Friday, March 26, 2010

My Favorite Dragon Movies




OK, last night I showed my son THE FLIGHT OF DRAGONS(newly acquired from Warner Bros Archives) in preparation for taking him to see HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON tonight. He's been asking to see HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON(or HTTYR as the kids are calling it) for a while now and as much as I am not a fan of Dreamworks animation in general, I certainly don't mind taking him. I mean, we're talking about a kid who has indulged me quite often cinematically by watching everything from the Marx Brothers to screwball comedies to cheesy 80s action movies. He's seen a little of everything and is quite open to most films(black and white or color) so when he requests something I gotta go with it. Anyway, I had never seen THE FLIGHT OF DRAGONS and it was a pretty entertaining little animated film. It's a Rankin/Bass Production so right away it's in good company and has a lot to live up to. Features some great voice acting talent including Harry Morgan, John Ritter, JAMES EARL JONES(!), and the amazingly unforgettable Don Messick(most famously the voice of Scooby Doo, Astro the dog on The Jetsons & Bandit the dog on Jonny Quest). So I enjoyed the film and it set me off thinking of other Dragon movies I like. Here is the resulting list:

1. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad(1958; Nathan Juran)
2. Q: The Winged Serpent(1982; Larry Cohen)
3. Jabberwocky(1977; Terry Gilliam)
4. Dragonslayer(1981; Matthew Robbins)
5. The Flight of Dragons(1982; Jules Bass/Arthur Rankin Jr.)

6. The Barbarians(1987; Ruggero Deodato)

7. The Magic Sword(1962; Bert I. Gordon)
8. Willow(1988; Ron Howard)

9. Reign of Fire(2002; Rob Bowman)

10. Dragon Wars(2007; Hyung-rae Shim)

I know I am forgetting some, please remind me of the good/fun ones!

Friday, March 19, 2010

My favorite John Carpenter films


In honor of showing my son THEY LIVE for the first time tonight, I just threw together a quick list of my favorite Carpenter movies(also wearing one of my favorite shirts today in honor of this occasion). As with many people I know, John Carpenter's films are really big with me. As a child of the 80s, I obviously grew up with them. I think the first of his films I ever saw was BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA(which is still one of my favorites). I remember seeing it two days in a row at this sort of run down little theater in Brookfield Wisconsin in 1986. I think the theater was called Ruby Isle, but I may not be remembering that correctly. Regardless, a good friend of mine and I went and saw the film and loved it so much we went back the next day to see it again. Those are the kind of films Carpenter makes. The kind you want to come back to over and over again. In somewhat recently cobbling together a list of my favorite films, I realized that Carpenter's THE THING might be my favorite film of all time. Depends on the day you ask me because RIO BRAVO, DUCK SOUP, THE APARTMENT, THE KING OF COMEDY, THE LONG GOODBYE, THE CONVERSATION and IT'S A GIFT all vie for that top spot. But I really can't find much flaw in THE THING as far as my movie viewing needs go. It's sad to me that the film flopped at the box office back in 1982. A tough year where folks were much more enamored of a certain cute Reese's Pieces eating alien. Really too bad. Obviously the film has found it's audience now and many people see it for the masterpiece that it is. Just a fantastic film. As are many of his other films. I think Carpenter scores 3 films in my top 25 even. And because of him, Kurt Russell is one of my favorite actors of all time. Anyway, I'm sure you're all familiar with these films, but here's my top 10:

1. The Thing(1982)
2. Halloween(1978)
3. Big Trouble in Little China(1986)
4. Escape from New York(1981)
5. The Fog(1980)
6.
They Live(1988)
7. Assault On Precinct 13(1976)
8.
Prince of Darkness(1987)
9. Dark Star(1974)
10.
Elvis(1979)






Monday, March 15, 2010

My Favorite Killer Robot Movies


Just having watched SATURN 3 again(been a long time since I've seen it and it didn't hold up too well), I was compelled to jot down this quick list of my favorite Killer Robot films! I know I am forgetting some so please remind me! I think I may have to do a separate "Killer Machines" list to include things like MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE, which I am a big fan of...

1. The Terminator(1984; James Cameron)
2. Blade Runner(1982; Ridley Scott)
3. Westworld(1973; Michael Crichton)
4.
Chopping Mall(1986; Jim Wynorski)
5.
The Day the Earth Stood Still(1951; Robert Wise)
6. Terminator 2: Judgement Day(1991; James Cameron)
7. Runaway(1984; Michael Crichton)
8. The Black Hole(1979; Gary Nelson)
9. Deadly Friend(1986; Wes Craven)
10. Small Soldiers(1998; Joe Dante)





Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Corey Haim: in Memoriam



Sad news today for fans of 80s films like myself. I'll make this brief and go straight into my list, but suffice it to say that Corey Haim made some films that I saw as a youngster that have stuck with me to this day. I think a lot of folks my age can say the same. He will be missed.

