Friday, June 28, 2013

Filmzilla Reprint: Top 5: Comedies

Filmzilla is gone. The store is closed, the movies have been hauled away and its somewhat neglected blog has been wiped from existence like a victim of Newspeak. I posted some stuff there on occasion. Those posts still exist, proof of what once was. I've decided to reprint them here.

 I hope you enjoy...

We have a pretty good sense of humor here at Filmzilla... It's a requirement... So in honor of our enduring patience--I mean... sense of humor, today I thought I'd post my top 5 favorite comedies.

To be honest, I struggled with this list. I'd initially planned to go the usual snarky route and include such notable luminaries of crapdom as the embarrassingly expensive (and even more embarrassingly profitable) Avatar or maybe perhaps the embarrassingly racist Transformers 2, or possibly the plain old embarrassing The Happening. I considered adding such schmaltzy fare as Patch Adams or the somehow schmaltzier Mr. Holland's Opus or maybe the somehow so schmaltzy watching it could give you diabetes: The Blindside. But then I thought, what about thematic messes like Super 8 or bombastic farts like Godfather 3? What about insufferably hilariously pompous crap like Eat, Pray, Love or some terrible foreign film like the confusing oddball of They Came Back or the ridiculously stupid High Tension? And what about creepy films like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or crappy ones like the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels or the freak shows like Howard the Duck or Congo or, God forbid I mention it outloud: Halle Berry's Catwoman? Yeesch. Shivers. I mean, really... surely Steven Speilberg or Adam Sandler's entire last decade of films must deserve--nay, DEMAND--a mention, right?

But then I  stopped, realizing that line of thought isn't a rabbit hole we're tumbling down, it's a black hole... so instead, I decided to play it straight.

(Transient and in no particular order, of course...)

5. Ghostbusters
The movie that taught us all: If someone asks you if you're a God, you say yes! Words I live by to this very day.

4. Southpark the Movie
It's weird how this film was written BEFORE George W Bush was ever President, right? That's weird, right?

3. Pee Wee's Big Adventure

2. Super Troopers
Because everybody wants a moustache ride...

1. Young Frankenstein
That's Fronk-en-STEEN!

Special mention: Zoolander

So there you go. If anyone ever asks you what my top 5 favorite comedies are, you'll be able to tell them. And yes, all of these films are currently available at Filmzilla... even the crappy ones.

(Well... not anymore...)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Staff Picks (Part Six)

The latest spate of big summer storms have blown through town, and the Twin Cities--somewhat less tree-lined--have survived to see another day. Here at Casa de Jon, our Power is on and the Internet is strong once again, so that means... Time to get the Staff Picks list back on track, so without further ado...

Filmzilla has closed and with it, all the good times...

Somehow we'll soldier on... In lieu of the daily in-person experience you could have had in what is now a much lamented and by-gone era, I've decided to chronicle my Staff Picks wall for you as a sort of guide to some real good movies, or maybe just as a list of movies I happen to like a lot, or maybe you could say that this is really an ultimate (but not quite 100% complete) My Favorite Movies list, or... as the length of the list would coincidentally have it, you could simply call it:

Jon's Hot 100
(Part Six--Numbers 51 thru 60)

You can find the first half of this list here. I may be a bit biased, but I've got to tell you, it's a pretty damn good read. Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself. Once again, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical... C'est pour vous!

51. Hellhouse

If you spend much time poking around in my life or reading my plethora of rantings and ravings, you will very quickly figure out that organized religions often bug the hell out of me and this documentary showcases a lot of the reasons why. The story of a Christian-themed Haunted House and the various church members involved in setting it up, some folks might dismiss this film as mere sensationalism or a hatchet-job on a somewhat easy target of a bunch of gloriously bombastic hicks and small town boobs. I disagree. That's just someone who either wasn't able to pay attention or wasn't willing to, as it's the closer look that really reveals what the film is about. The Devil--if you will--is in the details. If you watch this film, and you should, you will see and hear things you would not believe people would actually do out in public, right where others can see them and everything! It exposes a casual narrow-mindedness, a sheer pomposity, a shockingly unaware naivete, and a seething undercurrent of anger, but it does so without judgement or interference. All you see is who these people really are. You will be shocked. Horrified. Plus, the conversation a group of them have about Magic, the Gathering is both hilarious and really, really sad. Does the film provide answers? I don't know... Are there answers? Or is this just a glimpse into a world that a lot of us would rather not believe truly exists? Scary, man. Really scary.

52. Hot Fuzz

Oh, how I love the team-up of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright. I am a fan. I love their stuff. Unabashedly love. It's all so clever, so funny. This is the second film in their Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, but don't let that name intimidate you, it's just a loose bit of funny film-head nonsense and it doesn't really impact the individual films. What should intimidate you is how insanely clever the films are, how well-written, how funny, how intricately built. What should intimidate you is how all of their films can be viewed as both a send-up of the respective subject genre AND an excellent example of that particular type of genre film. For example, Hot Fuzz here is both a comedy skewering the buddy cop action flick and is also a rollicking good time buddy cop action flick. It's about the most hardcore cop in London, who is transferred to a sleepy little hamlet that has some dark secrets. It's hilarious. The Point Break joke alone is pure genius.

