m looking for a few things. Here’s my criteria:

  1. A single motive storyline, but with secondary themes and challenges.
  2. Ambition – I want to be taken to the outer boundaries without miserably flying over them.
  3. Strong Characters – Yeah, we need to have reactions to these people (we need to love, like, hate them genuinely).
  4. The Climax / Ending – this needs to be epic. Plain and simple. EPIC.

I’ll go on a 5 star rating for each category:

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

I didn’t really want to do a countdown, so in no random order, here’s the list:

The Matrix (1999):

I would say I’m not a huge fan of Keanu Reeves’ acting (unless you’re talking about Point Break), but this movie just worked! And it’s because its screenplay was freaking awesome! In the opening scene we’re introduced to Trinity (played by Carrie-Ann Moss), she’s sitting in a dark room and cops come in and “try” to arrest her. This is also when we first meet the cold, calculating Agent Smith (brilliantly The-Matrixplayed by Hugo Weaving). A fight and chase ensues!

We finally meet Neo or “Mr. Anderson” who has a dubious suspicion that the Matrix is real. As the audience, we have no idea what the Matrix is, until Neo takes the red pill and we find out! This twist was incredible, it put the movie into overdrive and brought us to the outer limits. As the movie progresses, we root for Neo to be the “one.” The characters include Morpheus, The Oracle, and Cypher (the bad guy). In addition to the movie being action-packed, there’s also a love story, and a really cool ending with the helicopter and Neo being able to dodge bullets.

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a must watch!

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981):

Dr. Indiana “Indy” Jones is the man—seriously! Raiders of the Lost Ark was the original Indiana Jones movie, even though technically, The Temple of Doom was considered a prequel to this, I think. ROTLA was a phenomenal movie! Why, you ask? That’s right, because of the screenplay. The opening scene is intense and adventurous. It’s the one where Harrison Ford swaps a gold treasure that’s booby trapped with a bag of sand in an ancient temple and gets chased down by a huge rolling boulder. Enough said!

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Indiana Jones

The movie takes place in the 1930’s, and we find out this awesome adventurer is a professor and and archeologist. Upon his return, Jones finds out that the Nazi’s (who make perfect villains) are after his old mentor and that they are probably searching for the Ark of the Covenant. Indy is then tasked with finding the Ark before the Nazi’s. And then awesomeness occurs!

Indiana rushes all over the place to find the Ark, find his mentor, save the love of his life who’s bar he accidentally burned down in Cairo, and save the world from an awful fate, it’s just good ole’ plain fun! If you haven’t seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and think that The Temple of Doom or The Last Crusade (or god forbid The Crystal Skull) is the best Indiana Jones movie ever, you are sorely mistaken!

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

Pulp Fiction (1994):

The non-linear, soft, wet mass of material that might be referred to as the best screenplay of all time — Pulp Fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I love this film, in fact I wrote a blog post on Tarantino Films. But the “greatest screenplay of all time” — maybe! It’s pretty intense, and the flow of the movie hops around a bit. So we forget that Vincent Vega (portrayed by John Travolta, and the role that revived his career) gets gunned down after using the bathroom.

A dissecting movie that takes place in Los Angeles revolving around 3 (or 4) main groups of people. There’s the gun-wielding, lovestruck couple in the opening scene that stick up the restaurant they’re eating at. There’s Vincent Vega (recently back from hiatus in Amsterdam) and Jules, both of which are hitmen for the iconic LA gangster, Marsellus Wallace. And then there’s Butch (played by Bruce Willis), who’s a boxer and supposed to take a dive in the 5th (“you’re ass goes down in the fifth. Say it.”) in compliance with Marsellus Wallace’s wishes (or commands), but then kills the guy in the ring (which we don’t see as the audience).

Vincent Vega and Jules in Pulp Fiction

There’s some really awesome, intense (and pretty sick) scenes in this movie. The most memorable (and I’m not gonna say the gimp) to me, is the scene where Vincent and Jules recover Wallace’s briefcase. It’s Samuel L. Jackson’s famous scene where he recites Ezekiel 25:17 (“The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides…”) – it’s a killer scene, literally. But there are also some really cool themes in this movie; the briefcase (we have no idea what’s in it, but everyone speculates that it’s Marsellus Wallace’s soul—not confirmed), the Bible verse, the bathroom scenes, the overdose scene (that was cool!), then there was the gimp scene (which was just awful!), and a really great scene starring Christopher Walken (“3 long years, I stuck this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass…”).

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters:  
Ending: 

So, if you haven’t watch Pulp Fiction, you’re doing yourself a big disservice!

Chinatown (1974):

Hands down the best gumshoe film ever made, Jack Nicholson is the bomb in this movie! Jake Gettis is a private eye in Los Angeles (think Sam Spade) and he’s hired by a woman to track her husband (infidelities and all..). The target is an engineer, Mulray, for the LA Department of Water & Power, and as Jake (Jack) follows him he begins to unravel a conspiracy plot.

Jack and Faye in Chinatown

The film uncovers a number of brutal truths; the water department is drying the land in the Northwest Valley so it can be bought at a reduced price, Noah Cross (the main antogonist) is a horrible father/husband/person-in-general, Mulray is murdered because he gets too close, dead senior citizen residents are purchasing land (conspiracy), and then there’s rape and incest. It’s pretty bad.

But the movie itself is so film-noir that it’s enthralling to watch. And that’s because of the screenplay. Jack Nicholson is phenomenal. Faye Dunaway plays the damsel in distress that Jake gets to save (but doesn’t), so it’s kind of a bad ending, which makes it pretty epic because we weren’t expecting it as the audience. John Huston plays the devilishly old villain that you want to strangle. And Roman Polanski directs this slick, perplexing, sleuthy mystery! It’s an older movie, but still stands the test of time, thanks to a unique, original screenplay. Check it out!

