Friday, October 6, 2017


Blade Runner 2049 week peeks!

It's finally here, opening day for the long-awaited, barely-trusted, Denis Villeneuve-headed, sequel to an over 30 year old box office failure of a genre-defining cyberpunk cult film known as Blade Runner, a film that I love.

Denis Villeneuve is someone who has certainly earned his reputation as a film-maker of taste and quality. And if you take the disparate flavors of Enemy, Sicario, and Arrival and you mix them all up, I think it's reasonable to expect that he might be able to deal with the genre requirements of Blade Runner. But a sequel after thirty-five years? To a film that arguably doesn't need one at all? To a film set in a genre that is just about the definition of out-of-date? Could it work? Do we really want this? These questions remain. One things for sure, it will certainly be a challenge.

But will it be any good?

Critics seem to like it...

You've probably seen this already, but let's watch the trailer and get excited...

Well, at the very least, it'll be beautiful, right?

Fingers crossed,

Thursday, October 5, 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049 - "2048: Nowhere To Run"

Blade Runner 2049 week continues!

For those of you who might be new here... There were three short films released during the build-up to Blade Runner 2049's big opening day, each one intended to expand on the film's story. So far, I've posted two, here and here. They were posted in narrative-chronological order, of course, just btw... Anyway, so far the short films have been a little underwhelming. Now, it's time for the third one. The last one. Hopefully it bucks the established trend. Hopefully the movie does too.

I'm putting a lot of eggs in Villeneuve's basket...

This short film is called 2048: Nowhere to Run, and it stars Dave Bautista as a replicant on the run named Sapper. Aside from the dumb name, this is otherwise good news. I love Dave Bautista. He collects lunchboxes. You love Dave Bautista. He's seems very sweet and nice and funny. Everybody loves Dave Bautista. Everybody should love Dave Bautista. He's Dave Bautista.

Dave Bautista.

Here's the synopsis: Gentle Sapper a replicant unleashes his true power when he sees his loved ones in trouble.

That's a terrible synopsis. "Gentle" Sapper? I'm not a Grammar guy or anything (obviously), but they couldn't even be bothered to add some punctuation? Isn't this all a big deal in Hollywood? Aren't there professionals working on this shit? I probably don't need to tell you all this by now, but in the world of short films, when your synopsis is this shitty... well, that's not a great sign.

Let's find out...

Hmmm... at least these short films are all consistent, I guess.

To be fair, this wasn't bad. Not at all. It's pretty well done, actually. But what it is, is nothing special. That's the problem. I mean, this was basically the plot of every single episode of the Incredible Hulk, but done in five minutes. That's not a bad thing, it's just not an innovative thing either. And once again, what does this short film tell us that really expands on the story? What happened here that couldn't also be communicated in a few moments in the main film?

I guess it makes sense that these are all pretty inconsequential. Most people probably have no idea that these short film exists, so they won't see them, so it's not like you can put any real pertinent moments or information in them. I get that, but here's the thing... none of these feel like extra little gifts for the more interested fans, either. Not a one of these is the equal of Happy Birthday David. And when you're dealing with as iffy an proposition as a sequel to Blade Runner? That's a bad sign...

Fingers crossed the movie is better...

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049 - "2036: Nexus Dawn"

It's still Blade Runner 2049 week here at the ol' blog, so that means shut up, sit down, and strap yourself in for the second of three short films about Blade Runner. These films are intended to expand on the world of the new movie's story-line. I shared the first one yesterday, and it was just okay, or more accurately, it was maybe exactly what it was always going to be. The mere existence of these short films, unavoidably married to the aesthetics of a 30 year old cyberpunk movie in the year 2017 pretty much ensures that they all be neither great nor terrible, neither cutting edge nor dated, and yet easily inhabit both spaces. It does not put me at ease to realize this simple and undeniable reality could very easily also apply to the already iffy idea of the sequel.

But hey, if anyone can pull off the impossible, it's Denis Villeneuve.

Fingers crossed.

Today's short film is called 2036: Nexus Dawn. At least, I think that's what it's called. It's not quite clear, but then I didn't exactly research the hell out of this either. Anyway, 2036: Nexus Dawn, starring everyone's favorite, Jared Leto. He's so method, yo.