53. Hulk vs.

This pick may only really play for the comic book heads out there, most specifically for the ones who remember Wolverine's first appearance way back in Incredible Hulk #180 (in silhouette) or for those of you who love them some classic Kirby-esque Thor in Asgard action. If that's you and you haven't see these two episodes, then you are missing out. Usually, at least when it comes to animation, DC wins hands down over Marvel, but this out-of-nowhere and seemingly random dvd set rockets past anything DC has ever done. I don't know why they were made, because they don't seem to coincide with a big media push, but I'm certainly glad they were. They're both classic stories of the respective characters when facing the awesome power of the Hulk, faithful to the source material, but smart enough to add a few tweeks here and there in the right places. More so, they're both great examples of what Marvel could be doing with animation, but for some reason doesn't seem to be able to. I prefer the Wolverine episode to the Thor one, but both are fun and all around well-done. Also, they're kid-safe-ish. Maybe PG-13. Just fyi.

54. I saw the Devil

Well... ok, basically, you just have to make it through the first scene. Fair warning: It's not that it's excessively gory (that I recall), but it is horrifying. HORRIFYING! Make it through that and you get a really good movie about a Secret Agent chasing down a Serial Killer for personal revenge. And once he catches the man, instead of arresting or killing him, the Secret Agent does this whole torturing, catch-and-release game with the Serial Killer, which eventually leads to the two of them engaging in this cat-and-mouse kung-fu ass-whooping that is the definition of thrilling and suspenseful action. It's shocking. It's gory. It's tense. I don't recommend horror films often, but this one is totally worth the watch.

55. In Bruges

This is a brilliant film. Brilliant. Brilliant and oddly secret too. Have you seen it? I bet not, but don't be too embarrassed because for some reason lots of other people didn't see it either. I was one of them. (GASP!) I know! I missed it in theatres. (GASP!) I know! I wasn't even looking for it when it first came out on DVD! (GASP!) I KNOW! Shocking, isn't it? Well, that time has passed and since then I've seen this film several times. It's the story of a pair of hitmen hiding... in Bruges (clever, clever), guilt-ridden after a bad hit. It's a comedy. It's a drama. It's fantastic. It'll surprise you. You should just watch it.

56. The Incredibles

This is my favorite Pixar movie. This probably shouldn't surprise you. My second favorite is Up. This definitely should not surprise you, because Up is fantastic. It's not as fantastic as The Incredibles of course, but I suppose that was probably a given. Anyway... This is the story of a Super Family driven into retirement and then eventually driven out of retirement again, it's the best. And sure, probably a bit obvious, but I don't care. Funny, charming, great characters, good action, it's all fun, all the time. I love it because it knows what it is and where it comes from and it isn't afraid to embrace itself. I also love it because it was from that time in Pixar's oeurve (fancy, fancy) when they cared first and last about story and it shows. Another reason I love it is because it's a better Fantastic Four movie than Fox Studios will ever be able to make in a million yeard. Also: Edna. Come on. She's awesome.

57. Ip Man 1 and 2


This is the supposedly true story of the man who eventually trained Bruce Lee... and kicked a lot of Japanese ass during the Occupation of China. Also, it has more kung-fu than you can shake a stick at. Sure, sure, Fists of Legend with Jet Li. Sure, sure, Drunken Master with Jackie Chan. Sure, sure, Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee... They're all great, but Donnie Yen is incredible. Totally charismatic. Charming. He's got acting chops and his kung-fu is the fantastic. As for the film itself, the story of Ip Man is epic and the fight choreography is amazing. There's a fight against Sammo Hung in Part 2 on top of a wobbling table that has to be seen. Basically, these two films here? These two films are now your two new go-to kung-fu flicks.

58. The Iron Giant

One of the last great hand-drawn animated films, the Iron Giant is a true classic. Despite critical praise and awards, it was considered a financial failure at the time, but eventually managed to find an audience on home video. Your kids have probably seen it and they should, it's wonderful. The simple story of a young boy named Hogarth, growing up in Cold War 1950s America, and his best friend: A giant robot who doesn't want to be a weapon, what else can I say? It's touching and sweet and intelligent; it's a good film and it's a shame it didn't find a bigger audience initially.

59. Jackie Brown

This is my favorite Tarantino film. I think it's his most mature work. It's also the one where his relentless ego is the most restrained. Of course, that might be due to the fact that it's also his only film based off of someone else's work (Elmore Leonard's Rum Punch). The story of desperate woman squeezed between a vicious drug lord and the long arm of the law, I'd even go so far as to say that this film is maybe the best he's capable of, a fusion of both his worlds/focuses. You see, he used to be Crime Story Tarantino, you remember those films, but in the intervening years he's changed and now he's Homage Tarantino, all his films a day-glo hodge-podge of minutiae and in-jokes. Well, this picture is his Rubber Soul, a mashing of the old and new. It's both a crime picture and an homage to the blaxploitation flicks of the 70s, but it tells a tight, brilliantly-shot story without being overburdened by all that trivial trivia. Plus, I love the soundtrack.  And the opening is one of my all time favorites.

60. Jesus Camp

Well, isn't this a bit of unintentional circle-closing. This particular section of the big Staff Picks list opened with a documentary featuring some crazy religious nuts and by pure happenstance (or divine intervention, perhaps?), it closes with another documentary featuring some crazy religious nuts. So what, you may be asking, makes Jesus Camp different than Hellhouse? On a certain level, I suppose it's fair to say nothing. They're both about Religious Nuts. Both are a look into a world we all wish was a little more fringe than it actually is. However, on closer inspection, they are very different. Hellhouse is about frightened, ignorant people in denial and their desperate attempts to twist reality in order to fit their uninformed world view. Jesus Camp is about a fear of the world and the purposeful indoctrination of youth in response to that world, regardless of the cost to the children. Yes, both films are about religious nuts--I mean, the part where they rant about Harry Potter? Ridiculous--but where Hellhouse will make you sad, Jesus Camp will make you angry.