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters:  
Ending: 

Back to the Future (1985):

Back to the Future

“When this baby hits 88 miles per hour…you’re gonna see some serious shit!”

I know I said this was in random order, but this has got to be my favorite screenplay of all time! It’s got everything. The storyline is original and different. The ambition is oh so there (especially for 1985!!)! The development of good characters was strong and fluid, not forced. There was a happy ending, but left the door open for more sequels to come and they did, although, nothing will beat this original.

I don’t know how many times I watched this when I was a kid, lots, that’s for sure! It starts with the audience being introduces to Marty McFly (Hello, McFly!), a teenager and aspiring musician who likes to turn up the volume (he gets blown away by his guitar amp, lol). But Marty’s friend, Emmet “Doc” Brown meets up with him in the mall parking lot where Doc is eager to show off his new invention – a time machine! That’s right, time travel in a DeLorean. But Doc stole plutonium from some Libyan terrorists, and ends up getting gunned down in the beginning of the movie. Marty hops in DeLorean in Back to the Futurethe DeLorean and accidentally sets the time machine to 1955.

Basically, he travels back in time, inadvertently runs into his parents when they were his age, and hilarity ensues. He has to race against time to save his parent’s first kiss, help his father humiliate the obnoxious Biff, jam out at the Enchantment Under the Sea, and get back to the future, haha! He also needs to save Doc from getting shot by crazy, RPG-carrying Libyans, and that’s all dependent on a single bolt of lightning striking the clock tower, which is the “only power source capable of generating the necessary 1.21 gigawatts of electricity to power the DeLorean.”  Damn, that’s a lot to do!

The Back to the Future franchise is so popular that they ended up making a theme ride of off it, and I think there was even a Back to the Future day. The ending of the first Back to the Future was great; everything worked out, well, everything was better than just worked out. Doc doesn’t die, he puts on a bullet proof vest, the McFly’s are rich and Biff works for them now (not the other way around like in the beginning of the movie), and Marty ends up with his girlfriend, Jennifer (who is played by Elisabeth Shue in Back to the Future 2, not the first one).

Back to the Future Ending

“But, Doc, you have to back up, we don’t have enough road to get up to 88 mph.” – Marty McFly

“Roads….where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” – Doc

I swear, if you haven’t watched this movie, then we’re probably not friends! Do it, today! Watch Back to the Future, you’ll thank me.

Storyline: 
Ambition: 
Strong Characters: 
Ending: 

Alright, there you have it, my top 5 screenplays of all-time. You know, I just realized something. There’s not a single screenplay on here that’s written after the year 2000. Hmmm….well, I do feel as time goes on that movies tend to not be as good as they once were. I think the heyday of great screenplays were between 1970 — 2000, as seen on my list! Ok, hope you enjoyed!

Tarantino’s Film Ride

July 11, 2016
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I just finished watching The Hateful Eight and I had to write this post. I was NOT a fan of The Hateful Eight, it didn’t quite hit me like Inglorious Basterds or Jackie Brown did. Let me start by saying I think Quentin Tarantino writes and directs some really phenomenal movies! They’re hip and non-linear, a little violent and outrageous, and just plain fun to watch. Tarantino has directed 8 films (which, a few he also wrote, and acted in), they are the following in chronological (or linear, hehe!) order:

  1. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
  2. Pulp Fiction (1994)
  3. Jackie Brown (1997)
  4. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003)
  5. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)
  6. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
  7. Django Unchained (2012)
  8. The Hateful Eight (2015)

Now, just so you know, Tarantino has written and acted in other films. True Romance being one of my favorite Tarantino-penned films, but also Four Rooms and Dusk til Dawn.

Before I get in to my top 3 Tarantino films, I’d like to talk a little about his style over all. He’s definitely over-the-top, but I find most of the time, it’s over the top in a good way. Either with the ultra-violence where you know a head would never explode like that or super long fight scenes where there’s no way any one could endure for that long, Tarantino’s films are novel, to say the least.

He also surrounds himself with a lot of controversy, mainly around a certain racial slur. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the N* word used more times than in his films Jackie Brown and Django Unchained. He’s gotten a lot of criticism from African-American film directed Spike Lee, who believes that Tarantino is infatuated with the N* word. Honestly, I think he might be too. But no matter how you look at it, Quentin Tarantino’s films are pretty damn good!

Top 3 Tarantino Films

 

Jackie Brown pointing a gun

 