Here's the synopsis: After the events of Black Out 2022, replicants are outlawed. Now, set  in Los Angeles in 2036, 13 years before the events of Blade Runner 2049, Nexus Dawn tells the story Niander Wallace's attempts to convince officials to allow his new line of replicants to enter production.

See, the replicants are called Nexus something-something, and this film shows the beginning of a new era of replicants, thus... Nexus Dawn.

See what they did there?

I don't know if I'd call that a short film, really. It felt more like a clip from a movie. For all I know, if could be. Either way, it certainly didn't feel self-contained, or that anything actually happened. What was decided? What changed? It felt like a single moment, truncated and without context. Leto, of course, plays Wallace weird, with a weird cadence, because much like how Samuel L Jackson approaches his characters through their haircuts, Leto defines his by their weird quirks and affectations. That's not necessarily a bad thing, it's just... Fucking Leto, right?

Leto issues aside, this short felt like it ended too soon and provided no story closure. When you ask the question: What is this scene attempting to accomplish? The answer shouldn't be a shrug.

Well, at least it looks like Blade Runner, right?


Tuesday, October 3, 2017

BLADE RUNNER 2049 - "Black Out 2022"

It's Blade Runner 2049 week here at my blog.

This is the week where we will finally get to see whether or not Denis Villeneuve has really managed to do the impossible... that is, to make a good sequel to the original Blade Runner movie. Honestly, this is a project that seems wholly unnecessary, and yet... and yet, from everything I've seen and heard, it seems like he might have pulled it off. Maybe. We shall see.

This week.

Blade Runner 2049 week.

Also... something else to consider, if Villeneuve actually does manage to polish this turd of an idea into something shiny and bright and beautiful--and he is certainly someone with the talent to do so--that would mean he might also be ready to take on the Most Impossible Task in all of the history of Hollywood! ...Besides Don Quixote!

That is, to make a good version of Dune.

I heard you gasp. Yes. Yes, my friends. It's true. Denis Villeneuve has decided to scale two different unassailable mountains, and pretty much right in a row too. Why? Hell if I know, but I envy his guts, and I wish him luck, even though I expect him to fall... like so many others have before him.

But that's for another day...

Today, we're here for the first of three short films intended to give a little insight into the main story of Blade Runner 2049. First up, we have Black Out 2022. This film calls itself a neo-noir cyberpunk anime short film, and I'm just going to let that go. after all, there's no need to get all bent out of shape over the little things, even if they are super obnoxious. The film itself is directed by Shinichiro Watanabe, a man well-known not just for wearing sunglasses way too often, but also for directing the music-driven pair of anime series known as Cowboy Beebop and Samurai Champloo.

I really used to love those two series. They were inventive. They were cool. There were good fights and better characters. They looked great. Even if you're not a big anime fan, I think they're definitely worth checking out. However, that having been said, fair warning, I haven't watched either of those shows in quite some time, so I don't know how they'll hold up.

I expect they might seem a little dated.

Here's the synopsis of Black Out 2022: Set three years after the events of Blade Runner, two replicants, Iggy and Trixie set about bringing down the Nexus database server farm in an effort to free themselves and their kind. 

Let's see how it goes.

Well, that was... dated.

I mean, it was cool in a Johnny Mnemonic-Hack The Planet kind of 90s way, I guess, but still, it felt dated. Honestly, I feel like I've seen every aspect of this short film in more famous animes. Right? Dated AND familiar. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it. The action was fun, and I'm definitely a child of William Gibson, but still, this felt like a world where the 90s never really ended.

But then, that's Cyberpunk, isn't it? The bastard "futuristic" twin to it's be-goggled and be-top-hatted sibling, Steampunk. A future that never happened, and a past that never happened, forever linked in their inertia. Both genres now feel like dead-ends, because we've all seen how things actually went. Blade Runner is definitely cyber-punk, even if it helped to originally establish the genre, or more fairly, BECAUSE it helped to establish the genre, so the world it inhabits can't help but seem dated too. So, maybe it's not fair to ding this short film for seeming like such a blast from the past even as it's discussing the future. After all, if it's cyberpunk, it's not like it had any other choice.

I like the EMP idea though.

Til next time...