And that's it for Part Six, folks. Now that we're back on track, keep an eye out for the rest of the list, as we continue to make our way through the back half of the Hot 100!

Vaya con dios, amigos,

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Tetra Vaal

I've been mentioning Director Neill Blomkamp here a lot lately, I know this. I'm a fan of his stuff, the style and aesthetics and topics and tropes. Basically the whole she-bang he goes in for, I go in for. What can I say, his stuff has been on my mind lately, his first feature film District 9 did appear on one of my Staff Picks lists recently, after all. To be fair though, it's probably mostly due to the fact that I am very excited for his upcoming film, Elysium, starring everyone's favorite: Matt Damon. I've talked about it all previously, at great length, I know. Anyway, you may remember me mentioning that before he got into features, he made a handful of cool little short films... or maybe you don't... whatever... Either way, here's one of those aforementioned short (very short) films. Check it out.

Seriously, it's really short. Take a look.

Love it,

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Staff Picks (Part Five)

Filmzilla has closed and with it, all the good times...

Somehow we'll soldier on... In lieu of the daily in-person experience you could have had in what is now a much lamented and by-gone era, I've decided to chronicle my Staff Picks wall for you as a sort of guide to some real good movies, or maybe just as a list of movies I happen to like a lot, or maybe you could say that this is really an ultimate (but not quite 100% complete) My Favorite Movies list, or... as the length of the list would coincidentally have it, you could simply call it:

Jon's Hot 100
(Part Five--Numbers 41 thru 50)

You can find the first Four Parts of this list here, read them at your leisure. A gentle reminder going forth, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical... Read on!

41. Drive

Drive is Noir as Fuck. In fact that should be the tag-line on the poster. "Drive is Noir as Fuck." I don't think there's a better way to describe the film. Ultra-slick. Ultra-cool. Ultra-violent. Ryan Gosling is the Driver, a part-time stuntman and part-time wheelman. He meets a mysterious and alluring woman and despite his knowing better, he gets involved with her problems, which eventually leads to shady deals, then somewhat naturally on to betrayal and death and ending, as these things often tend to do, with bloody revenge. Nicolas Winding Refn is a Cinema God. The opening sequence--a night on the job for the Driver--is an extended getaway filmed as vehicular ballet. Too cool. Noir as Fuck.

42. Easy A

Two of the things I love: Emma Stone and Emma Stone, and Easy A has both of these things in spades. A high school-set version of The Scarlet Letter, Stone plays the modern-day Hester Prynne, whose favor for a closeted buddy leads her to the heights of infamy and popularity and then eventually destruction... and redemption, I guess, but maybe that's inferred. Anyway, the whole film is funny and charming and the cast has a great chemistry. It's one of the many Teen Comedies that appear on this list--many of them in this post in particular--that I would urge you not to dismiss out-of-hand as just kid crap. This is a fun movie well worth your time. Plus, you should love Emma Stone, she's great.

43. Election

Speak of the Devil! I just get done mentioning fantastic films that will be appearing on this list, films that people might dismiss as just another run-of-the-mill Teen Comedy and the very next one happens to be an example of one of those super-awesome movies. Election is so good, a shockingly squirm-inducing dark comedy. Most of you have probably seen it already. As for the rest of you? Get with the program. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Election is about a high school election and all of the terrible things that comes with it. It's about jealousy. It's about ethics and morals, some very bad decisions and the fallout of those decisions. It's hilarious. It's also possibly the only film ever made that Chris Klein is good in. You probably thought that was impossible, but... proof's in the pudding, kids.

44. Escape from New York

There are many, many reasons to love this film--yet another fantastic result of Kurt Russel and John Carpenter working together--but my two favorite reasons are: 1. The opening titles read: "1997. The future." All in green Apple IIE graphics, too. Love it. And 2. There's a throw-away line in the beginning of the film where Lee Van Cleef's Warden Hauk says to Russel's Snake Plissken: "You flew a Gulfire over Leningrad, didn't you?" According to legend, that line was the pebble that started the avalanche that led to William Gibson writing Neuromancer. That's pretty damn cool. Simply put, this is one of the best early 80's action flicks ever. Manhattan Island has become a Maximum Security Prison. Air Force One crash-lands within the city. Grizzled anti-hero Snake Plissken is blackmailed into going in and bringing the President out again. 100% bad ass. Plus, Harry Dean Stanton is in it, proving once again, everything is better with Harry Dean Stanton (See: Avengers). Also, the soundtrack is so 80s, after hearing it, an acid-washed jean jacket just kind of appears on you, collar flipped up.

45. Fishing with John

This might have been a TV show... Maybe? I don't know. I guess I could look it up, but... whatever, forget it, who cares. Anyway, basically this guy John Lurie is a musician. He knows nothing about fishing, so the premise is, each episode John takes a different random celebrity out to some exotic locale for a little fishing and whatever-may-happen, all with the most deadpan of narrators you've ever heard. It's really funny and super odd. Weird-ass Matt Dillon. Crazy-ass Dennis Hopper. Laconic Jim Jarmusch. Willem Dafoe at his most creepy. And Tom Waits... so good. This show is a little hard to describe, what it's about, what they do, but if you get the chance, you should definitely give it a watch. It's worth it.