  1. Jackie Brown: I consider this film Tarantino’s sleeper film. It was an homage to 70’s blaxploitation movies like Foxy Brown and Shaft. The movie follows Jackie Brown (played by Pam Grier in a revival of her old roles of the 70’s), an airplane attendant who smuggles money for a man named Ordell (played by the charismatic and frightening Samuel L. Jackson), he’s a gun-runner. But Jackie gets picked up by the feds while smuggling in some money and cocaine, she gets arrested, and Ordell is afraid she might “roll” on him. He bails her out of jail using Max Cherry, a bail bondsman, who picks up Jackie and starts to fall in love with her. Jackie, being the smart woman that she is, devises a plan to double-cross Ordell, get the charges against her dropped, and keep most of the money for herself. Spoiler alert — she does just that! Ultimately this movie is about romance, a romance that was lost between Jackie and Max Cherry. But it’s also about a strong woman, who against all odds comes out on top, and finally gets the life she deserves. Jackie Brown is number 3 on my list of Tarantino films, if you haven’t seen it, definitely check it out!
  2. Pulp Fiction: Could you not see this one coming? Pulp Fiction gets a lot of praise and I’m about to give it some more. It’s one of those non-linear movies that Tarantino is known for. It follows a few different stories that ultimately intertwine in the end. Wikipedia calls it a “neo-noir crime black comedy” — I call it awesomeness wrapped up in 154 minutes. The opening Vincent Vega and Jules in Pulp Fictionscene to this movie is a couple (played by Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer) sitting in a cafe who decide to stick up the joint and rob everyone in it (the film cuts out, but it eventually cycles back to it). Then the film introduces Vincent Vega and Jules (two of Marsellus Wallace’s hitmen) who are sent to retrieve a briefcase. There’s an iconic scene where Samuel L. Jackson, who plays Jules, recites a bible verse then shoots a guy. They get the briefcase, but (and this is a recurring theme) no one knows what the briefcase holds. Every time someone opens it, there’s this gold-ish, red hue that illuminates from the briefcase. There’s been lots of speculation as to what’s in the briefcase, but you never really find out. Butch, a boxer, then meets with Marsellus, who is an L.A. gangster. Butch is told to take a dive in the upcoming fight, but ends up double-crossing the most dangerous gangster in Los Angeles. He goes on the run and the two hitmen are sent after him. Butch ends up killing Vincent Vega, who was the root cause of Marsellus’s wife overdosing on heroin. Vincent works with Jules and while they killed the man who stole the briefcase, they were also shot at several times but with every single bullet missing them, this makes Jules have an epiphany and he vows to leave the gangster lifestyle. The two hitmen end up in the diner while the couple at the beginning of the movie are robbing it. Jules let the couple go free, but not without retrieving his wallet that says “bad mother*cker” on it. I haven’t even gotten into talking about The Wolf, or Vincent and Mia winning the dance competition, or the gimp!! This movie is an all around adventure, and one that will most likely stand the test of time!
  3. Inglourious Basterds: That’s right! This is my favorite Tarantino film, it’s just really really well done. It’s well written and well-acted. This movie is about World War II, and a group of Jewish-American soldiers who travel light and kill any Nazi they see. They’re lead by the all-wise Aldo “The Apache” Raine (played by Brad Pitt), he manages this merry band of Nazi-killing troopers into enemy territory to hopefully end the war. The opening scene in this movie gets you right from Inglourious Basterds holding a knifethe beginning. There’s a man chopping wood at a tiny little farmhouse somewhere in rural France. Nazi jeeps are seen coming up the road and he tells his daughters to go inside. Then we meet Hans Landa (played by Christoph Waltz – he’s amazing!!), the Jew Hunter, who knows that the man chopping wood is hiding a family of Jews under the floorboards of his house. He orders SS soldiers to shoot them, but Shoshanna, the youngest family member, gets away. Years later (and the war is in full force), Shoshanna owns a movie theater where high up people in the Third Reich want to view a movie that depicts the Germans in a good light and killing a bunch of Americans. She starts to devise a plan to kill all the high-members of the Third Reich. Ultimately, this movie is not even close to being accurate surrounding the events of World War II, but it is quite entertaining. It’s a long movie, but there is excitement at every turn. The Germans have given the Basterds nicknames and there’s a violent scene where the Bear Jew beats a German with a baseball bat. Hans Landa strangles a well-known German actress for helping the Americans, and then Aldo carves a swastika into Hans Landa’s head (the end scene), it’s a great scene! In the end, the movie theater gets burned to a crisp along with all the top members of the Nazi party (they make great villains!) This movie is an up and down ride from beginning to end and Hugo Stiglitz is awesome!

Tarantino makes some really unique movies. I know not everyone likes his style of film, but I find them refreshing, fun, and edge of your seat good! However, I did NOT like The Hateful Eight, that’s originally why I decided to write this post. It’s in non-linear fashion, but I didn’t think the story line was that great and the use of violence seemed to be there because it could, not because it added to the movie. Of course, I won’t let one movie deter me from watching more of his films, I’ll continue being a Quentin Tarantino fan.

Is Netflix Taking Over The World?

June 27, 2016
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The summer of 1995 was a good summer! I was 14 and I mowed lawns all summer long. Every Friday my mom would drive me down to Blockbuster Video, so I could rent a boat ton a movies to keep me busy for the entire week. Honestly, I must’ve spent over $1,000 that summer. Oh, the memories….and the hours spent watching movies. As a sidenote—for those of you who were born in the mid to late 90’s, I don’t expect you to remember Blockbuster Video, but bear with me and I’ll explain.

What is a netflix?

In my last year of high school I remember hearing about this service called Netflix, it would drop a movie in your mailbox and then you could return it when you were finished watching it. I remember thinking “man, that’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of, people will just keep the movies and not return them, ha!” – Boy was I dead wrong, of course, I was also 17 and knew nothing about technology or innovation.

Then this little company took root and got traction. More and more people started using it, people like my parents. I can still remember the first movie we got through the mail (it was Zoolander) and we slowly started to scale back on going to BlockBuster Video as much.

What were you thinking, Blockbuster?

The interesting thing is that in 2000 Netflix was offered up to Blockbuster for $50 million! But, little ol’ Blockbuster declined. So Netflix came out with an IPO, or initial public offering in 2002 selling 5.5 million shares of stocks at $15 a pop. And for those of you who don’t know—an IPO is when a company goes public and offers shares of the company to the public.

Now, for those of you who remember Blockbuster, you’ll remember the sections they used to have. Obviously there were the New Releases, there were Action, Comedy, Horror, Drama, the list goes on…and you might remember the “employee’s recommendation” section. At my Blockbuster, there was Dave. Dave always made the best recommendations. Movies like True Romance, The Big Lebowski, and Heat. But what Netflix did was virtualize that whole process and made it custom to you—the user! Pretty neat, eh?