Monday, October 2, 2017

Top 20 Favorite Films of All Time

It took way too long to put it all together, but just about two weeks ago, I was finally able to finish my Top Twenty Favorite Films of All Time List. I'm gonna be honest with you, it felt pretty great getting it done. A small victory, people... It was a small victory. Fun times were had.

And just in case you missed the festivities...


Watch more movies,

Monday, September 18, 2017

Top 20 Favorite Films of All Time - 16 through 20

So, after many, many months, and a myriad of trials and tribulations, not to mention quite a bit of laziness and personal distractions, it's finally done, my favorite films list. It's a definitive list too. At least for now. You know what? It's probably good for the next few months. Definitely. Maybe.  At least the next few days. Maybe not. You never know.

The point is... it's finally done.

This is the fourth and final installment of a list that is meant to be a companion piece to the Staff Picks list I posted a few years ago. Why, you ask? Why not? Also, if you're brand new to all of this, and you're wondering where the first three installments are, they're here and here and here.

A quick reminder of the rules:
1. The list is twenty films long.
2. This is a list of "Favorites," not "Best"
3. There's no Repeat Directors.

Last, but not least... there is no order to this list, not even alphabetical.

Let's do this...

Top 20 Favorite Films of All Time
Numbers Sixteen through Twenty

Writer/Director Jeremy Saulnier is the real deal, man. He's a name to pay attention to in the future.

Blue Ruin is a tale of long-simmering revenge, the continuing cycle of violence, and the brutal toll it takes on the people involved.

That's vague, I know. It's not a synopsis that really ropes you in, I'm sure. You'll have to trust me when I say that there's a hell of a lot more going on in the film, but you're just going to have to sit down and watch it for yourself in order to find out. In a nutshell, it's an incredible movie. It is somehow both shockingly realistic and yet shockingly over-the-top. It is a film of pure tension. It vibrates with old anger and pain. Macon Blair is an actor I was not familiar with at all, but he turns in a star making performance as Dwight, a man whose life has been destroyed by a brutal crime, and is now set on bloody revenge.

And it is super bloody. Super bloody and super tense. It's a tough watch because of this, and because Dwight is so unlikely. That's a big part of what I like about the film. The tension is so incredible, so constant, so present, and part of the reason for that is because each scene, each moment Dwight survives is such a relief, and frankly kind of a surprise, because--and this is what I love--Dwight is not some big macho guy. This isn't an action movie. Dwight is small and slight. He's wet-eyed and nervous. He stammers. He's a very regular and relatable guy, a regular and relatable guy who is determined to murder the people he ruined his life.

Which he somehow does, through a roller-coaster mix of luck, guts, careful though, and pure determination. It's fantastic.

But here's the thing about this film, as tense as it, as violent as it is, as shocking and bloody as it is, as crazy and awesome as it is, there's an undeniable sadness to it all. This is a movie about a single mistake that ripples out and destroys multiple lives, and how that misery then just keeps on rolling, blowing up more lives, and leaving more and more bloody wreckage in its wake.

It's a film about the consequences of being unable to forgive, and it's an incredible watch.

The Wild Bunch is my favorite Western.

As the era of the old West dies, an aging group of outlaws try for one last big score.

In 1969, the Wild Bunch revolutionized cinema. From the way it was filmed and edited, to the way it was written, to its choice of characters, to its myth deconstruction, to its portrayals of the traditional cowboy movie violence. People loved it and hated it for this, and movies have never been the same.

There's a savage nobility at the heart of The Wild Bunch that really appeals to me. These characters try to live by a code of loyalty and brotherhood, and they are both constantly failing it, and constantly trying to live up to it. They are men out of time, decaying relics from a gone world, bad men for sure, but also sad men, broken down old knights with no more dragons to slay, and I love that. They have all lived too long, surviving not only their lifestyles, but their very world, and it's this longevity that ultimately kills them. Their shrinking world ends up shoving them back, back, back, finally back into a corner with no other options. So, when Pike and the others find themselves at a place where the last betrayal of their code and themselves is just too much too bear, and they walk out to make it right... that's a hell of a moment, a hell of a final moment. And it's so earned too. That moment, and the resulting gunfight, is this movie simultaneously lending credence to, and putting the final nail in the coffin of, the Myth of the Old West.