46. Galaxy Quest

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned how drop-dead hilarious this film is before now. I'm sure I've told you how much I love it. But I don't mind reiterating. It belongs on a short-list with films like Back to Future (which I mentioned on this list) and Ghostbusters (one I didn't think I needed to mention, so I didn't), films that are top-to-bottom funny and so quotable, ones that walk that fine line between action and comedy so well and are just packed with a phenomenal cast... Basically, this is one of those films that is directly responsible for so, so, so many bad films out there, because it makes being perfect look so God damn easy. Very obviously written by people who love and understand Star Trek deeply, it can play for all audiences. And Alan Rickman? He's incredible. I mean, of course he's hilarious, but the climatic moment where he delivers the trademark line of his character that he hates so much, but seriously? It gives you chills. And it clearly shows just how incredibly talented the guy is. Redefines the word Gravitas, get me? This film is all around worth it. Really. Seriously.

47. Get over it!

You're looking at me a little dubiously now, aren't you? I can feel it. Well, let's just be up front with it. Yes. Yes, Kirsten Dunst is in this. So is Sisqo. Just trust me. This and Bring It On are the two good Kirsten Dunst movies. Really. Okay, you got me, I have no excuse for Sisqo. He's not bad, he's just this weird early Aughts Party Jam Icon that appears in a bunch of the scenes as if he were a normal human being and not the Thong Song guy. It's absurb. Hmmm... I wonder if he's homeless now. His episode of Mtv's Cribs was the most inevitablly sad thing I've ever seen... But I digress. Anyway, Ben Foster is in it. Young Mila Kunis is in it. Martin Short is funnier than he's been in years as the Drama Teacher who writes the Rock Musical version of A Midsummer Night's Dream that is the framework the plot hinges around. I know you don't believe me, but it's really funny. I enjoyed it immensely.

48. Grandma’s Boy

I know. I know. Another somewhat dubious pick... or so you would think... You would be WRONG! Okay, maybe not, your mileage may vary. It could be considered a bit of a dude comedy. I would disagree with that assessment, but I could see how some people may not be as amused by this film as I was. Basically a mid-thirties Video Game Tester has to move in with his Grandma and her two roommates. Hilarity ensues as Worlds collide! Yes, it is a Stoner comedy. With lots of Nerd jokes. And farting. Yeah, it can get pretty dirty. I laughed my ass off. You may not, and if so, you have my pity, Senor or Senorita Aquafiestas. Here's a fun Game: Early career Jonah Hill appears as the Fat One. See if you can spot him!

49. Groundhog Day

Groudhog Day is very funny. It's Bill Murray at some of his best. The cast is all great, even Andie MacDowell! And the film is really clever, so many good jokes and call-backs. It's so clever, that you might not even notice how dark it is. How it's really about a man who becomes a tortured God, unable to die, forced to relive the same 24 hours over and over and over again. For how long exactly? Well, there's a lot of (weird) debate over that, but basically it's at least decades, most likely many decades, maybe even hundreds of years. Maybe more. Think about it. He memorizes an entire episode of Jeopardy. He masters the piano. He masters Ice Sculpturing. He learns French fluently. When Andie MacDowell's character laments her inability to throw Playing Cards, he assures her "six months, four or five hours a day, you'll be an expert." He wallowed in depression. He went on a run of attempted suicide. He met every person in town and eventually learned and memorized every beat and moment of their day, to the point where he was eventually able to smoothly move about town assisting them, saving them, and/or just generally making their lives better. It's that last part which makes me think it was hundreds. Hundreds of years. Stuck. Over and over. Driven to suicide by the tedium. And then in the end, he comes out the other side this Zen Master-at-peace-with-the-world dude and the funniest part about that? While he was trapped for who knows how long, for everyone else it was just one day. He went away a giant ass and overnight comes back as the coolest, nicest guy ever. It's an awesome film. And so funny. Bill's the best.

50. Heaven’s Burning

After a spate of comedies, we're gonna wrap up this section of the Staff Picks list with a typically crazy Australian Bank Heist Road Movie. Notable as one of Russel Crowe's first films, it's about an Aussie wheelman and a runaway Japanese Bride inexplicably thrown together and chased by both the vengeful mafia and the Bride's crazed husband--a man so enraged and shamed by her rejection, he shaves his head, buys a gun and a motorcycle and dons an all black leather outfit. There's lot of shoot-outs and car chases and a Bonnie-and-Clyde-esque romance. Like seemingly all Australian movies, it justs gets weirder and weirder and crazier as it goes. It's also hilarious and awesome. Plus, something happens early on in the film that is guaranteed to make everyone gasp "Holy shit!" while watching. If you come across this film, give it a chance.

And that's it for Part Five, kids! We are halfway done. Fifty great films down; fifty great films to go. Stay tuned for future entries in the coming days.

Totally Reel,

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Elysium - The new trailer

I mentioned in the last Staff Picks post how much I like Neil Blomkamp's stuff. I feel like we like the same things. This feeling is only reinforced by the latest trailer for his upcoming film Elysium, starring everyone's favorite Matt Damon. This is the longer version of the trailer and it reveals a lot more about the film's plot, so if you're some kind of crazy spoilerphobe or something... Run! Run away now!

As for the rest of you, settle in...

How awesome does that look, huh? Crazy. I can't wait to see it.

Can't wait,

Monday, June 17, 2013

Staff Picks (Part Four)

Filmzilla has closed and with it, all the good times...