Basically, Netflix maintains this system of reviews and ratings. They have an algorithm they dubbed “Cinematch” – clever, very clever. Users can rate a movie from 1 to 5 stars (1 being bad, 5 being fantastic), then Netflix will pull out (or mine) the data. Based on a user’s prior movie preferences and the ratings that they give those movies, Cinematch will predict what movies a user is more likely to want to watch and serve those movies up. It’s kinda cool, but then there’s that part of me that thinks I might be missing out on something if this experience is super personalized. Of course, personalization is what most users want. And Netflix has given it to us!

“The problem with binge-watching Netflix…is that you lose 3 days of your life.”

Then Netflix came out with “streaming” and this revolutionized the way humans watch TV. Netflix (and Amazon Prime) made things like cable, commercials, and network TV not as glamorous. If I can quote Wikipedia – “By 2010, Netflix’s streaming business had grown so quickly that within months the company had shifted from the fastest-growing customer of the United States Postal Service’s first-class mail service to the biggest source of Internet traffic in North America in the evening.” — That’s pretty crazy! Being a member of Netflix, I know you are allowed to have different profiles on your account. Profiles make it easy for you to share your Netflix account with your girlfriend (or whoever) and have different streaming experiences. Again, experiences that are personalized and tailored to you.

In 2013, Netflix started its own award ceremony called The Flixies. The ceremony honors the viewing habits of its users. Certain categories include Best Bromance, Best Guilty Pleasure, and Best Marathon TV Show to name a few. Haha – that’s all I have to say about that!

Now with the advent of streaming, Netflix had to finagle some pretty interesting and expensive movie/tv rights to the shows it’s allowed to have on their service. They had to make exclusive “pay TV window” deals with both major and midline studios that offered certain streaming rights, which (mind you) are different than distribution rights.

Now we see Netflix start making their own films. They first started out with House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright Penn as the “thick as thieves” husband and wife political duo and Americans went bonkers over it. Then came Orange is the New Black and Americans went bonkers over that too. Then shows like Daredevil (which I went bonkers over!) and Jessica Jones, Bloodline, and Marco Polo. They also came out with comedy like the series follow up to Wet Hot American Summer, and Fuller House. Netflix has a boat ton of kids shows that are all original. They also picked up a few series that got canceled like Longmire, The Killing, and Arrested Development. We also see Netflix making feature films as well.

What’s next for Netflix?

So…what is next for Netflix? As of right now, Netflix services over 190 countries world-wide. They have over 70 million subscribers. They are also coming out with about 70 or so new TV shows and about 30 new feature films. Wow! And that doesn’t include documentaries, specials, or mini-series. So, wow, again!

In my opinion, Netflix is taking over the world, but that’s not it. They’re taking over cable TV, all I watch on cable is the news, but there are so many other channels/outlets for that. They’ve taken over Hollywood, well kinda, they are making a lot of movies and TV shows, and quite frankly I can’t remember the last good movie that came out of Hollywood. So, Netflix started as a mail service, it would drop a DVD in your mailbox and you could return it whenever you were finished watching it. Now, Netflix is a global company that’s worth more than CBS. And I don’t think this monolithic multi-media giant has any intention of slowing down. Hey, it works for me as long as I can watch my programs!!

Top TV Shows Ever!

June 17, 2016
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And the top T.V. shows list continues…

Only this time, it’s the top tv shows ever, of all time! I know, I know..how can you really tell what the greatest tv shows of all time are? Well…I’ll start by saying this… these TV shows are the ones I love the most and have watched them over and over again.

So, a few guidelines for this:

  • The TV shows have to be over, that means no more episodes to come, otherwise it could end up sucking well after this post is already written
  • There will be no sitcoms in this list, not to say there might not be comedy (actually there probably won’t be), but no sitcoms
  • This can be both cable network TV shows and premium channel TV shows, obviously channels like HBO and Showtime have some really kickass shows

That’s it for the guidelines. But one quick note, I couldn’t get the ordered list to go from 5 to 1, so it goes from 1 to 5, however, this is a countdown. Out of my top five favorite TV shows, number 1 here, is actually my number 5, get it? Ok, cool! Without further ado, let’s just get right to it.