One extra little thing that I kind of loved about the movie is how Peckinpah intended the violence to horrify the audience. He intended it to be too much, to be too intense, to purge everyone watching it of their desire to witness such acts, but instead it seemingly did the opposite, it tapped into a vein that has yet to be satiated.

Later, he had to admit that he had been wrong in thinking it would've ever gone any other way.

Don't act like you don't agree with this choice...

Deep in a Central American jungle, a team of commandos find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior.

Predator is a fantastic action film, one of the all time greats. It's great, because it has a formula. Y'see, Predator films work best when the story starts out as something else, something you're familiar with, and then takes a sudden left turn when the alien hunter shows up. Whether it's Danny Glover as that familiar loose cannon cop who's getting too old for this shit, or it's the classic blue and gray suited Batman on the rooftops of Gotham, the formula works incredibly well when the Predator crashes someone else's story. Whenever the formula is ignored, and the film is too much about the Predator as a character, it's terrible.

This film starts out as a classic Arnold Schwarzenegger film.

And this is Schwarzenegger at the top of his game. In the film, Arnold and his team of ultimate bad asses--men whose military specialties are reflected in their weapons and outfits much like G.I. Joe characters--must travel deep into enemy territory, cut off from any support, so they can rescue some American hostages from some evil Russians.

We know this story.

We've seen Arnold do this kind of shit before. It's his bread and butter. He can do it in his sleep. And the film delivers on that promise. He and about five or six other guys wade into a camp full of heavily armed men and proceed to wipe them out like it's nothing. In minutes too. Arnie and the boys are full-on walking murder machines. They're a god damn bullet hurricane-tornado landing with both feet smack dab in the middle of a cannon fodder trailer park. They rain down one-liners and sprays of lead in equal measure. They are Might and Right personified. Unstoppable. Some of them don't even have time to bleed even.

So when the Predator shows up, the last thing you expect to see is these guys taken down one by one. But they do, and that's why the film works so well, because the Predator is not just hunting Dutch and his team, it's hunting Arnold, it's hunting our cinema icons and genre archetypes. It plays against your expectations on a level you weren't expecting. It's the similar to what GRRM does in the Songs of Ice and Fire books, it's why Ned Stark's death shocked the shit out of us all so much.

That's a brilliant story tool. It's rarely used effectively, so I love it when it is.

One of the other things I love about the film isn't necessarily true, it's my own bit of fan-fic, so I apologize in advance, but, at the end of the film, as Arnold and the Rebel Woman they had captured are riding off in the helicopter, you think they're safe, right... but if you think about it, these two just had contact with a vicious and highly advanced alien species and survived. Not to mention, the woman--Anya maybe? I think--is a member of the Russian backed local rebel forces who are working in the area against the U.S. and its interests.

Basically what I'm saying is, once that helicopter landed, I doubt either one of those characters ever saw daylight again. (Sad trombone)

Heathers is a film that would never get made today.

Veronica Sawyer is a member of the most powerful clique in school, but once in, she becomes disillusioned with the demands of popularity. When a prank against her best frenemy goes wrong with deadly consequences, she and her boyfriend J.D. decide to cut a murderous swath through the student body in a... perhaps misguided... attempt to make their high school a better place.

Yes, there's some new Netflix version of this coming or something, but we all know it won't be the same. All of the edges will be filed down. Besides, no Winona Ryder? No Christian Slater? Who cares? Why bother? Fuck that shit.

Anyway, Heathers was a unicorn of teen movies back in the day. It's smart, it's funny, it's brutally honest and insanely quotable, and best of all, it's completely controversial. Parents hated it. Pretty much every part of it. It's mean, there's tons of sex and swearing, and honestly, it really does kind of glamorize murdering your classmates, which people tend to frown upon.

It's everything that is supposed to be bad for young impressionable minds.

That's what makes Heathers so great. Darkly funny, cynical, and subversive, it's not afraid to spit in the eye of the safe teen movie. It's not afraid to illustrate the everyday horrors of high school, and to smirkingly present the darkest and bloodiest of options as an answer. It's not afraid to say that a teenagers life can be shit, it can be life or death, even over the stupid shit like being popular, and half-ass platitudes won't help. So, yes, it's crazy and mean and over the top, but it's also honest. Which is really why it wouldn't be made today. That, and the child murders...

Also, the film taught me the proper use of the word "myriad."