Somehow we'll soldier on... In lieu of the daily in-person experience you could have had in what is now a much lamented and by-gone era, I've decided to chronicle my Staff Picks wall for you as a sort of guide to some real good movies, or maybe just as a list of movies I happen to like a lot, or maybe you could say that this is really an ultimate (but not quite 100% complete) My Favorite Movies list, or... as the length of the list would coincidentally have it, you could simply call it:

Jon's Hot 100
(Part Four--Numbers 31 thru 40)

You can find Parts One and Two and Three of this list here, go on... you know you want to go look. Go ahead. We'll wait. Part Four will still be here when you get back. Just remember, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical... Onward!

31. Dark City

Dark City is a total 90s movie. It should go in a time-capsule. I mean, the Crow might as well have a cameo with the cast of In Living Color and Danny Elfman should do the soundtrack, that's how 90's it is. None of that happens, of course, but it should... Anyway, this movie is the story of a city where it's always night, but no one seems to notice. And a man who wakes up to find out that he might be a serial killer, only he's pretty sure that isn't his life at all. His quest to clear his name leads to some... dark secrets (Do you see what I did there?), not to mention: a creepy mad scientist, some creepier aliens, and admittedly, one of the best Telekinetic battles put on film so far. But do you want to know the really funny part about this film? The part I didn't expect? When I put it on the Staff Picks Wall, it rented constantly. Constantly! It would come in, usually after being kept late, and the next day? Gone again. It was crazy. Who would have thought? The people love it. The people love it.

32. Darkon

This movie is about a bunch of LARPers, or Live Action Role Players, and how they escape the troubles of their lives in a massive game of pretend. You may have seen these people in your local parks, grown-ups running around in home-made chain-mail and plate armor or painted up like a Dark Elf, all hitting each other with big Nerf Swords and Nerf Axes and Nerf arrows and the occasional Nerf Ballista. Did you watch that video? How awesome is that thing? It's pretty damn awesome. And that's the thing about this particular documentary, as crazy and weird and funny and maybe at times a little sad as these people are, they love this thing they do, unapologetically, and that's kind of cool. Plus, they either make everything themselves or they customize the hell out of, which is really respectable. So what if they get together and play a massive and complex game of pretend right out in public, so what? ...Okay, that's a bit weird. And sure, some of them get a bit too into it, but whatever. Anyway, this is the story of a small rebellious nation that dares to stand up to a nation of conquerors and how they gamble everything... for freedom. It's also about a bunch of fat guys hitting each other with Nerf Sticks. Seriously though, you'll watch this and you'll want to play, promise.

33. Dawn of the Dead (1978 and 2004)

George Romero's Dawn of the Dead is so old they have to explain in the movie what "one of those new indoor shopping malls" is and the blue face make-up of the zombies is a bit... what can you do? But as a young kid, George Romero--and this film in particular--had a marked and permanent affect on my brain and the future direction of my imagination. He's one of the 3 Georges after all (Lucas, Miller, and Romero), so none of the very obvious age of this film bothers me. In fact, I love this tale of four disparate people who steal a news copter in order to escape a city that is slowly tearing itself apart during a zombie apocalypse, take cover in a mall, and then must defend it not just from the undead, but from the living too. It's so great. A true classic And yes, there's some social commentary going on, plus a pretty on-point "zombies as consumers" joke, but let's be real here for a second, people... it's not that deep and it was mostly on accident, all right? Let's just admit it. It's okay. I mean, really, anyone who beats that particular drum too hard is either not that familiar with the genre or is trying to elevate it due their own geek-self-loathing issues. Just ignore them. They are dumb and can't help themselves.
I only mention this because you'll most likely hear from those wadjobs whenever the 2004 version of the film comes up. Once again, just ignore those knobs, the same goes for the "zombies don't run" crowd. Whenever they start up with their dumb shit, just tell them to shut up. Or throw something in their mouth mid-rant, something small like a jelly bean so that they'll choke momentarily.
But I digress...
The 2004 version is great. It was the first really good "zombie apocalypse" film out in years, pretty much since the original. The opening 10 minutes of the film is maybe THE BEST zombie film ever made. I'm serious. It's so good and has the perfect opening credits song. Perfect. And before we get too far, let's just clear something up right now: It is NOT a re-make. It is a re-imagining. The only similarity? A disparate group of survivors take shelter in a mall during a zombie apocalypse. That's it. Otherwise, it's its own beast and it's a ton of fun. More action film than horror, the effects are great, the pace is quick, and the zombies are a-swarming. The only problem I have with the 2004 version is their escape plan at the end. What a terrible idea. Seriously. Otherwise, these two are my favorite zombie movies ever.

34. Dead Man

Jim Jarmusch is an artitst. There's no two ways about it. His films are fantastic. I would actually recommend any of them, but the point of this list is "good", accessible, and entertaining, so I choose this film. Perhaps a little obvious to those in-the-know, being that many might consider it his most mainstream film, even though I'd argue Coffee and Cigarettes made a bigger splash, but whatever, the film stars Johnny Depp, so point conceded, I guess. Dead Man is about man shedding the modern world to embrace an older one. It is also about a young man named William Blake headed West on the Railroad to the town of Machine for a job that no longer exists. Despondent, by the next morning he is mortally wounded and on the run for murdering a man. A wandering Native American named Nobody (the amazing Gary Farmer) mistakes him for the Poet William Blake and decides to escort him to the land of the dead. With a group of vicious bounty hunters on his trail, Blake and Nobody shoot their way across the wilderness, so that Blake can begin his final journey. Beautiful and funny and bad-ass, this is definitely a film worth seeing.