The Top TV Shows Ever

  1. Sons of Anarchy (2008 – 2014): Hands down, the best motorcycle club TV show ever. I actually think this might be the only motorcycle club TV show ever, but I’d have to think about it. Well, there is American Chopper and CHiPs, but those don’t compare to the ultimate motorcycle club show. SOA was just awesome! It follows the lives of the men of SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Originals), yeah…it’s a mouthful. Sons of Anarchy Everything rotated around a little town called Charming (a fictional town located somewhere outside San Fransisco), it’s where SAMCRO was headquartered and their fearless leader, Jackson “Jax” Teller (well, not until season 5), took care of business. This show had just about every known criminal element in it: Motorcycle gangs, the IRA, the Mexican Drug Cartels, street gangs, white supremacists, and more! As the seasons progressed, we see a lot of crazy shit happen. The club kills its own president, Jax kills his own mother because she killed Jax’s wife. Oh, the bloodshed! But it was well done, and well worth the hours I spent watching it! Bravo, FX, bravo!
  2. Carnivàle (2003 – 2005): This is one you may not be familiar with because it was only on HBO for 2 short seasons, but man, it had quite the impact on me! Carnivàle takes place amidst the Great Carnivàle tv show Depression and Dust Bowl era. It follows one lone carnival team of misfits, weirdos, bearded ladies, psychics, and more (aptly named Carnivàle). In the first episode, the carnival stops in a town called Milfay where they pick up a young man named Ben Hawkins. Ben is a healer, but doesn’t understand the magnitude of his power until Management (the unknown entity that runs Carnivàle) tells him what’s he’s capable of. The other story line follows a preacher that has his own special powers, which are seeing people’s darkest secrets and bringing them to light. The ending episode brings these two stories together and culminates in a show down between good and evil! It’s just a super cool exploration of the powers that man could possess if they weren’t actually men, lol! And the fact that it’s got Carnies, and takes place during the Great Depression, just makes this show so much worth watching. It’s cool, creepy, suspenseful, and has an awesome ending!
  3. Dexter (2006 – 2013): Ah — the killer of killers, the man of all men, Dexter! Yeayah! This show was awesome for a couple of different reasons. 1). Dexter gets soooo much justice. I mean, he really does. He goes after the bad guys!! Granted, he’s a bad guy, but not really. 2). Dexter is a serial Dexter's face wrapped in plastic wrapkiller…with morals, he’s got a moral code. Granted, his father had to instill that into him over years and years of practice, but he finally got it! The show really does make you root for the serial killer. Dexter works as a blood spatter analyst for the Miami Police Department, where each season he encounters new enemies and serial killers. He also has to keep an eye out for his crazy sister, played by the lovely Jennifer Carpenter, and his girlfriend who has her own baggage as well as some kids that love Dexter. But every season brings another overarching story line, while Dexter still manages to kill on a weekly basis. Scouting out killers, he gets absolute proof of their ungodly deeds, and then wrapping them in plastic on a murder board where he usually yields a weapon that’s fitting for that particular prey. All in all, it’s provocatively suspenseful and wonderfully amusing. And I must say, I didn’t mind the ending. Everyone seems to have hated this ending, but not I! I actually thought it was rather befitting. Everyone thinks Dexter dies in the hurricane, but he fakes his own death and gets to continue doing what he does best…kill killers!
  4. Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013): Say my name…I’m the man that killed Gus Fring.  Walter White, the most deadliest chemist to ever have graced our living rooms! This TV show was almost number one, almost! When it first started, I didn’t know what to think of it. Here’s this high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer, and he wants to leave his family with some cash before he dies. Well…we all know how that turned out. Instead of doing what he set out to do, Walter White became the meth kingpin of Albuquerque. Going up against mid level dealers first, then taking on the cartel themselves, and finally ending in a hail of gunfire with the white supremacist gang he hired for muscle. Wow, was this show just fantastic. The acting was phenomenal. WalterWhite&JessePinkmanBryan Cranston was superb in his role as the unassuming chemist morphing into the bad-ass Heisenberg. And then there was Aaron Paul, as Jesse Pinkman, so conflicted about his role in Walter White’s transformation and the bodies that start dropping, he starts using and abusing the drug they’re cooking up. The dynamic between the two of these characters really made for great television. I believe they both won some Emmy’s, as well they should! I’m not sure America will ever have a show quite like this for years, if not decades, to come.
  5. The Wire (2002 – 2008): And the number one spot goes to…..The Wire! If you haven’t seen this series, then you really have no idea what you are missing out on. This TV show is by far, hands down, the best television show ever written in the history of TV. I know, bold statement, right? Just watch the show. It’s an in-depth character study of the people and life on the streets of big bad Baltimore. the police of the tv show 'the wire'All 5 seasons follow the players of the West Baltimore drug trade and the street level dealers. But each season is a different aspect of Baltimore infrastructure; Season 1 is the police, season 2 is the Baltimore port (the docks), season 3 is the politics, season 4 the school system, and season 5 the newspaper. So each season we see new faces and new characters among the old ones. Major characters will die off halfway through a season, it’s crazy. But for the most part it shows the efforts the police take to stop the drug dealers and the discipline the dealers adhere to to not get caught. It’s written by a guy who used to work for the newspaper in Baltimore and report on the police beat. It’s such a realistic view of life in Baltimore (actually, I have no idea because I’ve only driven through Baltimore), but from what I’ve heard The Wire hits really close to home for Baltimore street life. The series even uses real reformed criminals as some of the characters. There are literally dozens and dozens of characters in this series to name. But here are a few: McNulty – the hard drinking and whoring police detective that constantly pisses off his bosses; Bubbles – the drug addicted street merchant with a heart of gold who runs around all day selling whatever he can to get his fix; Omar – actually based on a real person, is the homosexual stick-up artist who robs drug dealers and whistles “the cheese stands alone” as a mantra when he’s on the warpath; Herc and Carver – the two street busting cops who are stupid yet smart at the same time; Avon Barksdale – the drug kingpin of West Baltimore whothe drug dealers of the tv show 'the wire' gets sentenced to prison time in season one; Bodie – one of Barksdale’s soldiers; Ronnie – the pretty DA woman who litigates the drug dealers and falls in love with Lieutenant Daniels, the African-American rising star of the police force, but still has a little dirt on him; Kima Greggs – the lesbian cop who isn’t ready to settle down; Stringer Bell – the gentleman business gangster and the right hand man of Avon; Lester Freamon – the real police who got put into the “evidence unit” after he ran afoul of his bosses; Marlo Stanfield – the young kingpin who takes over the Barksdale territory; Snoop – the weirdest talking Baltimore woman gangster you’ll ever hear; and the list just goes on and on and on…. But as the seasons tick by, you’ll be surprised at every turn because those who deserve it in this show, rarely ever get it in the end, but isn’t that how life goes? I’ve watched this series a few times and every time it gets better and better! Oh, and Method Man’s in it and he plays a real prick….he gets it in the end!