Repo Man was my first weird movie.

After being fired from his job, Los Angeles punk rocker Otto lands a gig helping a drug-addled and philosophizing Repo man named Bud steal back the cars of people behind on their payments. At first, Otto is reluctant, but he grows to love the job, hurtling through the weird and wild underworld of 80’s Los Angeles. But after learning of a Chevy Malibu that has been given a $20,000 price tag, Otto finds himself caught between Conspiracy Theory Weirdos, Insane Government Agents, former punk rocker friends, and rival Repo Men, all of whom are vying for the car and its trunk stuffed with dead aliens.

As a kid, probably 11 or 12, I would sometimes spent summers with my aunt. She lived in a concrete bunker of a downtown loft--it had once been used in the Billy Idol "Cradle of Love" video... It was a fun time, but occasionally there was things she had to do that didn't involve kids, and since I wasn't at my own home, I didn't really have my books or my toys, and since I was in a different city, I had no idea when my shows were on, and since we were downtown L.A. before gentrification, I couldn't play outside, so sometimes, I'd get a little bored. That's nobody's fault, it's just reality as a kid.

And the only movie she had was a Betamax copy of Repo Man.

Literally the only movie. It was 1985-ish maybe, but imagine that: A VCR and ONE movie. We were like cave people back then. Anyway, I don't think I liked it the first time I watched it. Maybe kind of? I don't know. I do know I barely understood it. But still... I thought about it a lot afterward. I half remembered it. I would find myself saying "Dukie-wukie bwoke his widdle hand" with almost no context, but in the exact same voice as Archie. The film stuck with me, is what I'm saying. It was strange and it had this fuck you attitude and felt kind of dangerous, like it was something a 12 year old probably shouldn't be watching (which was probably true...). It was a cool and unknown thing. My friends hadn't even heard of it. It was my first brush with the pleasure of uncovering some gem all on my own, of experiencing something a lot of people didn't even know about. It was basically the start of my interest in film, and why I would seek out different movies. Years later, when I was finally able to rewatch it, I jumped at the chance.

And it was still... really fucking weird.

But I loved it. Years pass, and it's still this crazy little weird punk rock film about Aliens Conspiracies and the daily grind of Repo Men that somehow seems like one of the most L.A. films ever made. It's ridiculously quotable. It's a true blue blood and guts, made on the fly, DIY film that doesn't feel cheap and talentless. It's still funny. It's still fringe. And, like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, this movie is still a bit of a secret handshake film, the type of thing where when you meet someone who likes it, you know you're with your people.

Plus, sadly, Harry Dean Stanton died recently, ending an era, and he was incredible in this film (and many others), so seems as good a place to stop as any...

And that's it. That's the list. It took way too much time and way too much effort, and who knows, sometime in the next two weeks, it might even shift around and change, so what's the point?

I guess I just love movies,

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Top 20 Favorite Films of All Time - 11 through 15

All right, so if you were here... uh... I guess it was a few weeks ago now... then you should know what's happening here. In a nutshell, this is the third installment of my Top Twenty Favorite Films of All Time list. These are films I love, films I think are great, and films that I would re-watch at anytime. Your mileage may vary, but I'm sure you'll understand when I say that I don't consider that to be a primary concern. Also, just fyi, this is meant to be a sort of companion piece to my Staff Picks list that I posted awhile back. And finally, if you're wondering where the first and second installments of this list are, you can find them here and here.

Before we dive back in, a quick reminder of the (admittedly arbitrary) rules:
1. The list is twenty films long because that was what was decided.
2. This is a list of "Favorites," not "Best"
3. There's no Repeat Directors.

And one last thing, there is no order to this list, not even alphabetical.

Let's do this...

Top 20 Favorite Films of All Time
Numbers Eleven through Fifteen

It seems like everyone has a favorite Tarantino movie, and for some reason, it always seems to be Inglourious Basterds.

I don't get that. I don't get it at all.