35. The Dead

Another zombie film! It's not all that surprising, I guess, considering we are deep in the "Ds" at the moment. This is a newer film, I don't think it ever hit theatres, which is too bad, because it's a good gory and scary road-trip of a zombie film. Set in Africa, the film follows two men: one, an American mercenary trying to get off the continent after a zombie outbreak, and the other, an African soldier trying to find his son. The two have to cross desert and jungle and the chaos of refugees and hordes of zombies, it's a pretty desperate journey. A darker film with surprising good effects and a mostly local cast, it's not going to re-define the genre or anything, but it's fun.

36. Dear Zachary

This is the saddest movie ever made. I am not kidding. So sad. You will cry. I don't really want to tell you too much about it, because half of it is watching this unbelievable story unfold, but in a nutshell, it's about a guy whose friend is killed by an ex-girlfriend and how he sets out to make a movie about that friend, something he can eventually share with his friend's at-the-time unborn son, an unborn son the woman who killed the man is pregnant with, and all the things that happen after that. It is crazy and really shockingly terrible, but... it actually ends with a little hope. It not only ends with hope, but it shows how incredible and wonderful people can be, even in the worst of situations. If you watch this film, and you should, know that you will cry, but you'll feel good about it in the end. Great film.

37. Detention

I've talked about this film before on this blog. It's weird, but I love it. Part teen comedy. Part parody of a teen comedy. Part Slasher flick, but not really. Part twisty Time-Travel thriller. "How hard is it to be popular in 1992?" Includes a Space Bear. Self-aware, really, really funny, but odd-ball as hell, this film maybe more than any others on this list may not be for everyone. However, if you watch it... and you should... and you discover how much you love it, know that I love you too. You are not alone. Also, I can't stress enough how incredible the 19 years in detention scene is, really. So great.

38. District 9

I like Neill Blomkamp's stuff. I like the subjects he goes after. I like the genre tropes and general aesthetics that he uses. I like the type of stories he tells. Imaginative and dedicated, he was able to parlay a handful of interesting sci-fi short films into a chance to make the Halo movie, and when that fell apart, he went back home to South Africa, got some money together and made his first feature film. District 9 belongs on a list of "one of those films", like The Avengers or Iron man or Dark Knight Rises in a way, a genre film that makes a big splash with the mainstream audience, all of whom leave the theatre afterwards all shocked and saying: "Huh, those type of films can be pretty cool." Yeah... no shit, man. Ya'see, District 9 is full of allegory, and as a result, it plays a little broad, sure, but what can you do? It's about something, and not just alien races, big firefights, and super awesome Mech battlesuits either, although that kind of stuff figures in heavily. It's a throwback to the big idea type of sci-fi, the social commentary type of sci-fi and it walks that line so well. Gory, explosive, awesome, cool, and fun. District 9 is the type of sci-fi film that snobs can feel okay to name-drop and yet, at the same time, it's also the type of sci-fi you can watch and just enjoy. Something for everybody... even aliens.

39. Dog Soldiers

Here's another example of a film I think most people have no idea even exists, let alone have ever watched. Neil Marshall wasn't really known in the states when this came out and while he went on to make films like the Descent, Doomsday, and Centurion, he still hasn't really splashed here at all, so this, his first (and best) film often gets forgotten. So what's it about? Well, a group of British soldiers are in the Scottish Highlands on some training maneuvers and they end up getting hunted by a pack of werewolves. They have to hole up in a seemingly abandoned farmhouse and fight them off over the course of one long night. Mayhem ensues. The tag-line at the top of the poster is true, it's basically Aliens meets Predator with Werewolves and you're either salivating with anticipation at the thought of seeing that right now, or not and this film is simply not for you.

40. Dredd

I'm a comics geek, this is known, but I'm ready to make an admission here... I hate Judge Dredd. I think it's stupid and ugly and boring and dumb. I think its supposed "oh-so-dark satire" is a big stupid fart. I hate it. I totally hate it. I'd take the most valuable issue of Judge Dredd ever and I would pee on it if I could, it bugs me so much. Dredd may have been created well before the awful "grim and gritty" phase of comics in the 90s, but it still perfectly represents everything that was wrong with that era. I hate it and all the stupid crap that comes with it. In short: I don't approve. And so.... keeping in mind however you happen to feel about the Judge Dredd comic, I really liked this movie. Dredd is a stylish, good-looking, and streamlined version of the well-known British comic, minus its famous "satire"... thank God. Instead of heavy-handed commentary, it's just a drug bust gone bad for a pair of cops in a terrible dystopian future. Dredd, the grizzled veteran, is putting Anderson, the dow-eyed young rookie, through her final test. They enter a massive tower-block slum to bust some criminals and, well... Shit meet Fan. This is nothing but a straight forward sci-fi action movie, no winking, the cliches kept at a minimum, and a pretty tight bottle-script that moves fairly quickly, the type of flick that isn't made very often anymore, not competently at least. Karl Urban continues to be great and mostly unsung to the world at large, and he keeps the helmet on. Also, weirdly, Olivia Thirlby is it, how did that happen? Anyway, I had fun with it, check it out.

And with that... Part Four is done, kids. Stick a fork in it. What titles will the future installments contain? Stay tuned.

Yours in cinema,

Friday, June 14, 2013

Filmzilla Reprint: Top 5: Favorite things about Red Dawn

Filmzilla is gone. The store is closed, the movies have been hauled away and its somewhat neglected blog has been wiped from existence like a victim of Newspeak. I posted some stuff there on occasion. Those posts still exist, proof of what once was. I've decided to reprint them here.