I know what you are thinking, it must have taken me a long time to watch all those episodes, and you’re right, it did. But every hour sure was worth it! I live vicariously through the characters on these television shows as I imagine most any of us do. I hope you enjoyed the list I put together for you and I hope you agree with at least one of these TV shows being on your top 5 list of all time! Let me know!

Honorable Mentions: More Good Movies

January 31, 2016
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As you all may know, I am a huge fan of movies. From comedies to dramas, action flicks to super scary horror flicks, RomComs to film noir, documentaries to featured box-office motion pictures. I wrote a post on my Top 5 Movies of all time, which readers seemed to like. So, I promised to do an encore of the honorable mentions. I’ve given this some serious thought, went back through my movie mind rolodex and came out with some good ones that didn’t quite break the top 5 spots, but came just outside.

And the award goes to…

  1. Scent of a Woman: Hoo-hah! This unique drama unfolds in one of the greatest cities in the world — New York. But it starts in New Hampshire at an all-boys boarding school known as ‘The Baird School’ — super prestigious for young-uns to attend. Especially Charlie (played by Chris O’Donnell way before NCIS: Los Angeles), because Charlie is unlike the other boys and actually needs to find himself work over the Thanksgiving break and in walks Al Pacino.Scent-of-a-Woman-1992-Tango-scent-of-a-woman-3350187-600-900 One of his finest performances—he won an oscar for this role—Lt. Colonel Frank Slade. He’s not a nice guy, he’s totally blind, likes to drink Jack Daniels, loves woman, and is on a mission to kill himself. I know, kinda morbid, right? Throughout the movie the two become intertwined, each teaching the other something different. They go on “a tour, of sorts.” But all in all, Charlie shows the Colonel a different side of life and Frank teaches Charlie about life! There are a few really awesome scenes in this move: The Tango Dance, Driving a Lamborghini, Frank’s brother’s Thanksgiving dinner, and the end scene when the Colonel sticks up for Charlie at his school hearing.

    “If I were the man I was five years ago, I’d take a flamethrower to this place!”

    If you haven’t seen it, watch it, you’ll like it!

  2. Candyman: I have been on a mission since I can remember to find that one horror flick that really scares the sh!t out of me. Needless to say, I have yet to find one, but this next honorable mention comes super close. Candyman.. Candyman.. Candyman.. Candyman… not gonna say it again! This is a borderline B-movie, but it’s creepily eerie and fantastically frightening. It’s based in Chicago in the Cabrini-Green housing projects. This educated woman (played by Virginia Madsen) is doing a thesis on urban myths and legends (go figure) and she’s heard of the Candyman. As the movie goes on we learn that Candyman was a black artist, in love with a white woman, and was lynched because of it. He has a hook for a hand, a deep dark voice, and he’s followed by bees. candyman-hookThey call him Candyman because of the way he was lynched. Apparently, his killers spread honey on him and he was stung by a boat ton of bees, not a good way to go!! So, he wreaks havoc on anyone who doubts his existence, and obviously, there’s plenty of those people. Oh yeah, and the score for this film just adds to the eeriness, the music is like this orchestral deep string symphony, it’s super freaky! You want a good scare – watch Candyman. But don’t say his name 5 times in a mirror….because he’ll get you too!
  3. Groundhog Day: Bill Murray at his finest, I mean, really! His. Finest.

    “Ok, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties cause it’s cooold out there today.”

    There are soooo many good lines in this movie. Mostly all of them are spoken by Bill Murray. And the concept of the movie is just whimsical. Imagine living the same day over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. I don’t know if that would be completely awesome or completely awful.Bill Murray - Groundhog Day But Phil (Bill Murray) starts the movie off as kind of a dick. He’s a reporter and people don’t really like him in person. Then he travels to Pawxatuney, Philadelphia (I think it’s a fake place, but I could be wrong) where he covers the ‘Groundhog seeing his shadow’ story. The only problem is, he wakes up day after day to the same day. “What if there is no tomorrow, there wasn’t one today.” Then, in true Murray fashion, he finally realizes that he’s been a dick and changes. He lives the day as best he can, but after a bunch a days where he tries all this hilarious stuff. Comedy ensues, he kidnaps a groundhog, and then finally falls in love. And finally moves on from Groundhog Day.

  4. Full Metal Jacket: This is actually the first R-rated movie I ever saw! I remember thinking “wow, there sure are a lot of swears in this movie,” but man, what a flick! I don’t think this list would be compete without having a military movie in the mix. Full Metal Jacket is about the nitty gritty Marine training bootcamp and then the subsequent Vietnam War. It was pretty gruesome. The Marines pick on this one soldier (played by Vincent D’Onofrio) aptly named Sergeant Pyle. FullMetalJacketHe’s not carrying his weight and they throw him a ‘shower’ party, which is where the take soap wrapped in their socks, wrap him in a blanket so he can’t get up, and beat him senseless with the soap. There are really two acts to this movie. One, the bootcamp part. I think it gives a really accurate glimpse of what bootcamp was like in the 60’s. The Drill Sergeant (played by R. Lee Ermey) was phenomenal. He really captures the essence of the world’s most badass drill sergeant. And then Sergeant Pyle offs him with his Full. Metal. Jacket. Then he offs himself, which is hard-core to watch! Then there’s the Vietnam War (Act Two) which follows Joker (one of the other soldiers) on his journey through Vietnam. It’s a pretty long movie, but if you haven’t seen it, I would highly recommend that you do! It’s well worth the watch.
  5. The Never-Ending Story: This is a story within a story. This movie actually starts off with a little boy named Bastian, he’s running from his bullying classmates and hides in a bookstore. There’s an old man with a really old looking book. He tells Bastian that it’s magical
    Never Ending Story Book
    Really old looking book