Jackie Brown is the film that straddles the line between the Crime Tarantino Era and the Homage Tarantino Era. It's his Rubber Soul. Adapted from the Elmore Leonard novel Rum Punch--the only Tarantino film based on someone else's work--it's the story of Jackie Brown, an aging stewardess caught between a murderous L.A. gun-runner she smuggles for, and the cops that are squeezing her in order to arrest him. Once arrested, Jackie doesn't have many options, so she sets her eye on a big bag of cash, and a bold idea on how to escape the clutches of both sides. But to pull it off, she needs to enlist the help of an aging bail bondsman, a man named Max Cherry, who has been feeling stuck in a rut lately, and finds himself feeling more than a little sweet on Jackie. It's Tarantino's homage to 1970's blaxploitation films.

And it is still his most mature work.

Like most young men, Tarantino grabbed firmly ahold of my young mind with Reservoir Dogs and True Romance and Pulp Fiction, even with Natural Born Killers, although not as much with that one as the others. For awhile there, he was like the Catcher in the Rye of Cinema, young writers and film-makers trying to find their voice at the time, like I was myself, quickly began to mimic his quirks and cadences, and his settings and situations. On one hand, his work was inspiring. On the other, it was still mimicry, so that love was also a bit limiting. So when Jackie Brown came out, many of us were very excited to see it, but ended up walking out a little disappointed. It felt like a jarring change in tone and style. It wasn't anywhere as quirky or quotable as his previous works. It definitely wasn't as violent. Tarantino was ready to evolve, but we were not, at least I wasn't.

But the film stuck with me. I had to let it stew before I could see it again, before I could realize what a great film it really was. Jackie Brown is a film that taught me about expectations versus reality. It was a film that challenged my reactions due to the film in my head versus the film on screen. Jackie Brown was one of the films that taught me to approach a piece of art on its own terms.

Plus, it's got one the best openings ever.

Young Frankenstein is peak Mel Brooks.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (pronounced Fronk-EN-Steen) is a brilliant man of science who is trying to live down his famous grandfather's dark reputation. However, when he inherits the family castle and must travel to Transylvania to inspect the property, he discovers that he and his grandfather have much more in common than he would like to admit.

Written by the incredible Gene Wilder, this film is Brooks' smartest, ballsiest, and all-around funniest film. It is the definition of a classic. The cast is a murderer's row of comedic legends. The sets are not only fantastic, but some of them are from the original 1931 film. It's ridiculously quotable. It's a series of iconic moments. It's really, really funny, and best of all, it's not yet another film that, looking back, has turned out to be hugely racist and homophobic, which is such a welcome relief. Young Frankenstein is basically the film every single high concept/Will Ferrell/modern day Rat Pack comedy film wants to be, but can't even come close.

The film is just funny, man. It's just funny.

George Romero is the third and final George in my Three Georges.

Dawn of the Dead is the story of a world that is slowly but surely being consumed by a ravenous plague of newly reanimated dead. Zombies are killing everyone they can catch. Everyone they kill gets up and kills. The world is falling apart. Four people steal a helicopter and end up sheltering in "one of those new indoor shopping centers," and try to build a new life, but in this terrible new world, they soon discover that the walking Dead isn't their only enemy, the living are too.

Personally, I prefer the Director's Cut.

I was already a sucker for a good Post-Apocalyptic setting before I saw this film, but I was instantly in love with the way the film starts with a quickly collapsing society. Choosing to have the crisis already well underway, going between the brutal police raid on a building full of people refusing to evacuate (all while highlighting the racism and classism of the situation), and a TV news center as it descends into chaos is just fantastic. The way the characters survive on the run, and the thought and ingenuity they display as they first take and then later fortify their Mall, are some of my favorite sequences. I am such a fan of that type of thing. In fact, this film is largely responsible for my response to a lot of other disaster/bad situation/survival horror films I see now. In a nutshell: I'd rather watch smart character make good decisions and yet still die, then watch stupid characters do stupid things which lead to their deaths...

Yes, this film is so old that Malls are a novel concept. Yes, the soundtrack is ridiculous. Yes, it's not all that scary, especially with the badly made-up blue-faced zombies. And yes, while I'm generally a fan of the whole famed "zombies as consumers" metaphor, I'm not all that sold on the idea of it being A. something that happened on purpose, or B. that the metaphor is all that much deeper than what I already put in quotes above. Yes, this is all true, but it's in spite of all those things that I love this movie. Honestly, it's because of those things.

It's also why I want to live in a mall, and why I'm obsessed with fort-building.