I hope you enjoy...

Red Dawn is 80s Americana at its most pure. It is paranoid, ridiculous, vicious, over the top with its violence, awesome as fuck, and hopelessly locked in an eternal struggle of ideology with some of the best bad guys ever, those dirty pink-o Commies bastards. It is completely unaware of itself, a truly unapologetic product of its time. It is the most beautiful piece of jingoistic American propaganda ever made, hands down. On the plus side, it is also the first time that we, the audience, were treated to seeing the pairing of two stalwart cinematic legends: Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.

My Top 5 favorite things about Red Dawn

5. The Kids

This film is loaded with young stars in a way that America would not see again until the advent of Dazed and Confused. It is a veritable cornucopia of burgeoning 80's talent. Sure, it's no St. Elmo's Fire, but what is, am I right? But would I say that there is a plethora of stars in this film? Oh, yes, El Guapo, there is a plethora. Allow me to break it down for you. There is the aforementioned giants of stage and screen and sexy dancing, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. There's also a man named Charlie Sheen and someone you may remember from a little film called Casual Sex? That's right, it's Lea Thompson. Also, she was in Caroline in the City, just FYI. Who else is there? oh... how about Mr. Ponyboy Curtis himself? Mr. C. Thomas Howell. Is that not enough? Are you not entertained? Well guess what? There's even more, people.

Let's discuss them.

4. Powers Boothe

Powers Boothe plays Lt. Col. Andrew "Andy" Tanner. When he first comes falling out of the sky, right away you know two things about him.

1. He's an Eagle driver.
2. He's bad ass, he obviously knows how to get the job done. After all, he did get three of them before they managed to shoot him down.
3. He's also a fun guy, laid back, y'know? You want to call him Andrew? No, no, no, no, my friend. It's Andy, pal, just Andy, his nickname, which is convenient, because Andy is short for Andrew.

In the film, Lea Thompson's young character is so hot for Lt. Col. Tanner, she could warm a bowl of chili between her thighs, but guess what? Even though he could have her, he doesn't, y'know why?

1. Because he's a God damn American hero, that's why.
And 2. Much like Max Power, you don't cuddle with Powers Boothe, you strap in and feel the G's!

3. The Beautiful Brutality

Simply put, this film is Cold War poetry.

There is a scene early on in the characters' guerrilla war against the dirty rat-bastard invaders where they descend from their mountain holdfast in a screaming, frothing rush, dressed in their rotted Mall-bought finery with their dirt-encrusted faces, and bludgeon to death a trio of Soviet soldiers who are out for a day of sight-seeing and friendly companionship. Those dirty rotten commie bastards' sublime and relaxing day trip to the mountains ends in horror and blood and screams, their skulls smashed to slippery bits as they are stabbed to death with crudely carved weapons hacked from rock and tree by the once suburban, now feral children of Calumet, Colorado--a name that means: A North American Indian peace pipe.

Ha! Irony! Take that, you Commie bastards! America!

In your face, Russia!

2. Harry Dean Stanton

Everything is better when you add a little Harry Dean Stanton (see: Avengers). Here, he plays a father, a father who just wants to look at his sons (played by Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen), who remembers them as... so damn little... and one who might have been a little rough on them, but that was only because he loved them and he wanted them to be tough, to do what they have to do. And what do they have to do? They have to avenge him. They have to avenge the hell out of him.

And man they do.

1. Wolverines!

"What is this... Wolverine?" says an evil Russian guy. You can tell he's Russian right off the bat, because of his hat. He's also dumb, because he is not familiar with the local high school athletic club's mascot, but he finds out, oh yeah... he finds out... you bet your ass he finds out...

And you bet your ass we have this in the store,
(Well... not anymore...)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Staff Picks (Part Three)

Filmzilla has closed and with it, all the good times...

Somehow we'll soldier on... In lieu of the daily in-person experience you could have had in what is now a much lamented and by-gone era, I've decided to chronicle my Staff Picks wall for you as a sort of guide to some real good movies, or maybe just as a list of movies I happen to like a lot, or maybe you could say that this is really an ultimate (but not quite 100% complete) My Favorite Movies list, or... as the length of the list would coincidentally have it, you could simply call it:

Jon's Hot 100
(Part Three--Numbers 21 thru 30)

You can find Parts One and Two of this list here, so feel free to go on and refresh yourself before diving into Part Three. And of course, the only order these films appear in is alphabetical... Shall we continue?

21. Bodyguards and Assassins

The first film on our list today is a big time Kung fu epic. Part historical drama, part Magnificent Seven, it takes place in 1905, as Sun Yat-sen--Revolutionary and one of the Founding Father's of the Republic of China--journeys to Hong Kong for a high level meeting. In response, the Qing Dynasty secretly sends teams of assassins to take Sun Yat-sen out, a lot of assassins, so sympathetic elements already in Hong Kong assemble a rag-tag group of local bodyguards. It could be viewed as a slow starter by some, but the big climax, a running battle through the Hong Kong streets, is more than worth the wait. The fight on the staircase? That's my favorite. Also, Donnie Yen is one of the stars (as evidenced by the poster above), but he's playing against type, should any of you dislike his more heroic persona. For those of you who don't watch many of these types of movies, Bodyguards and Assassins is a good one to try out.