    and not to take it, but the kid takes it anyway. He hides up in an attic and starts reading, the neverending story begins. It’s about Atreyu, a warrior, in a far off fantasy world that’s run by a princess. The ‘Nothingness’ is destroying everything there, eating it up and spitting it out. So, Atreyu, along with this horse—Artax, they try to defeat the Nothingness through a long journey to the heart of it. They meet all these different characters and creatures. There’s a flying dragon—Falcor, sneezing giant turtles, the swamps of sadness, and this crazy scary wolf that embodies the Nothingness. Atreyu and the Wolf duke it out in the end. But the princess needs Bastian’s (coming full circle) help. Obviously, he helps. Then that cool dragon comes to “the real world” and scares off Bastian’s classmates. I loved this movie when I was a kid, love it! And if you haven’t checked it out, you’re never too old to watch it. That’s why it’s called ‘never-ending.’

There are many many more movies that belong in this list, but to make it more manageable for me, I’ll have to segment in groups of five. I think that’s fair!

Anyways, hope you enjoyed the breakdown of my honorable mentions. There will definitely be more to come.

My Movie List – The Top 5!

September 4, 2015
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I was coming in from New York last week with two of my co-workers when, unfortunately, the train we were on lost all electricity. We slowly glided into a small outdoor station somewhere in the middle of the Connecticut coastline and we had several hours to kill. So, what did we do? We decided to look at all these top movie lists – Top 100 Movies of All Time, Top 250 Movies, 100 Year List, and so on.

All the classics were up there like Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Casablanca, Gone with the Wind. And those are all fine, I mean, they are great cinematic period pieces that will forever be loved and admired. There were other ones like E.T. The Extra-TerrestrialBack to the FutureJawsRaiders of the Lost Ark. And those are also very fine movies too! But I have a top 5 list of movies that I absolutely love. You might say that at the time I watched these following films I was either going through a certain phase, maybe feeling nostalgic, or just liked the story line, but I’ll explain my love for each of these movies and hopefully you’ll understand why they are my top 5. My co-workers did not agree with all of these films.

IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

1. Big Trouble in Little China

This movie is awesomeness wrapped up in 1 hour and 39 minutes

Lopan

It starts with a truck driver named Jack Burton (good ole Jack Burton always says….) who is in San Francisco with his big rig. He’s playing dominoes (or the Chinese version of it) with a friend (Wang) of his who ends up losing and owing Jack a lot of money. But the friend has to pick up his fiancee at the airport and Jack, not trusting his friend, decides to go with him. Then chaos ensues.

It’s a great story about mystery, intrigue, black magic, good magic, good vs. evil, love, romance, and adventure.
Goons ThugsAfter Jack’s friend’s fiancee gets kidnapped at the airport by some hard looking (geeky looking) Asian gang member thugs, Jack and his friend run all over San Fran’s Chinatown looking for her.

They end up face to face with Lo Pan (that scary looking character above) and basically have a good vs. evil showdown with him, but in the end… SPOILER ALERT …they end up kicking his ass, getting the girls (there’s another one that comes into the picture) and surviving the mean streets (and underground) of Chinatown. In short, this movie is amazing.

It’s a combination of the great one-liners Kurt Russell’s character (Jack Burton) says, the seedy streets of San Francisco, and the fact that good over powers the evil (and unbeatable-but-actually-beatable) Lo Pan is just great. There’s also a scene where one of Lo Pan’s foot soldiers (aka one of the Three Storms) gets soooo angry, his head actually explodes, it’s awesome!

Two thumbs up, I’d give it three if I could!

 

2. The Goonies

Hey youu-ooh, guy-eyess!! Sloth was the man, Chunk was the man, Data was the man, Mouth – the man! Mikey and company brought us on a spectacular journey filled with pirate fights and adventurous nights.  Hands down one of the best PG movies of all time, The Goonies had it all.

Goonies

Mikey is an asthmatic kid who uses his inhaler all the time and can’t speak the right words (“I’m dictating myself…..You mean, dilute yourself, dummy. Yeah, that’s what I said”), but this was one hell of a cinematic experience. The Fratellis are a family of criminals and they own a small restaurant on the coast in a town called Astoria (maybe somewhere in Oregon). Mikey and his older brother, Brand, along with all of Mikey’s sidekicks (see above) are messing around in their attic when they find a treasure map. Mikey and friends tie Brand up while he’s working out (exercising) and take off in search of buried treasure. Goonies Fratellis

The Fratellis come in when the kids find their restaurant as the starting point for their adventure. In the basement they also find something else – Sloth, the horribly disfigured mammoth with a heart of gold! Yes sir, it’s a movie for all ages and all kinds! But the kids go on the hunt and they are also running away from the Fratellis, they need to find the treasure to save their neighborhood from being turned into a golf course and escape the clutches of the evil Fratelli family!

My love for this movie is twofold. One, it reminds me of my childhood. I used to play in the woods next to my house and I was always looking for adventures and buried treasure. Two, it’s a super feel good movie. It’s suspenseful, but it ends up just fine. People get what they deserve in this film and it’s just such a happy movie to watch. Well done Richard Donner, well done, sir!

 

3. The Last of the Mohicans

More on the dramatic side than the humorous, The Last of the Mohicans is a story about Nathaniel (aka Hawkeye) who’s the adopted son of Chingachgook, a Mohican Indian. Along with his son, Uncas, the trio roam the countryside hunting for food and living off the land. They are real men, with real survival skills, and they can fight!

But this movie is set around the French-Indian war of the 1750’s, and Hawkeye along with his adopted family get tangled up in Britain occupied New York, where the French were trying to reign in on the Brits’ territory (or tear-eh-tree, said really fast).