1. Silver Bullet(1985; Daniel Attias)
2. Lucas(1986; David Seltzer)
3. The Lost Boys(1987; Joel Schumacher)
4. Firstborn(1984; Michael Apted)
5. Secret Admirer(1985; David Greenwalt)
6.
License to Drive(1988; Greg Beeman)
7.
Prayer of the Rollerboys(1990; Rick King)
8. Dream a Little Dream(1989; Marc Rocco)
9. Watchers(1988; Jon Hess)
10. Blown Away(1992; Brenton Spencer)



Friday, March 5, 2010

When Animals(and Insects) Attack!





Along with disaster movies, I am also quite passionate about "animals attack" films. The two genres are intertwined and there is some cross-over in several cases. They range from classics like JAWS, THEM and THE BIRDS on down to some considerably weaker fare. I love of all them. Like disaster films and slashers, there is a recognizable structure in place. Often an inciting incident sets up the threat and then we have a 'discovery' section which also involves introducing the many characters that will soon be in peril from fish, ants, baboons, bees, rats, dogs, bears and so forth. I am always amazed too look at the pool of talented directors who've taken a shot at one of these films. A lot of high profile folks like Spielberg, James Cameron and Joe Dante really more or less kicked off their careers with this genre. And then of course you've got one of my favorite entries from Hitchcock here as well. Robert Clouse, who is probably more well known for his martial arts films(most famously ENTER THE DRAGON and the fantastic BLACK BELT JONES) also quite adept at making these films and has turned in a couple of my favorites(William Girdler showed up twice as well). I love that these films never seem to totally go out of style. They just keep making them! The recent release of BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR, which seems to exhibit a Wiseau-like proficiency has me quite excited I must say, but then I'm also really excited to see MALIBU SHARK ATTACK...


1. Jaws(1975; Steven Spielberg)
2. Them(1954; Gordon Douglas)
3. The Birds(1963; Alfred Hitchcock)
4. Deadly Eyes(1982; Robert Clouse)
5. Kingdom of the Spiders(1977; 'Bud' Cardos)
6. The Pack(1977; Robert Clouse)
7. Alligator(1980; Lewis Teague)
8. Phase IV(1974; Saul Bass)
9. Grizzly(1976; William Girdler)
10. The Bees(1978; Alfredo Zacarias)
11. The Swarm(1978; Irwin Allen)
12. Day of the Animals(1977; William Girdler)
13. Piranha(1978; Joe Dante)
14. Prophecy(1979; John Frankenmeimer)
15. Of Unknown Origin(1983; George P. Cosmatos)
16. Infestation(2009; Kyle Rankin)
17. Orca(1977; Michael Anderson)
18. Shakma(1990; Tom Logan)
19. Dark Age(1987; Arch Nicholson)
20. Tarantula(1955; Jack Arnold)
21. Tentacles(1977; Ovidio G. Assonitis)
22. Killer Fish(1979; Antonio Margheriti)
23. The Naked Jungle(1954; Byron Haskin)
24. Sands of the Kalahari(1965; Cy Enfield)
25. Rogue(2007; Greg Mclean)
26. Deep Blue Sea(1999; Renny Harlin)
27. Razorback(1984; Russell Mulcahy)
28. Piranha II: The Spawning(1981; James Cameron)
29. Ben(1972; Phil Karlson)
30. In the Shadow of Kilimanjaro(1986; Raju Patel)
31. The Savage Bees(1976; Bruce Geller)
32. The Beasts Are on the Streets(1978; Peter R. Hunt)
33. Night of the Lepus(1972; William F. Claxton)
34. Food of the Gods(1976; Bert I. Gordon)


Honorable mentions:
Ants!(1977), Arachnophobia, Congo, Empire of the Ants, Frankenfish, Jaws of Satan, Lake Placid, Open Water, Rats(1984), Shark Attack 3: Megalodon, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Terror Out of the Sky, The Wild Beasts, Willard...

As always, if there are suggestions from your own favorites that you think I've missed, please leave a comment and let me know!


My Favorite Disaster Films



If you're like me you're an Irwin Allen apologist and completist. You'll watch anything he had his hand in. Even dull fare like HANGING BY A THREAD, CAVE-IN and THE NIGHT THE BRIDGE FELL DOWN have allure for you. You would really prefer to watch FIRE! and FLOOD! back to back if possible. You really just can't get enough. Something about disaster films just pulls you in. You are very familiar with the mugs of guys like Chuck Heston and George Kennedy, who pop up in so many disaster films. The inspiration to do this list came to me last night whilst rewatching 2012 with my wife and son. Yes, I watched it twice. I am a sucker for disaster movies! I appreciate a guy like Roland Emmerich if only for the fact that he continues to carry on the tradition of making them. Are they any good? Not really, but I'll still watch them. I get caught up in them. I think it's kind of like slasher films for me. Disaster films in general have a pretty repetitive structure and I like that. It makes even the lamest ones interesting to me for some reason. I remember seeing THE CORE in the theater with some friends when it came out and we had such a good time. THE CORE is a terribly silly film, but I find that a film like that can be even funnier than many comedies that come out these days.