Dawn of the Dead is one of those films that is now responsible for an entire genre. Everything popular about zombies today can basically be traced back to this film. It's inventive and original. It's big and it's goofy, but it's also clever and funny, with well-written characters and iconic moments, and it's DIY as fuck and that's awesome. 

Also, just fyi, I unabashedly love the 2004 Zach Snyder/James Gunn reimagined version too. When I mention the 1978 version, I'm also including the 2004 version. The first ten minutes and the opening credits alone are one of the greatest zombie film ever made.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure is the story of a one man on an epic quest, determined to right the most foul of wrongs. It's a cross country odyssey of a man hunting his heart's very desire. A myriad of obstacles will stand in his path, and our hero will rely not just on himself, but on a few friends he meets along the way. By the end of this journey, he will have learned a little bit about himself... and the Alamo.

I've found that there's two types of people in this world: People who are surprised that I would include this film o my list of all time favorites, and people that completely understand.

Pity the former...

For a lot of comedies from the 80s, I'd understand the skepticism. A lot of old pop culture is better left in the past. It's not just that they're too often too much a product of their time, their jokes worn out and cliche at best, and severely racist and misogynistic at worst, they're also just... low quality. Badly acted. Dumb. A lot of comedies from the 80s, when you revisit them, you can't help but wonder why the hell you ever actually liked the thing in the first place. Comedies especially seem vulnerable to this. Even if they were well made, they often don't age well.

I mean... Is Wayne's World even funny anymore? I doubt it.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure is. That's the good news. Like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, everything about this film still works. Totally. Completely. It's still sharp. It's still funny. Francis. Amazing Larry. Dottie. Mickey. Simone's big but. Large Marge. The bike chase. The movie of Pee Wee's life. The whole thing still works. It's beautifully sincere, wonderfully sweet, happily surreal and still absolutely hilarious. This film is an artifact from a time long ago when Tim Burton and Danny Elfman still seemed odd, and yet audacious and daring at the same time. It's signature work from everyone involved, so much so, you almost don't recognize some from who they are now.

Bottom line? It still seems fresh. Decades later, it's still fun. That's why it's great.

Also, because of this...

It was hard to choose a favorite John Carpenter film. I knew there was going to be one. There had to be. Carpenter has made a slew of great films. Assault on Precinct 13. Halloween. They Live. Escape from New York. Big Trouble in Little China.

The Thing.

Actually, it wasn't that hard of a choice.

As an Antarctic Research Facility prepares for a massive storm, they encounter an ancient and decidedly hostile alien life form that kills and replaces any life-form it has contact with. It quickly becomes clear that the members of the facility have been left with two choices: Kill everyone else in the facility because they might be a murderous alien, or kill everyone else in the facility because they might be a murderous alien.

If only those god damn Swedes had managed to shoot that dog...

The Thing was pretty poorly received, both critically and at the box office, back when it was first released in 1982. Ebert hated it. It got bad reviews all over. I blame the fuzzy family friendly warmth of E.T., a film that had been released only a couple of weeks before. I guess people just weren't prepared to fall from those sweet Reese's Pieces heights, down into a dark pit of blood and guts and terror and paranoia.

Luckily those times have passed.

Now rightfully regarded as a horror/sci-fi classic, The Thing is a film of hard choices and dark consequences. It's not afraid to be mean and to yank the rug out from under you. There's so much to love, the subtle characterizations, the slow burn pacing punctuated with sudden geysers of gore. It's all so well done. I love how the Antarctic setting is so isolated, how Outpost 3 is just this tiny speck in a bright white wide open space, and yet the characters are so trapped and how because of that, they are quickly consumed by this animal-like panic.

But my favorite part is the whole alien aspect.

I like horror films, sure, but I'm not a nut for them, so the addition of a hostile life form from outer space really pushes my buttons. This turns the film into something I'm interested in. A Threshold Scenario? Yeah, I'm interested in a situation where a world-ending extraterrestrial threat has arrived and has to be contained or the world is screwed. That's a good struggle. I love when the victims in a horror film have agency and fight back. Even when all hope is lost, I love when they turn and fight. Rage! Rage against the dying of the light! I love that. So that, and the mixture of classic monster horror and sci-fi really worked for me.

Plus, y'know... Kurt Russel, right?

And that's it...

I promise the last section will be posted much more quickly than this last one was,