Hawkeye

 

What I can say about this movie is that Daniel Day-Lewis is phenomenal as Hawkeye, he gives an awesome portrayal of a man torn between his love for this new woman in his life and his life as a frontiersman (and also someone who doesn’t get involved with wars, especially other’s). As the story progresses, we realize that the trio has a huge bond between them, but Hawkeye finds true love with a colonel’s daughter and that women gets taken by bad Indians, the Mohawks – the mortal enemy of the Mohicans (I’m not sure if that last part is true). The Mohawks take the kidnapped girls (the one that Hawkeye fell in love with and her sister – who Uncas ends up falling for), and brings them to the sachem. The sachem is a very wise tribal member and tells the Mohawks what to do with the girls. Needless to say, Hawkeye and his band of brothers is not a fan of the outcome and goes out to rescue one sister.

There is this awesome fight scene with Magwa (a Mohawk Indian leader) killing Uncas. Chingachgook gives a serious ass-whooping and kills Magwa ever so splendidly. But not before one sister jumps off a cliff to her death. It’s a super sad movie, but well worth the watch if you have not seen it! Mohicans Running

I like this movie for a few different reasons. One is the cinematography, it’s awesome, these sweeping shots of the Black Mountains (I believe it was filmed in North Carolina, but I could be wrong), the cool forest shots and lake scenes. Two, is the music! This movies has got one of the awesomest scores I’ve ever heard. It’s theme music is really cool to listen to – violin and then symphony!! Three, is the chase scene when Hawkeye is running up the face of a steep rock – it’s just a really cool scene and any time I’m in the woods I look for a rock like this and run up it humming the theme song.

 

4. The Crow

Now this was a cool movie. Granted, it may have been better had Brandon Lee not been killed while filming this movie, but none-the-less, it was still superb! But the fact that he died was kind of odd because the movie is about a guy who dies then comes back to life as a crow. Hence, The Crow. Now, what made this movie really good are a few key scenes, they are pretty much all the revenge scenes.

Eric Draven - The Crow

To give you a little back story, Eric Draven (Brandon Lee’s character) was engaged to his very beautiful fiancee, but because they lived in an almost condemned apartment building and complained to management, they got “taught a lesson” by some Detroit thugs. “Does it get you sweaty” said by T-Bird, the leader of the gang, who rapes and beats Eric’s fiancee and kills Eric by throwing him out a window. This sets the scene for Eric Draven’s awesome revenge scenes.

AGAIN, SPOILER ALERT …The first to go is Tin-tin, a knife wielding maniac, who has a knife fight with Eric and comes out on the losing end, big time! “He put his knife’s in all his major organs in alphabetical order, man” another line said by T-Bird. Then comes Funboy, and Funboy likes to play with needles. Draven shoots him full of morphine and all Funboy can say as he slowly dies is “stop, you’re wasting it.” – Seriously!?! Then comes the best scene of all with the revenge on T-Bird. There’s a nice long intro to T-Bird flying off a dock into Lake Michigan in his T-Bird car. There’s a point where he realizes who Draven is and his acting is pure genius. “No, man, it’s you. It can’t be you. We put you threw a window, man. This is the really real world. There ain’t no coming back. THERE AIN’T NO COMING BACK. Abash the devil stood and felt how awful goodness is. How awful goodness is.” Check out this awesome seen here on YouTube. And then Eric lights the sketch of a crow on fire!!

I would have to say that I would watch this movie over and over again for this one scene, it’s that fantastic!

5. The Shawshank Redemption

And last, but certainly not least – The Shawshank Redemption. Originally, a short story by Stephen King called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, because Andy Dufrane used Rita as his coverup to a long tunnel through the prison. This movie starts off with a falsely convicted man who ends up in prison being accused of murdering his wife and her lover. He did not do it, he was going to do it, but decided not to. He goes to prison and doesn’t make friends right away. The prison guards are tough, the warden is even tougher, not to mention “the sisters”, but Andy manages to find a friend in Red, one of the wise ones of the prison and a guy who knows how to get things.

Andy and Red

This is a story of redemption, obviously! But it’s also the story of one man’s struggle to make it and survive in an unlikely place and one that he never should have been privy to. It’s got some great scenes from Andy getting 3 beers a piece for everyone tarring the hot roof of a new prison building, to Andy getting a month in the hole for playing an Italian opera on the loud speaker to everyone in the yard. It’s a story of friendship and perseverance, survival and hope, and finally escape and peace!

I could sit and watch this movie over and over again too just for that one scene at the end where we realize he’s not dead in his cell, but that’s he’s actually escaped! I remember the feeling of adrenaline I had when the warden’s finger went through that poster of Rita Hayworth and he ripped it down with the pull of his arm. Thus exposing the tunnel and the secret Andy had been keeping from his prison buddies. A great feeling of pride and relief swept over me when I saw that scene.

Then the end of this movie made it the perfect ending. Red skips out on bail, finds a tin can in a hayfield and takes a bus to Mexico where he finds Andy working on a boat. I imagine the two best buds living out their glory days on the Pacific ocean and it’s magnificent! “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Honorable Mentions…

There were many films I did not include in this list but will say their names briefly. Glengarry Glen Ross, Goodfellas, PeeWee’s Big Adventure, In the Name of the Father, The Neverending Story, Office Space, The Town, Flatliners, Young Guns I & II, Real Genius, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, L.A. Confidential, Aliens, The Matrix, Carlito’s Way, Groundhog Day, man, I could go on and on!

I LOVE MOVIES!!

I hope you enjoyed the breakdown of my top 5 movies list, feel free to give me a shout and let me know if there is anything I missed!!