Most of my favorite disaster films come from that golden era in the 1970s. This 3-D revival we're seeing now is great, but I would love to see a return to gimmicks like Sensurround. Two of my favorite disaster films were theatrically released in Sensurround and I know it would have been a hoot to see them in that format. I was lucky enough to catch a screening of EARTHQUAKE at UCLA some years back wherein they had a Sensurround decoder and ran the film that way. It was so much fun. I mean EARTHQUAKE(which was co-written by Mario Puzo by the way) is already such a nutty film that it was just this raucous comic experience to see it with a crowd. Add to that the bass vibration from the Sensurround and it was one of the best times I've had at the movies in the past 20 years. There's something so nostalgic for me about films like EARTHQUAKE and especially ROLLERCOASTER. I didn't see them at the time of their release, but they are of a time I remember. A time when there was no internet, cell phones and other modern conveniences. It was a time when people used to go amusement parks in droves. There really was less to do so amusement parks were a much bigger deal. Not that people don't still enjoy them today, but they have obviously died away considerably as compared to the 1970s. I love ROLLERCOASTER and have always meant to see THE DEATH OF OCEAN VIEW PARK because I hoped it would convey a similar feeling. Anyway, that sense of another period whether it be conveyed through clothing, set design or what have you, is really wonderful in the disaster films. Even something like MIRACLE MILE(my favorite) has a similar feeling of the 1980s. Sadly, you can't just drive over to Johnnies and grab a cup of coffee anymore. If that were the case I'd be in there all the time. I'd love to write an entry sometime about all the great films that featured Johnnies as a location, but I feel like someone has covered that somewhere. Anyway, enough of my yacking. The list:



1. Miracle Mile(1988; Steve De Jarnatt)
2.
The Towering Inferno(1974; John Guillermin/Irwin Allen)
3.
Rollercoaster(1977; James Goldstone)
4.
Earthquake(1974; Mark Robson)
5.
The Last Voyage(1960; Andrew L. Stone)
6.
The Poseidon Adventure(1972; Ronald Neame)
7.
Night of the Comet(1984; Thom Eberhardt)
8.
The Swarm(1978; Irwin Allen)
9.
Twister(1996; Jan de Bont)
10.
Airport '77(1977; Jerry Jameson)
11.
Airport 1975(1974; Jack Smight)
12.
When Time Ran Out...(1980; James Goldstone)
13.
Where Have All the People Gone(1974; John Llewellyn Moxey)
14.
The Cassandra Crossing(1976; George P. Cosmatos)
15.
Meteor(1979; Ronald Neame)
16.
The Satan Bug(1965; John Sturges)
17. The Hindenburg(1975; Robert Wise)
18.
Airport(1970; George Seaton)
19.
The Concorde ... Aiport '79(1979; David Lowell Rich)
20.
Avalanche(1978; Corey Allen)


(Next week: my favorite ANIMALS ATTACK films!)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Favorite Hitchcock


Just a quick post with my Hitchcock favorites. He is of course one of my favorite directors and with such a dense filmography filled with triumphs, it is sometimes difficult to put his films in order as far as my favorites. It is tricky because I have an ever changing relationship to each of his films. I really feel slightly differently about each from one day to the next. He's had very few failures in his career overall. There are several films which I consider to be much much more bland than they should be when you consider all the elements contained. TO CATCH A THIEF for example, has always been a film that I find hugely disappointing(but it certainly has it's following). It's always odd to me to notice that this film came before NORTH BY NORTHWEST by 4 years as it seems like a later, weaker effort. Perhaps it is my love for the Hitch/Grant collaborations in both NORTH BY NORTHWEST and NOTORIOUS that makes me a harsher critic when it comes to TO CATCH A THIEF. There are some other "blandies" in Hitchcock's filmography, but a very small percentage considering how many films he made. Overall, it is quite easy to see why a great filmmaker like Brian De Palma would choose to emulate him over the course of so many of his own films. Hitch was a truly inspirational visionary. Just a quick disclaimer: as I've said before with these lists, these are just my preferences, not some sort of definitive 'this film is BETTER' than this film'. If there are some on the list that you've perhaps not seen, I recommend you check them out!

1. Rear Window(1954)
2. North By Northwest(1959)
3. The Birds(1963)
4. Vertigo(1958)
5. Notorious(1946)
6. Rebecca(1940)
7. Dial M for Murder(1954)
8. The Lady Vanishes(1938)
9. The 39 Steps(1935)
10. Shadow of a Doubt(1943)
11. Psycho(1960)
12. Saboteur(1942)
13. Family Plot(1976)
14. Strangers On a Train(1951)
15. Rope(1948)
16. Frenzy(1972)
17. Marnie(1964)
18. Lifeboat(1944)
19. Sabotage(1936)
20. Mr. and Mrs. Smith(1941)



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