22. Brick

Brick was the Directorial debut of Writer/Director Rian Johnson, a name that pops up more than once on this list due to his vision, style, and original voice. His movies are pretty good. They're smart and funny and pretty cool. Brick is all of that. It's a Raymond Chandler-esque noir murder mystery with a grizzled P.I., a Femme Fatale, all the familiar tropes of the genre... all set in a modern-day suburban California high school and all of it played straight too, no winking. It's a mash-up, just because, and it completely works. Sure, they all talk funny, but don't worry, that's just the Raymond Chandler, kids, roll with it. It's worth your time.

23. Bridge

The idea behind this documentary scares some people. It's about people who have killed themselves by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. All caught on security camera. But it's not exploitative. It's not sensational. It's about the Golden Gate Bridge and suicide and why the two seem to go together so often. It's about the people who jumped and the people they left behind. It's about how people deal with death. It's sad and touching and very honest. It's a very cathartic film. It's not scary at all.

24. The Cabin in the Woods

I've mentioned this film before. A lot, actually. That's because it's great. Completely great. An instant classic, even. It languished on the shelf for a few year, a victim of the Weinstein/Miramax split, before finally making it's way to theatres, but all that delay did was cement 2012 as the year of co-writer and co-director Joss Whedon. He dominated with the Avengers, which everyone saw. Cabin in the Woods is the less heralded part of that very good year. Built around a twist that isn't quite a twist, loaded with self-awareness that doesn't fall into parody, it's a slasher film with heart, brains and perspective, funny and gory, but much, much better than you'd ever expect it to be. You don't like slasher films? That's not relevant. Yes, it IS a slasher film, but it's also not a slasher film. Just watch it, it's one of the new mandatory ones.

25. The Carrier

"Cats or Death!" I don't often do this, but this is the best Bad Movie I've ever seen. So earnest, so inept, so weird, and so so stupid. It's about this kid who... I don't know, there was something about his parents and their house getting burned down. He might have done it, maybe. Anyway, he gets attacked by a monster one rainy night. Then the movie seems to forget about all that and becomes about how the kid now has some disease that he accidentally infects inanimate objects with and then when someone else touches that object, they melt. So, naturally, the town immediately devolves into two separate camps wrapped in sheets and using cats to test all the inanimate objects for disease with, because cats can smell it or something. It goes lunatic very quickly. Watch it with friends.

26. Cemetery Man

Cemetery Man seems to still have that "forgotten film" allure because it came out in that mid-90s time period before DVDs were really around, before people were as "into" movies, before Blockbusters were quite as large and all-pervasive as they are now. It's an Italian film that just seemed to get lost in the shuffle. It's known, people know it, but it never seemed to really catch on, not for long, even on the film head circuit. Which is too bad, because it's a really funny dark comedy about a man who works in a cemetery where the recently dead rise from their grave with an insatiable hunger for warm flesh... you know the drill. Well, rather than go through all the trouble and attention and paperwork that such an event would no doubt bring about, he just spends his nights re-killing and re-burying them. The only problem? He's dissatisfied with his work. He questions his purpose? What's a man to do?

27. Children of Men

This is one of my all-time most favorite films, I only gush about Children of Men. The Directing. The Acting. The Story. The World-building. All of the little details. It's so well done. So good. Some of the ways certain scenes are shot are just amazing: the wildings attack on the car, the escape from the farm, the camp revolt? Just amazing. People are sometimes crushed by how dark the film is, but I disagree completely, I find it a hopeful film, blooming with hope. At least at the end anyway. This is one of my favorites, so highest possible recommendation.

28. Chopper

This film was Eric Bana's big American debut (remember when he was a big deal--I kid), anyway, he turns in a tour-de-force performance as Mark Brandon "Chopper" Read, a notorious and charismatic Australian thief, drug dealer, and murderer, who's exploits and subsequent media appearances ended up captivating the nation. Being Australian, the guy is a complete nut. He's famous for cutting off his own ears in order to be transferred out of a prison after his sudden shanking of an inmate had resulted in a contract out on his life. And of course he talked about it, everywhere he could. Blabbed. Telling stories. And the people loved him for it. So this is kind of a bio-pic, but it's full of lies, most likely. Still a great story. And a great performance.

29. City of God

City of God is loosely based on true events in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro, hence the title. It's a familiar story, the story of young men with very few options and the inevitable spiral of gang life and death that claims most of them. I'm sure you're thinking: "Seen it before. Heard it before. In fact, I own a VHS copy of Boyz 'n da Hood somewhere around here." Okay, that's valid--not really, but whatever--but this movie has more to offer than a retread. Like phenomenal performances from local, first-time actors. Like amazing camera work. Like a damn good story. It's an excellent movie, one that ages much better than Cuba Gooding Jr. in that ridiculous silk shirt.

30. The Cove

This isn't the saddest documentary I've ever seen (that one appears later on this list), but without a doubt, it is definitely the most horrifying. We all know bad shit happens all over the world, to people, to animals, to the very planet itself, but I guarantee that most of you have never seen a thing like what happens in this one particular cove in one small town in Japan. Never. And once you do, it sticks with you. It's truly awful and something you have to see, because people should know. Now, the upside is that this awful truth is delivered to us in the form of a very entertaining, very exciting, very engrossing documentary framed much like a classic heist film, so at least there's that. Seriously though, you should watch this, so you know and understand.

And that, boys and girls, is Part Three of my big Staff Picks List. Done and done. All for your reading pleasure. I hope you've enjoyed it so far and maybe even found a film or two you might want to check out. Stay tuned, there's more to come!

Your film friend,